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Gbekli Tepe Yields Groundbreaking Insights

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“The transition from non-food producing to farming societies first took place during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) of the Near East. It happened immediately after the end of the Pleistocene, between the 10th to the 8th millennium BC. One of the main questions that have exercised the minds of generations of archaeologists is why people first gave up a hunting and gathering way of life and start to domesticate plants and animals. In other words, why did the Neolithic Revolution take place? The new discoveries at Göbekli Tepe have turned up evidence for explanations that differ from the generally accepted wisdom on this issue.”

–Klaus Schmidt Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Orient-Abteilung, Berlin, DE

The excavation of Göbekli Tepe gave Schmidt insight into “one of the most fascinating Neolithic sites in the world;” a hub of sorts in the ancient world where different populations met to “engage in complex rites.”

About 15 kilometers from the Turkish city of Sanhurfa, Schmidt and a team gained access with permission from the Turkish government. 
 

“Even today, the place has lost nothing of its magic appeal,” he writes. The site is listed as tri-layered (Figure 2), with different eras represented in different eras. But the layers cast a mystical aura on Göbekli Tepe. The lowest level sanctuaries may have been “intentionally and rapidly buried,” whether for a ritual or another reason. The mystery extends to the material used to fill the lowest level; it is of an unknown origin. 

“The material is not sterile soil. It consists mainly of chips and pieces of limestone – usually smaller than fist-size–and many artefacts, mainly of flint, but also fragments of stone vessels, grind stones and other ground stone tools. Beside the stone artefacts, there are many animal bones, mostly broken into small pieces as is usual for waste. The bones are primarily of gazelle,

but in terms of weight of meat, wild cattle is the most important species. Other species of importance are red deer, onager, wild pig, and wild caprovids.

The architecture of the place, bare of any housing, contains reliefs, a totem pole, portholes, t-shaped pillars, and statues. 

 

“The reliefs adorning many of the monumental pillars depict a wide range of wild animals such as predatory cats, bulls, wild boar, foxes, ducks, cranes, gazelles, wild asses, snakes, spiders and scorpions (Fig. 10) … . In the back fill material of enclosure D, a decorated pillar fragment was discovered. The object was probably part of the missing twelfth pillar of the enclosure, as there is a gap between pillars 43 and 30 in the northern section of the enclosure (comp. Fig. 2). The depiction shows a vulture and a species as yet unknown among the images at Göbekli Tepe – the long, coarse ridge of mane along the length of the back of the animal indicates that it is a hyena (Fig. 11).

 

The totem pole is likely related to the well-known skull cult. 

 

The “unique double porthole is not the only astonishing feature. On the southern rim is a flat relief of a very large snake. On the western rim there are high reliefs of three animals. In a direction from south to north, a bull, a billy-goat and a predator showing its teeth are positioned.

A high relief with a very similar animal was found in the same season in the northern profile of a trench in the west of enclosure D (Fig. 25). Again, the tail of the beast is curved at its back. The repetition of the motif underlines the observation that there was a fixed canon of depictions which was unveiled step by step and year by year.”
 
The “unique double porthole is not the only astonishing feature. On the southern rim is a flat relief of a very large snake. On the western rim there are high reliefs of three animals.
 
In a direction from south to north, a bull, a billy-goat and a predator showing its teeth are positioned.
 
A high relief with a very similar animal was found in the same season in the northern profile of
a trench in the west of enclosure D (Fig. 25). Again, the tail of the beast is curved at its back. The repetition of the motif underlines the observation that there was a fixed canon of depictions which was unveiled step by step and year by year.”

Schmidt ends by noting other settlements dating back to 12,000-10,000 BP are under excavation and “are producing unexpected monumentality and extraordinarily rich symbolism that challenges our ability to interpret.”

The results haven’t ruined previous endeavors to understand ancient history, but “are adding a splendid and colourful new chapter between the period of the hunters and gatherers of the Ice Age and the new world of the food producing cultures of the Neolithic period.”
 
Göbekli Tepe opens up Early Neolithic scholarship, showing people specialized in different field because of the elaborate nature of the sculptures. 
 
And Göbekli Tepe has more secrets and insight for future archaeologists and the world to discover, says Schmidt. 
 
“We can assume that much older traces and constructions have yet to be found at Göbekli Tepe, and it can be guessed that the place has a history stretching back over several
thousand of years to the Old Stone Age. The people must also have had a highly complicated mythology, including a capacity for abstraction.”
 
What was the most important discovery of the excavation? The T-shaped pillars, and what or who they represent. 
 
“The general function of the enclosures remains mysterious; but it is clear that the pillar statues in the centre of these enclosures represented very powerful beings. If gods existed in the minds of Early Neolithic people, there is an overwhelming probability that the T-shape is the first know monumental depiction of gods.
 
“Further investigations will certainly provide us with more detailed information. But to understand the new finds, archaeologists need to work closely with specialists in comparative religion, architectural and art theory, cognitive and evolutionary psychology, sociologists using social network theory, and others. It is the complex story of the earliest large, settled communities, their extensive networking, and their communal understanding of their world, perhaps even the first organized religions and their symbolic representations of the cosmos.”
 
Source: Göbekli Tepe – the Stone Age Sanctuaries, by Klaus Schmidt
 
Schmidt ends by noting other settlements dating back to 12,000-10,000 BP are under excavation and “are producing unexpected monumentality and extraordinarily rich symbolism that challenges our ability to interpret.”
 
The results haven’t ruined previous endeavors to understand ancient history, but “are adding a splendid and colourful new chapter between the period of the hunters and gatherers of the Ice Age and the new world of the food producing cultures of the Neolithic period.”
 
Göbekli Tepe opens up Early Neolithic scholarship, showing people specialized in different field because of the elaborate nature of the sculptures. 
 
And Göbekli Tepe has more secrets and insight for future archaeologists and the world to discover, says Schmidt. 
 
“We can assume that much older traces and constructions have yet to be found at Göbekli Tepe, and it can be guessed that the place has a history stretching back over several
thousand of years to the Old Stone Age. The people must also have had a highly complicated mythology, including a capacity for abstraction.”
 
What was the most important discovery of the excavation? The T-shaped pillars, and what or who they represent. 
 
“The general function of the enclosures remains mysterious; but it is clear that the
pillar statues in the centre of these enclosures represented very powerful beings. If gods existed in the minds of Early Neolithic people, there is an overwhelming probability that the T-shape is the first know monumental depiction of gods.
 
“Further investigations will certainly provide us with more detailed information. But to understand the new finds, archaeologists need to work closely with specialists in comparative religion, architectural and art theory, cognitive and evolutionary psychology, sociologists using social network theory, and others. It is the complex story of the earliest large, settled communities, their extensive networking, and their communal understanding of their world, perhaps even the first organized religions and their symbolic representations of the cosmos.
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    Total 7 comments
    • nimbunje

      The answer why the transition to agriculture happened is explained in the rise of CO2 -pre 15,000 bp the CO2 level was 180 ppm,plant growth ceases at 150ppm . As the CO2 passed 220ppm cereal crops start producing and setting grain as we know it .

    • Pix

      “The transition from non-food producing to farming societies first took place during the
      Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) of the Near East.”

      LOL, starting your article with an unsubstantiated hypothesis is not the best idea. There is no evidence that was when agriculture began in that location. In fact it’s highly unlikey seeing as it’s impossible to go from no agriculture to advanced plant breeding of species in such an overnight way. It takes a long time to breed superior seed for agriculture and there is no evidence that they did any, no evidence of the spread of improved seed stock, etc. It went from none to advanced overnight, which shows there is a huge amount of missing history.

      “” a hub of sorts in the ancient world where different populations met to “engage in complex rites.”” What, did they dream that up one night? There is no evidence to support that claim.

      I do wish these articles wouldn’t present their speculation as fact. Despite that though it’s an interesting site.

    • Anonymous

      This is perhaps the most important discovery since a very long time. It will be necessary to rewrite history since this temple, the most ancient of the Middle East, opens a large number of questions. Such a temple implies the human density of a city life but cities started to appear well after. Rural village life cannot support such a shrine. Many more questions are left to be answered. A great find !

    • Sebastian Clouth

      Pix, the first quote you reference is in fact a quote; not an opinion by the author. That’s how news is reported. The second quote is from the report, and admittedly could have used evidence from the source to back it up. Thanks for the feedback!

      • Pix

        A quote is an opinion. If nobody has an opinion then there would’nt be anything to quote.

        I wasn’t judging you, but trying to point out that the imagninations of some archeologists get in the way of objectivity. ;)

        • Sebastian Clouth

          Oops, sorry if my response was confusing: you’re right it is an opinion, but it’s not my opinion, it’s the archaeologist’s. Lol.

    • IRHologram

      I have to agree that such a city would have taken a long time in developing after an agrarian society developed just because they wanted to produce beer once they discovered fermenting plants in the field. I say it jokingly, but remember 50 years ago when that was the postulate? What To me is most astounding about the find is that organized cities developed at least 11 to 12K years ago…so goodbye biblical creationism that has fixed the number at 6,000 BC…but also grotesquely interesting are these images: figure 10 that shows a drooling humanoid reptile, the pole from Neva Cori that shows a cowering human under a cobra head, figure 14 that seems to show a man in an official looking suit with hus hands highlighting his genitals, and figure 13 that seems to show a woman giving birth to dead bones. I find these images disturbing.

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