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Göbekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe


Göbekli Tepe - History

In about 8000 BC, early humans in southwest Asia developed an entirely new system of food production it was a massive agricultural transition. Before this time, humans lived in small and mostly nomadic groups, hunted animals, and gathered a wide variety of plants for subsistence. After this transition, humans lived stationary lives in larger villages and and then cities, and they relied on cultivating nearby land in order to survive. This was not an overnight revolution generations of small, incremental changes over hundreds of years contributed to a “ratcheting process” that eventually ruined any chance of returning to a hunting-gathering society (Ponting, 1992). Archeologists largely agree that the start of the agricultural transition probably began with the domestication of wheat in approximately 8000 BC, in Mesopotamia (“Ears of plenty,” 2005). But there is still substantial disagreement about the cause(s) of wheat domestication (Ponting, 1992).

The Origin of Domesticated Wheat

One explanation is that humans began to farm “as soon as human knowledge and cultural achievements had reached a sufficiently advanced level” because it was a clearly significant improvement over hunting and gathering (Ponting, 1992). This theory has been widely discredited, not only because there is no evidence that humans became significantly smarter during or shortly before 8000 BC, but also because the emergence of agriculture did not create a better life for early humans. In the contrary, when compared to the lives of hunter-gatherers, the agricultural transition meant harder work for more hours in worse conditions for the vast majority of humans (Harari, 2011) (Ponting, 1992).

Another theory posits that climatic changes related to the end of the last ice age created conditions that were favorable for farming. In “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” Harari (2011) argues that the warming of the Middle East, and the concurrent increase in rainfall, created a new climate “ideal for Middle Eastern wheat and cereals.” As humans began to harvest and eat more wheat, seeds were accidentally spread near temporary campsites. Over generations, the wheat became more and more plentiful and groups of humans would stay at these sites for weeks and then months to harvest the grains. Eventually, harvesting transformed into more and more elaborate cultivation, and eventually farming. This theory is plausible, but it overlooks that fact that China and Mesoamerica experienced independent agricultural transitions several thousand years later. Consequently, the climate change in these places would “have been very different and unlikely to elicit a similar response” (Ponting, 1992). Also, significant changes in climate have occurred other times during the history of early humans without similar consequences.

Mark Cohen, in his book The Food Crisis in Prehistory, argues that the transition to agriculture was the result of increasing population pressure (Cohen, 1977). As humans spread slowly across the globe, they eventually reached a point where it was difficult to geographically expand into land suitable for hunting and gathering. Ponting puts this tipping point at about 4 million people and at around 8000 BC (Ponting, 1992). Continuing population increases made agriculture essential with less space, hunting and gathering would no longer be able to provide the subsistence early humans needed to survive. Farming was difficult (substantially more difficult than hunting and gathering), but it provided enough food for a growing population, and some extra (Cohen, 1977). This allowed for an even more rapid population increase, and therefore a demand for even more food. Cohen argues that population pressure and food surplus essentially forced the agricultural hand of humans in a cycle of growth that could not be broken. Food surplus and increased population density were the necessary ingredients from which "social complexity" arose (Turchin, 2013). The transportation, distribution, and allocation of food surplus in rapidly growing cities required “institutions able to organise this process” (Ponting, 1992). According to Cohen and others, these institutions became temples, and religious elites became bureaucratic officials who controlled the flow of food (Cohen, 1977) (Ponting, 1992) (Turchin, 2013). Other critical aspects of social complexity, such as specialization, abstract thought, and the sharing of collective myths, were built upon a foundation of plentiful material resources.

Göbekli Tepe Disrupts Standard Theory

A recent archeological discovery in Turkey threatens to flip the population pressure theory on its head. Göbekli Tepe is a large, 22-acre site in southeastern Turkey composed of massive stone pillars arranged in many circles (Curry, 2008). The largest pillars are 16 feet tall and weigh many tons (Curry, 2008). Some of the pillars are “blank, while others are elaborately carved: foxes, lions, scorpions and vultures abound, twisting and crawling on the pillars' broad sides” (Curry, 2008). The excavation of the site was led by German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt from 1996 until his death in 2014. Schmidt argues that the carved pillar statues found in the center of several stone rings “represented very powerful beings. If gods existed in the minds of Early Neolithic people, there is an overwhelming probability that… it is the first known monumental depiction of gods” (Schmidt, 2010). He calls Göbekli Tepe “the first human-built holy place” (Curry, 2008).

A circular ring of pillars at Gobekli Tepe. Photograph by Vincent J. Musi

Archeologists have dated the initial construction of the stone circles at approximately 9600 BC (Turchin, 2013). The first known instance of wheat domestication occurred only 30 kilometers away, sometime between 7800 and 7500 BC (Harari, 2011) (Heun, 1997). This would suggest that the first religious site preceded the first instance of crop domestication by more than one thousand years. Schmidt consequently argues that Göbekli Tepe was built by a great number of hunter-gatherers, who “must have had a highly complicated mythology, including a capacity for abstraction” (2010). This directly contradicts the argument that it was only after the domestication of wheat were humans were able to develop complex societies and build imagined myths.

The effort and collaboration required to feed the many humans who built Göbekli Tepe before wheat domestication was enormous: most likely, animals killed in far-away hunts were brought to the site to feed workers. This is evidenced by the presence of large animal bones at the site (Schmidt, 2000). Schmidt believes that “the need to acquire sufficient food for those who worked and gathered for ceremonies at Göbekli Tepe may have led to the intensive cultivation of wild cereals and the creation of some of the first domestic strains” (Mann, 2011). In fact, the dates of the earliest domesticated einkorn wheat seeds correspond to the height of activity at Göbekli Tepe (Mann, 2011). While Göbekli Tepe upends the common theory on the rise of ritual and religion, wheat domestication essentially remains a story of population pressure. In order to feed the many people who built the pillars, or perhaps to feed the people who came to interact with the temple, early humans were forced to find a better way to feed a larger population without a larger space.

It’s Complicated

Ultimately, it was most likely a combination of factors that culminated in the domestication of wheat. These theories, in other words, are not mutually exclusive. For example, it may be true that the end of the ice age around 12000 BC improved the climate for wheat (Harari, 2011). Perhaps it was both mounting population pressure on a general scale and a desire to feed laborers at Göbekli Tepe that forced early humans to experiment with wheat cultivation. And it’s unclear whether the same factors that influenced wheat domestication in southeast Turkey also influenced corn domestication several thousand years later in Mesoamerica or in China.

Göbekli Tepe complicates the discussion of early agriculture, but maybe more importantly, it raises important questions. If shared myths and complex, abstract thoughts (perhaps even of God) among early humans came before the early agricultural revolution, then what caused humans to begin to build something as complicated and enormous as Göbekli Tepe? In other words, if the management of food surplus didn’t create the societal framework of ritual and religion, then what did? Schmidt believes that it was the ability “to use symbolic culture, a kind of pre-literate capacity for producing and ‘reading’ symbolic material culture, that enabled communities to formulate their shared identities” (Schmidt, 2000). However, he’s not clear as to why or exactly when humans acquired this ability to think and share symbolically. Göbekli Tepe demonstrates that religion, abstract thought, and agriculture may have interacted in a way not previously understood, and one that is contrary to popular theory.


Works Cited
Cohen, Mark Nathan. The Food Crisis in Prehistory: Overpopulation and the Origins of Agriculture. New Haven: Yale UP, 1977. Print.

Curry, Andrew. Göbekli Tepe: The World’s First Temple?" Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian, Nov. 2008. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.

"Ears of Plenty." The Economist 20 Dec. 2005.

Harari, Yuval N. "Chapter 5: History's Biggest Fraud." Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Harper, 2011. 70-87. Print.

Mann, Charles C. "Göbekli Tepe." National Geographic. National Geographic, June 2011. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.

Ponting, Clive. Ch. 3 and 4 in "A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations." St. Martin's Press, New York, 1991. ISBN 0-312-06989-1, McCabe GF75.P66 1992 pp. 18-67.

Turchin, Peter. Complex Societies before Agriculture: Göbekli Tepe." Social Evolution Forum. The Evolution Institute, 17 May 2013. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.


It's Almost 12,000 Years Old And Was Abandoned For 9,000 Years

Göbekli Tepe is notable for multiple reasons, but they all tie back in to its excessive ancientness. The construction at Göbekli Tepe dates back almost 12,000 years, placing it in a time period that is generally considered to be pre-civilization. It was built right around the same time that the last ice age ended. Göbekli Tepe then went on to be an active civilization for nearly three millennia before being abandoned under mysterious circumstances around 9,000 years ago.

Photo : Zhengan / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

Older Than History: 7 Images of Göbekli Tepe That Show Just How Ancient It Really Is

An image of the massive, decorated, megalithic stones at Gobekli Tepe. Shutterstock.

There’s an archeological site in present-day Turkey that is unlike anything we’ve ever found anywhere else in the world. There, around 12,000 years ago, a mysterious group of people—thought to have been hunter-gatherers—decided to build an intricate monument using multi-ton blocks of stone. By means we are still unable to comprehend, these mysterious people erected as many as 200 stone pillars in various walled circles.

Some of the stone pillars at Göbekli Tepe have been found to weigh 10–20 metric tons, and there is one pillar still inside its quarry with a total weight of over 50 tons.

Göbekli Tepe, which means potbelly hill, was discovered several decades ago. Like many other sites, it didn’t receive proper attention until one researcher decided to dig further and deeper revealed a secret buried beneath the surface.

The ancient site is located about 15 km northeast of the city of Sanliurfa (ancient city of Urfa), in the southeast of Turkey, near the border with Syria. Syria, interestingly, is home to some of the most ancient cities in the history of humankind and precisely where some of the most ancient megalithic structures were ever built.

The megalithic T-Shaped Pillars of Göbekli Tepe, an ancient sits that predates Egypt’s pyramids by at least 8,500 years. Image Credit: Gulcan Acar.

The first mention of Göbekli Tepe can be traced back to a survey conducted by archaeologists from the University of Istanbul and the University of Chicago in 19634. However, the buried megaliths were wrongly identified as grave markers, which led some experts to believe the site was actually a cemetery belonging to the Byzantine empire. Little did experts know that beneath the surface lay the remnants of one of the oldest, most complex temples on Earth.

The importance of the hill beneath which the ruins of Göbekli Tepe have remained hidden for millennia was only exposed when In 1994, Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute decided to investigate the site further.

After reviewing the archeological literature published during the 1963 surveys, Schmidt decided to visit and investigate the site further. Schmidt had previously been working at an equally important ancient site called Nevalı Çori. This site is located in the Şanlıurfa Province and is known among experts for being the site of some of the oldest known communal buildings and monumental sculptures on Earth.

Shutterstock.

Archaeological excavations at Nevalı Çori allowed Schmidt to recognize the similarities between the two sites. The stone blocks at Göbekli Tepe, which were earlier mistaken for grave markers, may, in fact, be much more ancient prehistoric monumental works. Soon after Schmidt arrived at the site, he managed to excavate the first massive t-shaped pillar for which Göbekli Tepe is famous today.

The first pillar had proven that archaeological surveys of 1963 had missed a treasure trove hidden beneath the surface. Studies in the following years would eventually reveal that the tell which now stands at the site included two conclusive phases of use. Although we can’t possibly know the exact purpose of the site, experts believe Göbekli Tepe may have been of social or ritual nature.

Although we don’t know its exact, originally intended purpose, we know that the site is old. Really Old. Excavations have so far revealed that some of the oldest structures of Göbekli Tepe date back to around 10,000 BC.

An image of one of the stone pillars at the site. Shutterstock.

This means that some 12,000 years ago when hunter-gatherers roamed across Europe and hints of great civilizations such as that of Egypt were unimaginable, a mysterious group of people decided to stop at the site and erect a massive monument unlike any other. The sheer size of Göbekli Tepe is evidence of the massive undertaking of a construction project like it must have been for ancient people. The size of the stones and their intricately carved nature and placement bear evidence that the site, as well as the monument in general, was of great importance to ancient people.

Göbekli Tepe’s stratigraphy attests to countless centuries of activity, starting as early as the Epipaleolithic period, between approximately 20,000 and 10,000 years Before Present (BP). History books tell us that people were nomadic hunter-gatherers who lived in small seasonal camps and that there weren’t permanent villages during this time. This period is defined by microliths’ appearance, small stone tools that were usually made of flint or chert, and around a centimeter in length and half a centimeter wide.

Göbekli Tepe serves as an ancient encyclopedia made of stone, and its structures are markers that now tell a long-lost story.

An image of a half-buried stone pillar at Göbekli Tepe. Shutterstock.

There are various periods in Göbekli Tepe’s timeline, the first being the Epipaleolithic. Structures identified in the succeeding period, the Pre-pottery Neolithic B, are believed to be around 12,000 years old. The third complex of buildings belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) and dating from the 9th millennium BCE have also been unearthed.

This means that if the oldest structures at Göbekli Tepe were built around 10,000 BC, they are at least 7,000 years older than Stonehenge and more than 7,500 years older than the Pyramids of Egypt.

This ancient site’s historical evidence asserts that the evolution of humanity at that time is just the opposite of what we thought. Contrary to popular belief, more than 12,000 years ago, people were sophisticated and organized enough to construct intricate ancient sites. They had enough knowledge that allowed them to survive the last ice age and develop tools and techniques that made it possible for them to quarry, transport, and put into position multi-ton stones.

An image showing one of the megalithic circles at Göbekli Tepe and its famous stone pillars. Shutterstock.

As Schmidt revealed, based on his discoveries at the site, “the coordinated effort for the construction of the monoliths created the basis for the development of complex societies.” In other words, to construct a monument, it was necessary to create the appropriate structure for its construction. The construction of such an ancient site tells us that the builders of Göbekli Tepe were a developed society that provided not only food and shelter to the builders but also a sense of organization and hierarchy that must have been needed to build a site such as Göbekli Tepe.

The enigmatic stones at Göbekli Tepe tell a unique story. The megalithic stones are evidence of the ingenuity of long-lost megalithic builders, and similar ancient sites such as Nevalı Çori reaffirm the importance of Göbekli Tepe as a central gathering site of great importance.

Constructing a monument such as Göbekli Tepe some 12,000 years ago has about the same historical implications as the appearance of the first pyramids in Egypt. It was a never-before-seen undertake in human history, and its importance resides in more than just the stones. Erecting a monumental complex that is home to more than 200 7-ton pillars (each) raises various questions. It is not just about technology it’s about the economic and social implications such a project has.

An image of one of the multi-ton stones at Göbekli Tepe with animal motifs carved on the surface. Shutterstock.

The construction of the site surely required a huge labor force, which means that coordination and planning must have been well implemented. This leads me to believe that whoever was in charge of the construction process of Göbekli Tepe had to make sure the workforce was adequately equipped, well-fed, and cared for.

Although we can’t possibly know how many people participated in the site’s construction, it surely required a large workforce. If so, how do you convince people, 12,000 years ago, that something the size of Göbekli Tepe needs to be built? How do you motivate them? According to the survey of the site as well as measurements of the stones, archaeologists have proposed that up to 500 persons were needed to remove the heavy pillars from their respective quarries and transport them between 100 and 500 meters (330–1,640 ft) to the site where they were placed.

This leads us towards another mystery: why? Why did someone decide to build such a vast complex in the first place? What was the site’s meaning? Purpose? What exactly do the countless symbols and motifs etched on the pillars signify?

Was the ancient monument used as a temple? Or is it possible that it was used as a kind of early astronomical observatory, through which the ancients charted maps and kept a record of time?


GÖBEKLİ TEPE THAT ALTERED HISTORY

Göbekli Tepe included on the World Temporary Cultural Heritage List by UNESCO, both makes us question our knowledge of prehistoric periods and teaches us new things about history of mankind while arousing our curiosity.

Göbekli Tepe included on the World Temporary Cultural Heritage List by UNESCO, both makes us question our knowledge of prehistoric periods and teaches us new things about history of mankind while arousing our curiosity.

Anatolia has been a popular region for settlement throughout the history due to its geopolitical location and the fertile lands possessed. Humanity, on the other hand, has consistently built places of worship from past to present. Early periods of civilization are currently being rewritten with Göbekli Tepe that hosts the oldest known temple in the world. Göbekli Tepe at 22 kilometres north of Urfa, is 7 thousand years older than Stonehenge located in England, and 7,500 years older than Egyptian pyramids. This archaeological site dating back to 11,600 years ago, has shaken to their foundations scientists’ ideas on the origin of civilization since the excavations were launched in 1995, and has prompted us to reinvestigate numerous facts.

PERMANENT SETTLEMENT WITH BELIEF

Home to the oldest temples discovered to date, Göbekli Tepe was built during the last stage of humanity’s transition to agriculture and stock breeding. Setting off from the fact that the region is ancient, the idea that agriculture led to civilization has lost validity. General view until today was that the complex societies were formed as a result of surplus of crops grown after hunter-gatherers settled. Göbekli Tepe opened this popular opinion up to discussion. Archaeologist Prof. Klaus Schmidt who led the excavations for 19 years from 1995 onwards, propounded that the chronological flow of humanity attained a history with Göbekli Tepe. According to Schmidt, the work force required to build structures led to development of agriculture as a way of providing workers with provisions. The crowded communities had a desire to be near places of worship and as resources in the environment were insufficient to meet the needs of these communities, people were forced to engage in agriculture. In the building complex discovered at Göbekli Tepe, there was no trace of a roof and these buildings were recognized as open-air temples.


FIRST STEPS OF ART

Göbekli Tepe dates back to earlier than the beginning of agriculture and even the invention of pottery. On the other hand, there is a style that can be perceived as artistic in animal figures that embellish T-shaped stones symbolizing man. On the stones are scorpion, fox, bull, snake, wild boar, lion, pike and mallard figures. Particularly lion figures prove that lions lived in Anatolia during the Neolithic period. According to some researchers, these animal figures symbolize the tribes who visited the temple. The findings at Göbekli Tepe illustrate the organizational skills which brought together crowded groups and advanced artistic skills. Symbols similar to those discovered – although smaller – can be seen in a region spanning over Northern Iraq and Syria. Based on this, it is suggested that Göbekli Tepe was a centre of cultural interaction in the Neolithic period. The fact that the temple floors were constructed in a way to prevent leakage, indicates that the liquid substances were used in ceremonies. Göbekli Tepe that overlooks and is visible from many places due to its location, was a cult centre until around 8 thousand BC. However it was covered with soil and vanished from history which impels us to vigorously ask the question “But why?” for Göbekli Tepe, even today.
GÖBEKLİ TEPE AN EXTRAORDINARY PLACE
Nabi Avcı (Minister of Culture and Tourism)

Göbekli Tepe is a revolutionary discovery in the world of archaeology. There is a discussion as to how the works discovered in digs were produced. The most popular scenario for the science world is that it was a centre of belief. However there is still no certain information on Göbekli Tepe’s function and why it was established. This is why it is intriguing. This place is beyond our knowledge. It is also a striking example to Turkey’s cultural activities.

T-SHAPED OBELISK
The symbol of the Temple

T-shaped obelisks at Göbekli Tepe reach up to a height of 5 metres and a weight of 16 tons.

BALD IBIS
Last Birds

Bald ibis species which can be found in Turkey (Birecik – Urfa) and Morocco today, have a population of approximately 500 individuals.

Göbekli Tepe Guide

WHAT TO EAT?

Offering a wide variety of restaurants, you may try local foods as borani, bostana and hummus as well as kebab and kibbeh in Urfa, and sip the coffee called “mırra”.

WHAT TO BUY?

In Urfa city centre and in vendors near archaeological sites, souvenirs and decorative objects inspired by Göbekli Tepe are sold. In addition, the fine handicrafts of the past are taught in Şanlıurfa Public Education Centre and Göbekli Tepe Stone masonry Workshop.

DO NOT MISS

The ground at the top of Göbekli Tepe where wishing tree is located is frequently visited. In addition, Göbekli Tepe Archaeological Site Museum in Örencik Village is open for visit everyday of the week and admission fee is 5 Lira. It is up to you to visit Urfa and see Balıklıgöl, Halil-ur-Rahman Mosque, Şanlıurfa Museum and Eyyub’s Cave.
HOW TO GO?

Turkish Airlines organizes reciprocal flights from Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir to Şanlıurfa everyday. Göbekli Tepe can easily be reached after a half-hour drive from the airport


June 2014 AOM: Göbekli Tepe: Who Built It, When and Why

We are pleased and honored to welcome back as June Author of the Month Andrew Collins. Join Andrew during June on the AoM Message Boards to discuss his new book Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods

Göbekli Tepe is a name familiar to anyone interested in the ancient mysteries subject. Billed as the oldest stone temple in the world, it is composed of a series of megalithic structures containing rings of beautifully carved T-shaped pillars. It sits on a mountain ridge in southeast Turkey, just 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the ancient city of Urfa, close to the traditional site of the Garden of Eden. Here, for the past ten thousand years, its secrets have remained hidden beneath an artificial, belly-shaped mound of earth some 330 by 220 yards (300 m by 200 meters) in size. Agriculture and animal husbandry were barely known when Göbekli Tepe was built, and roaming the fertile landscape of southwest Asia were, we are told, primitive hunter-gatherers, whose sole existence revolved around survival on a day-to-day basis.

So what is Göbekli Tepe? Who created it, and why? More pressingly, why did its builders bury their creation at the end of its useful life ?

These are the questions I ask in new book Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods, in which I provide compelling evidence that the myths of the Watchers of the book of Enoch and the Anunnaki of Mesopotamian myth and legend are memories of the Göbekli builders and their impact on the rise of civilization. I believe also that Göbekli Tepe was constructed by a hunter-gatherer population still in fear following a devastating cataclysm that nearly destroyed the world – a comet impact that science today recognizes as having taken place around 12,900 years ago, with terrifying aftershocks that lasted for several hundred years afterward.

Human Hybrids

Yet it seems unlikely that those who came up with a plan to counter the innate fear of another cataclysm (something that visionary and writer Barbara Hand Clow so aptly calls catastrophobia ) were the indigenous population. This appears to have been orchestrated by members of an incoming culture, composed of groups of shamans, warriors, hunters and stone tool specialists of immense power and charisma. Their territories, across which they traded different forms of flint, as well ashematite used as red ochre, stretched from the Carpathians Mountains in the west to the Russian steppes and plain in the east. More incredibly, anatomical evidence points to them being of striking appearance – tall, with extremely long heads, high cheekbones, long faces, large jaws, and strong brow ridges, which some have seen as evidence they were Neanderthal-human hybrids. So who were these people?

Rise of the Swiderians

The answer is the Swiderians, whose mining operations in Poland&rsquos Swietokrzyskie (Holy Cross) Mountains are among the earliest evidence of organized mining activities anywhere in the world. This advanced society, who thrived in both Central and Eastern Europe around the time of the comet impact event of 10,900 BC, was responsible for the foundation of various important post-Swiderian cultures of the Mesolithic age as far north as Norway, Finland, and Sweden, as far south as the Caucasus Mountains, and as far east as the Upper Volga river of Central Russia. The Swiderians&rsquo highly advanced culture, which included a sophisticated stone tool technology, was derived from their distant ancestors, the Eastern Gravettian peoples that thrived between 30,000 and 19,000 BC in what is today the Czech Republic and further east on the Russian Plain.

In around 10,500 BC I believe that Swiderian groups moved south from the East European Plain into eastern Anatolia. Here they gained control of the regional trade in the black volcanic glass known as obsidian at places like Bingöl Mountain in the Armenian Highlands and Nemrut Dağ an extinct volcano close to the shores of Lake Van, Turkey&rsquos largest inland sea. This brought them into contact with the communities who would later be responsible for the construction of Göbekli Tepe around 9500-9000 BC.

Ritual Purpose

Everything suggests the Swiderians possessed a sophisticated cosmology gained in part from their cousins, the Solutreans of Central and Western Europe, who were themselves related to the Eastern Gravettian peoples. They believed in a cosmic tree supporting the sky world entered via the Great Rift&mdashthe fork or split in the Milky Way caused by the presence of stellar dust and debris&mdashcorresponding to the position in the northern heavens occupied by the stars of Cygnus, the celestial swan (a.k.a. the Northern Cross). The Swiderians believed also that birds were symbols of astral flight, and that this was the manner in which the shaman could reach the sky world. In Europe the bird most commonly associated with these beliefs and practices was the swan, while in Southwest Asia it was the vulture, a primary symbol of death and transformation in the early Neolithic age. Both birds are identified with the Cygnus constellation.

Using this guise the shaman could enter the sky world and counter the actions of the supernatural creature seen as responsible for cataclysms like the comet impact of 10,900 BC, referred to by scientists today as the Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB) event. This cosmic trickster was seen to take the form of a sky fox or sky wolf, embodied perhaps in the leaping foxes carved in relief on the inner faces of key pillars at Göbekli Tepe, and remembered also as the Fenris-wolf responsible for causing Ragnorak, a major cataclysm preserved in Norse mythology. All across Europe, and into Southwest Asia, accounts exist of supernatural foxes and wolves that have attempted to endanger the sky pillar supporting the starry canopy, an act that if achieved would have brought about the destruction of the world.

Someone realized that only by allaying people&rsquos fears regarding the immense potency of the cosmic trickster could stability be truly restored to the world. And whenever this supernatural creature returned to the heavens in the guise of a comet&mdashseen as a visible manifestation of the sky fox or sky wolf&mdashit would be the shaman&rsquos role to enter the sky world and counter its baleful influence, a primary motivation I see as behind the construction of Göbekli Tepe.

Womb Chambers

Yet there were clearly other reasons for the construction of Göbekli Tepe. Its stone enclosures served, most likely, as womb chambers, places where the shaman entered into a primal state, like that experienced before birth, after passing between the enclosures&rsquo twin central pillars. These enormous monoliths, sometimes 18 feet (5.5 meters) in height and weighing as much as 16.5 US tons (15 metric tonnes) a piece, acted as otherworldly portals to invisible realms – true star gates in every sense of the word. And their target: the setting down on the local horizon of Deneb, Cygnus&rsquos brightest star, which marked the start of the Milky Way&rsquos Great Rift, a role played by Deneb as early as 16,500-14,000 BC. At this time Deneb acted as Pole Star, the star closest to the celestial pole during any particular epoch. Even after Deneb ceased to be Pole Star around 14,000 BC, due to the effects of precession (the slow wobble of the earth&rsquos axis across a cycle of approximately 26,000 years), its place was taken by another Cygnus star, Delta Cygni, which held the position until around 13,000 BC.

After this time the role of Pole Star went to Vega in the constellation of Lyra, the celestial lyre. When around 11,000 BC Vega moved out of range of the celestial pole, no bright star replaced it for several thousand years. This meant that when Göbekli Tepe was constructed, ca. 9500-9000 BC, there was no Pole Star. It was for this reason that Deneb, and the Milky Way&rsquos Great Rift, retained their significance as the main point of entry to the sky world, making it the primary destination of the shaman. Standing stones erected in the north-northwestern sections of the walls in two key enclosures at Göbekli Tepe bore large holes that framed the setting of Deneb each night, highlighting the star&rsquos significance to the Göbekli builders, and showing the precise direction in which the shaman should access the sky world.

Cosmic Knowledge

Everywhere you look at Göbekli Tepe there is confirmation that its builders shared a sense of connection with the cosmos. From the strange glyphs and ideograms on the various stones, which include symbols resembling the letters C and H, to the twelvefold division of stones in the various enclosures, there is powerful evidence that these 11,000-year-old temples resonate the influence of the celestial heavens. The H glyphs seem to relate to the shaman&rsquos journey from this world to the otherworld, while the C glyphs are almost certainly slim lunar crescents signifying the transition from one lunar cycle to the next. Even the design of the enclosures appears to have cosmic significance. Invariably the structures are ovoid in shape, with a length to breadth ratio of 5:4, numbers that could hint at the Göbekli builders&rsquo profound awareness of cosmic time cycles not usually thought to have been understood until the age of Plato.

If Swiderian groups were the shamanic elite responsible for Göbekli Tepe, then there is every chance that the cosmic knowledge encoded into its construction came, at least in part, from highly evolved individuals who were by nature Neanderthal-human hybrids of striking physical appearance. These people were most likely the product of interactions between Neanderthals and Anatomically Modern Humans at the dawn of the Upper Paleolithic age, c. 40,000-30,000 BC. This is a very exciting realization that tells us that we might well have underestimated the dynamic potency of hybridization in the formative years of human history.

Final Abandonment

Over a period of around 1,500 years twenty or more major enclosures were constructed within the gradually emerging occupational mound at Göbekli Tepe. Old enclosures were periodically decommissioned, deconsecrated and covered over, quite literally &ldquokilled,&rdquo at the end of their useful lives. New structures were built to replace them, but as time went on they became much smaller in construction, until eventually the cell-like buildings were no larger than a family-sized Jacuzzi with pillars no more than five feet (a meter and a half) in height. Somehow the world had changed, and the impetus for creating gigantic stone temples with enormous twin monoliths at their centers was no longer there.

Sometime around 8000 BC the last remaining enclosures were covered over with imported earth, stone chippings and refuse matter, and the site abandoned to the elements. All that remained was an enormous belly-like mound that became an ideal expression of the fact that the stone enclosures had originally been seen, not just as star portals to another world, but also as womb-like chambers, where the souls of shaman, or indeed the spirits of the dead, could quite literally journey to the source of creation, located somewhere in the vicinity of the Cygnus constellation. It was a concept dimly remembered in the name Göbekli Tepe, which in Turkish means &ldquonavel-like hill.&rdquo

Serpent-headed People

Even after Göbekli Tepe was abandoned, its memory, and those of the ruling elite behind its construction, lingered on among the Halaf and Ubaid peoples who flourished during the later half of the Neolithic age, ca. 6000-4100 BC. Like their predecessors, they gained control of the all-important obsidian trade at places such as Bingöl Mountain and Nemrut Dağ, close to Lake Van. Their elites, who would appear to have belonged to specific family groups, artificially deformed their already elongated heads, not only to denote their status in society, but also quite possibly to mimic the perceived appearance of great ancestors, seen to have possessed extremely long heads and faces. It is very possibly these great ancestors who are perhaps represented by the snake- or reptilian-headed clay figurines found in several Ubaid cemeteries.

The Rise of the Anunnaki

The elite of the Halaf and Ubaid were probably the forerunners of the god-kings who ruled the first city-states down on the Mesopotamian plain, which eventually became the civilizations of Sumer, Akkad, Assyria and Babylon. Their scribes preserved in cuneiform writing the ruling dynasties&rsquo mythical history, in which the founders of the Neolithic revolution are known as the Anunnaki, the gods of heaven and earth. Their birthplace was said to have been the Duku, a primeval mound located on the summit of a world mountain called Kharsag, or Hursag, and now identified with both Göbekli Tepe and Bingöl Mountain. Here the Anunnaki are said to have given human kind the first sheep and grain, a memory almost certainly of the introduction of animal husbandry and agriculture at the time of the Neolithic revolution, which occurred in the same region as Göbekli Tepe around 9000-8000 BC. The Anunnaki are occasionally likened to serpents, reflecting the snake-like appearance of Göbekli Tepe&rsquos ruling elite, as well as those of the later Halaf and Ubaid cultures.

The Coming of the Watchers

Then we come to the impact Göbekli Tepe had on the earliest Semitic peoples of North Mesopotamia. Their oral traditions would one day be carried into the land of Canaan by the first Israelites and recorded down in religious works such as the book of Enoch and the book of Giants. In these so-called Enochian texts the prime movers behind the construction of Göbekli Tepe, and the subsequent Neolithic revolution, are described as human angels called Watchers, who are extremely tall, wear coats of feathers, possess visages like vipers (that is, extremely long facial features), and are occasionally described as Serpents (indeed, one Watcher is named as the Serpent that beguiled Eve in the Garden of Eden). Two hundred of their number are said to have descended among mortal kind and taken mortal wives, who produced giant offspring called Nephilim.

According to the book of Enoch, the human angels revealed to their wives the secret arts of heaven, many of which correspond with a number of firsts for humanity that took place in Southwest Asia in the wake of the Neolithic revolution. Are the Watchers a memory of the appearance in southeast Anatolia of Swiderian groups, whose striking appearance fits the vivid description of the Watchers offered in Enochian literature? If so, then does it suggest that the strange appearance of both the Watchers and the Anunnaki, with their serpent-like faces, might in part be down to them being Neanderthal-human hybrids? Were they the true founders of civilization?

The Rivers of Paradise

A memory also of this crucial epoch in human development is preserved perhaps in the stories of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. According to the book of Genesis this was located at the source of the four rivers of Paradise. Three can easily be identified as the Euphrates, Tigris and Araxes (the biblical Gihon), which all rise in eastern Anatolia. What is more, two of the rivers, the Euphrates and Araxes, take their rise in the vicinity of Bingöl Mountain, one of the primary sources of obsidian located just 200 miles (325kilometres) from Göbekli Tepe.

Local tradition asserts that Bingöl was also the source of the fourth river of Paradise, the Pison, while ancient writers record that the true source of the Tigris was in the same region. Armenian tradition also speaks of Bingöl Mountain being the place of the gods and the summit of the world from which emerge four great rivers that carry the waters of life to every part of the world. Everything points toward Bingöl Mountain being not only the &ldquobirthplace&rdquo of the Anunnaki, but also the site of the mountain of Paradise, and the place of descent of the Watchers in the book of Enoch.

The Secrets of Adam

Gnostic writings, such as the various tracts found in a cave at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945, speak repeatedly of the so-called secrets of Adam being passed to his son Seth before his father’s death. Seth is said to have recorded them either in book form, or on tablets or pillars called stelae. These were hidden in or on a holy mountain, existing in the vicinity of the terrestrial Paradise, so that they might survive a coming cataclysm of fire and flood (a memory almost certainly of the Younger Dryas impact event). Called variously Charaxio, Seir, or Sir, this mountain is linked in early Christian tradition with the site inhabited by the generations of Adam following the expulsion of the first couple from Paradise.

So what are the secrets of Adam, and where might they be found today? Do they pertain to the manner in which Göbekli Tepe was built to curtail the catastrophobia rife among the indigenous peoples of the region in the wake of the Younger Dryas impact event? Had this information been given to the local hunter-gatherers of the region by incoming Swiderian groups, whose elongated heads and long ancestry was connected with their origins as Neanderthal-human hybrids? Were their deeds mythologised into the stories of the human angels called Watchers found in the book of Enoch, and the Anunnaki gods alluded to in Mesopotamian tradition?

As Angels Ourselves

Where exactly was Charaxio, or Mount Seir, where the books of Seth containing the secrets of Adam await discovery? This is the quest I embark upon in the second half of Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods, with the result being the discovery in the Eastern Taurus Mountains of a forgotten Armenian monastery overlooking the traditional site of the Garden of Eden. Before its destruction at the time of the Armenian genocide of 1915, the monks here preserved archaic traditions concerning the Garden of Eden and the existence of a holy relic of incredible religious significance. Confirmation of the presence of this holy relic at the monastery (which in the seventh century was given a special decree of immunity from attack signed by the prophet Mohammed himself) reveals what could be Adam&rsquos ultimate secret&mdashthe manner in which we as mortals can re-enter Paradise and become, as once we were, like angels ourselves. It is a story of discovery I would now like to share with you.

&ldquo There is little question that Andrew was one of the first writers to realize the greater significance of Göbekli Tepe … It is for this reason that Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods is such a masterwork, for it is the culmination of nearly twenty years of Andrew’s original research into the origins of the Neolithic revolution and its relationship to Hebrew traditions concerning the location of the Garden of Eden and the human truth behind the Watchers of the book of Enoch.

&ldquo In a testimonial written to accompany the publication of (Andrew&rsquos book) From the Ashes of Angels (1996), I said that Andrew had put important new facts before the public concerning the mysterious origins of human civilization. I stand by this statement and add only that with his vast knowledge of the subject under discussion, there is no one better suited to reveal Göbekli Tepe’s place in history today&rdquo

Graham Hancock from his Introduction
 to Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods

From History of the Saints, Phillippe Buache, Published in 1783 in Paris.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Collins is a historical writer and explorer living in the United Kingdom. He is the author of more than a dozen books that challenge the way we perceive the past. They include From the Ashes of Angels (1996), which establishes that the Watchers of the book of Enoch and the Anunnaki of the Sumerian texts are the memory of a shamanic elite that catalyzed the Neolithic revolution in the Near East at the end of the last ice age Gateway to Atlantis (2000), which pins down the source of Plato’s Atlantis to the Caribbean island of Cuba and the Bahaman archipelago Tutankhamun: The Exodus Conspiracy (coauthored with Chris Ogilvie Herald, 2002), which reveals the truth behind the discovery of Tutankhamun’s famous tomb and The Cygnus Mystery (2007), which shows that the constellation of Cygnus has been universally venerated as the place of first creation and the entrance to the sky world since Paleolithic times.

In 2008 Andrew and colleague Nigel Skinner Simpson discovered a previously unrecorded cave complex beneath the pyramids of Giza, which has brought him worldwide acclaim. It is a story told in his book Beneath the Pyramids (2009).

Andrew&rsquos latest book Gobekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods is the culmination of twenty years&rsquo study of the origins of the Watchers and Nephilim of the book of Enoch, and the Anunnaki of Sumerian myth and legend. For more on Andrew Collins go to www.andrewcollins.com


Göbekli Tepe: Ancient Temples of Turkey

Roughly six miles outside of Urfa, Turkey, called Göbekli Tepe. The most impressive and mysterious finding at this site are the megalithic pillars that date as far back as 10,000 BCE. That would make this ancient site the oldest known temples in the world. Archaeologists believe the circular formations are constructions of temples that were used for ritual ceremonies or worship.

One circle of Göbekli Tepe. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Klaus-Peter Simon

Two universities discovered the site in 1963 when they surveyed the area and found the tops of the pillars and flints in the area. In 1994, Klaus Schmidt (now deceased), of the German Archaeological Institute, began excavations on Göbekli Tepe. He had been assisting in the excavations of the nearby site of Nevalı Çori, but he was interested in finding another site to lead a dig. As it turned out, Göbekli Tepe was similar to the other site. Nevalı Çori was an entire village that contained homes as well as temple pillar sites like those found in Göbekli.

Archaeological Discoveries

Since that time, Klaus and his team have uncovered at least seven large stone circles, however, ground-penetrating sensing techniques have mapped out around 200 pillars in 20 circular areas. What are these stones doing in this hill overlooking what must have once been a lush valley? Who built them? Why did they build them and when precisely were they built? Most of these questions have only half-answers and educated guesses.

Göbekli Tepe complex built on a hilltop, 9,000 BC. Source: Flickr, CC.

The largest megaliths found at the site are roughly 16 ft. tall and weigh as much as 10 tons. They are T-shaped, very much like the megalithic Taulas in Menorca. The pillars sit in circular formations with two larger versions of the outer stones in the center of the circles. The ancient people built and buried the formations in layers. There are 3 layers in total.

Some of the pillars have intricate carvings of birds, snakes, scorpions, big cats, and hoofed animals on them. It is surprising that the tools they used were quite primitive, yet they were able to accomplish a fair amount of precision. Interestingly, some archaeologists believe the pillars may represent humans because a number of them have arms carved into the sides. Others believe the statues represent venerated ancestors or gods with human-like features.

Who Built the Temple Sites?

Judging by the animal bones found, the ancient people who erected the site were nomadic hunter-gatherers. That means they were not the type of people to settle down in large groups and build monuments, temples or even elaborate gravesites. At least, that is what experts once thought. The traditional line of thinking is that agriculture (the planting of crops and herding of animals) was the catalyst for such building. If Klaus Schmidt and his team are correct, this no longer holds true. Klaus has done some carbon dating of items unearthed at the Göbekli site, and he has compared some of the tools there to others found in the general area to ascertain the age of the site. What he found is astounding.

It appears that Göbekli Tepe predates ancient wonders like the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge by thousands of years. These Turkish formations are roughly 11,000 years old (from around 9000 BCE), according to Klaus’ estimations. This age makes sense considering the tools found at the site and the lack of evidence that people lived here. In other words, the ancients may have used the site strictly for ceremonial purposes. A settlement would have been impractical for people of that time. Also, there are no remains of cooking fires and other evidence of settlement.

Why Was it Built?

What reason could these ancient people have possibly had for building, preserving, and continuing construction on such a site for so long? Klaus Schmidt believes it may have been a place of religious worship. Other theories include an ancient gravesite for important people or a meeting place for local nomadic tribes. The ancient people of this area built up the temples over the course of hundreds of years, possibly even longer. They built stone circles, buried them, and then carried on their work as before. They eventually built the site up into the hill that exists there today.

Was Göbekli Tepe the Garden of Eden?

Some people theorize that the age and location of this site indicate that it was the Biblical Garden of Eden. If it was a place of religious worship, this would make it the oldest temple in the world. Of course, that only leads to more questions. If the Turkish megalithic site really is the site of the Garden of Eden, why did the ancients bury it?

Chances are that most of the answers to these questions will forever remain a mystery. The early people of this area had no written language, so they left a few clues for us. However, perhaps the ultimate joy of archaeology and mysteries does not come from answering all of our questions. It comes from digging, unearthing, theorizing, and in the questioning.


Older than Ancient Beyond Göbekli Tepe’s Neolithic Dates

And now, beyond Göbekli Tepe news, field workers have added another coal to the fire with their discovery of an ancient site that is at least a thousand years older. Excavations at Boncuklu Tarla in Southeastern Turkey’s Mardin province began in 2012 and have yielded what may be called an 11,300-year-old mini Göbekli Tepe — a Neolithic-era temple with three well-preserved monolithic stele structures. However, the stelae have no figurative inscriptions common to Göbekli Tepe. The temple walls were constructed of rubble and cemented with hardened clay. Scientists hope to reach at least some of the sacred building’s foundations by the end of the year.

Boncuklu Tara via dailysabah.com

The Daily Sabah, a Turkish newspaper reported that the archaeological excavations are being conducted by Mardin Museum Director Nihat Erdoğan and his team. Researchers are hoping to learn more about the cultures, social lives, and burial traditions of the people who lived in Northern Mesopotamia at least 10 millennia ago. The area of the excavation has been home over its history to Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Hittites, Assyrians, Romans, Seljuks, and Ottomans, among others.

Erdoğan said that the Neolithic period saw the establishment of the first sedentary society that led to controlled food production. The first phase of the period did not have baked clay vessels and baskets. Wooden or stone vessels were used instead of baked clay. This is the Aceramic Neolithic phase, in which artifacts have survived in only a few places in Anatolia. These have yielded examples of structures built according to a certain plan, with stone or bone tools and weapons, ornamental items and the first resident villages.

Archaeologist and advisor to the dig, Ergül Kodaş, Mardin Artuklu University, Turkey, said that the history and age of the site is “a new key point to inform us on many topics such as how the [people] in Northern Mesopotamia and the upper Tigris began to settle, how the transition from hunter-gatherer life to food production happened, and how cultural and religious structures changed.”


Göbekli Tepe’s construction 11,500 years ago was guided by geometry

The archaeological site of Göbekli Tepe, located on a tell in Anatolia, Turkey is one of the earliest prehistoric temples discovered by archaeologists.

A team of researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University have carried out an architectural analysis and determined that geometry informed the layout of Göbekli Tepe’s round stone monuments and assembly of limestone pillars.

Three of the Göbekli Tepe’s monumental round structures, the largest of which are 20 meters in diameter, were initially planned as a single project, according to researchers Gil Haklay of the Israel Antiquities Authority, a PhD candidate at Tel Aviv University, and Prof. Avi Gopher of TAU’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations. They used a computer algorithm to trace aspects of the architectural design processes involved in the construction of these enclosures in this early Neolithic site.

Their findings were published in Cambridge Archaeological Journal in May.

“Göbekli Tepe is an archaeological wonder,” Prof. Gopher explains. “Built by Neolithic communities 11,500 to 11,000 years ago, it features enormous, round stone structures and monumental stone pillars up to 5.5 meters high. Since there is no evidence of farming or animal domestication at the time, the site is believed to have been built by hunter-gatherers. However, its architectural complexity is highly unusual for them.”

Discovered by German archaeologist Dr. Klaus Schmidt in 1994, Göbekli Tepe has since been the subject of hot archaeological debate. But while these, and other early Neolithic remains, have been intensively studied, the issue of architectural planning during these periods and its cultural ramifications have not.

Most researchers have made the case that the Göbekli Tepe enclosures at the main excavation area were constructed over time. However, Haklay and Prof. Gopher say that three of the structures were designed as a single project and according to a coherent geometric pattern.

“The layout of the complex is characterized by spatial and symbolic hierarchies that reflect changes in the spiritual world and in the social structure,” Haklay explains. “In our research, we used an analytic tool — an algorithm based on standard deviation mapping — to identify an underlying geometric pattern that regulated the design.”

“This research introduces important information regarding the early development of architectural planning in the Levant and in the world,” Prof. Gopher adds. “It opens the door to new interpretations of this site in general, and of the nature of its megalithic anthropomorphic pillars specifically.”

Certain planning capabilities and practices, such as the use of geometry and the formulation of floor plans, were traditionally assumed to have emerged much later than the period during which the Göbekli Tepe was constructed — after hunter-gatherers transformed into food-producing farmers some 10,500 years ago. Notably, one of the characteristics of early farmers is their use of rectangular architecture.

“This case of early architectural planning may serve as an example of the dynamics of cultural changes during the early parts of the Neolithic period,” Haklay says. “Our findings suggest that major architectural transformations during this period, such as the transition to rectangular architecture, were knowledge-based, top-down processes carried out by specialists.

“The most important and basic methods of architectural planning were devised in the Levant in the Late Epipaleolithic period as part of the Natufian culture and through the early Neolithic period. Our new research indicates that the methods of architectural planning, abstract design rules and organizational patterns were already being used during this formative period in human history.”

Next, the researchers intend to investigate the architectural remains of other Neolithic sites throughout the Levant.


Reclaiming our Ancient Heritage: Portasar (Göbekli Tepe)

During my first visit to Armenia, I expected to find a rugged and muscular terrain, given the steady diet of cliched images I had consumed over the years of one very famous, snow-capped mountain range. What I found instead was a mild and feminine landscape where ribbons of smooth terrain are topped with delicate, cream-colored hills set against lush valleys. Even mighty Ararat appeared painterly, if not feminine, underneath the Anatolian sun. Vincent Van Gogh would have liked painting this delicate landscape, I thought to myself, seeing flecks of Japan in its eastern terrain. Could the Armenian Plateau be, as some have described, the navel of the world?

Enter Portasar (the navel of a mountain), better known as Göbekli Tepe (potbelly hill), a prehistoric magnum opus built by hunter-gatherers dating back to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period (ca. 10th-9th millennia BC). Considered the oldest megalithic monument in the world, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the historic Armenian Plateau, approximately 35 miles north of the Syrian border and roughly ten miles northeast of Urfa (Sanlıurfa).

It’s also a mere 25 miles from the ancient city of Haran, mentioned in the book of Genesis as the place where Abram (later called Abraham) settled for a time after emigrating from Ur of the Chaldeans, an epic journey that would take him all the way to the promised land of Canaan.

Portasar is perched above a thousand-foot-diameter mound overlooking what was once a fertile plain. At first glance, its circular construction is reminiscent of England’s Stonehenge (ca. 2500 BC). But unlike Stonehenge and all other prehistoric monuments, including Armenia’s Karahundj (ca. 5500 BC) and Metsamor (ca. 5000 BC), Portasar is said to be the world’s first “temple,” this according to German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt who excavated the site from 1996 to 2014.

To summarize Schmidt, Portasar breaks all the rules of how an early hunter-gatherer society is supposed to behave. According to a standard model of prehistoric human development, religion and, by extension, its architectural vernacular, arrives on the scene after the invention of farming, not before. But Portasar turns that model on its head by building monumental structures before the onset of farming. Detail from Portasar, a “Vulture Stone”

Portasar’s circular megalithic structures were likely used for funerary purposes and other notable observances. It’s believed that the site was set apart from mundane, day-to-day activities, much like Stonehenge (ca. 2500 BC) and nearby Durrington Walls (a circular structure made of timber, ca. 2600 BC). According to Schmidt, there is no evidence of dwellings found at the site. Hence, it’s very likely that the builders of Portasar lived in a nearby settlement and travelled to the sites on notable occasions. Numerous animal bones uncovered at Portasar, as well as Durrington Walls, suggest that there may have been sacrifices and feasting going on.

Two iconic T-shaped pillars, measuring as high as 16 feet tall and weighing as much as 10 tons each, were constructed from locally-sourced limestone and erected in the middle of the structure. These giant pillars, some with anthropomorphic features, are encircled with a stone wall that’s interjected with a smaller set of T-shaped pillars.

According to Andrew Curry of the Smithsonian Magazine, much of Portasar is yet to be discovered. Only 5 percent of the 22-acre site has been excavated. It’s estimated that the area contains at least sixteen additional megalithic structures that have yet to be dug up.

Portasar is set in Upper Mesopotamia, an area nested within the Fertile Crescent, also known as the Cradle of Civilization. This region includes parts of Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. The term – Cradle of Civilization – typically conjures up images of ancient Mesopotamian empires dotting the Tigris and Euphrates corridor, not to mention those along the Nile. This crescent-shaped landmass has given birth to many “firsts” in human history. The ancient Sumerians (ca. 5000/4500-1750 BC), for instance, invented everything from writing to geometry they domesticated animals and developed irrigation for agriculture, among many other originations.

According to Harvard archaeologist Ofer Bar-Yosef, agriculture began in south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria (part of the Armenian Plateau). But many of Bar-Yosef’s contemporaries disagree with his claim, citing that agriculture originated in multiple locations within the Fertile Crescent. Nevertheless, Bar-Yosef maintains that honest-to-goodness agriculture (one that combined crops and livestock) developed once, and then proliferated into other parts.

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The hunter-gatherers who built Portasar seemed to possess a remarkable cognizance about life – be it zoological, anatomical, celestial, et al. This is evident in the artifacts and relief sculptures found at the site. For instance, there’s a stylized etching of what appears to be a woman giving birth, and another featuring a large aperture (seven to eight inches in diameter) that may have symbolized a womb, with archaic representations of human legs. An additional example includes the so-called Vulture Stone, an etching featuring gruesome animals and insects that may have corresponded to constellations.

Perhaps it’s this level of perception that eventually led the builders of Portasar to transition into a proto-farming society. But as Schmidt explains, this shift from hunter-gatherer to farming may have brought about the downfall of this megalithic site. It’s believed that the site was deliberately buried as this new farming technology was being implemented in the region. Later on, nearby settlements of Boncuklu Höyük (ca. 8500 BC) and Çatal Höyük (ca. 6000 – 5900 BC) would become important centers of agricultural activities.

One of the most interesting aspects of Portasar is its seemingly unapologetic view of nature, something that really comes through in its artifacts. Like so many other prehistoric sites – the caves of Lascaux (ca. 15,000 – 13,000 BC) and Chauvet (ca. 15,000 – 13,000 BC), just to name a few – many of the animals depicted at Portasar were not used for food. Instead, these creatures seem to be showcasing their gruesome traits, perhaps as a testament to nature’s dark and destructive attributes.

By sharp contrast, many contemporary artists have taken a much softer view of nature, perhaps in fear of being labeled offensive, given nature’s inevitable identification with women (à la mother nature, etc.). This, coupled with a relativist mindset where everything is meaningless and there is no Truth, etc. has resulted in empty art galleries on any given weekend. But prehistoric sites, like Stonehenge, are bustling with tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world, eager to witness its timeless vernacular where meaning and purpose still preside as important ingredients in life, in art. What’s more, these ancient sites attract not just the learned few, but people from all walks of life who’ve been stirred by its style and substance.

Ironically, many centuries later, the people of the Armenian Plateau would be the first nation in the world to adopt Christianity (301 AD). Perhaps this was partly due to their age-old understanding of nature as something more than just a benevolent force – Christ as the antidote to nature.

Works Cited

Curry, Andrew. “Gobekli Tepe: The World’s First Temple?” Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian.com, November 2008. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/gobekli-tepe-the-worlds-first-temple-83613665/.

“Göbekli Tepe.” UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO World Heritage Center, 2018. https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1572/.

Haughton, Brian. “Gobekli Tepe – the World’s First Temple?” Ancient History Encyclopedia. May 04, 2011. https://www.ancient.eu/article/234/.

III, Jones, Ronnie. “Gobekli Tepe.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. May 07, 2015. https://www.ancient.eu/Gobekli_Tepe/.

Mark, J. Joshua. “Sumer.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. April 28, 2011. https://www.ancient.eu/sumer/.

Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History. 13th ed. Vol. 1. Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2009.


Watch the video: Göbekli Tepe: The Dawn of Civilization (January 2022).