Gobleki Tepe: Steps Toward an Objective Approach
From the oldest Megaliths discovered at Gobleki Tepe, to the most well-known at Stonehenge or the Egyptian Pyramids, Academia has struggled to provide us with a true picture of the meaning and origins of these structures. In particular,because of the limitations of an essentially sociocultural evolutionary model, university based scholars of prehistory have been significantly challenged in their attempts to integrate anomalous but meaningful evidence. This video will review traditional academia’s interpretation of the Gobleki Tepe site. We will then turn to other omitted or marginalized evidence that needs to be introduced and fully considered for a more complete treatment of the subject.
The site at Gobleki Tepe discovered in 1994 by German Archeologist Klaus Schmidt, has posed a particular challenge to Academia: How was an 11,000 year old megalithic site (still only about 5 to 10 percent excavated) with cleanly cut 7 to 50 ton standing T-shaped pillars configured in a set of rings with mathematical precision and adorned with finely carved animal figures, “crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery” according to Smithsonian Magazine?
I. Let’s look at some of the findings and conclusions about the site put forth by Klaus Schmidt:
1) Gobleki Tepe is the world’s first “temple”. “This is the first human built holy place.” It was, he believes, a meeting place for hunter gatherers….it was humanities “Cathedral on a hill”….. a “Sanctuary.” It is “A special location” central and visible “devoted to very important specific rituals…”.In a 2004 Paper, he states definitively: “…it can safely be assumed that Gobleki Tepe is a place for the accomplishment of (different kinds of) ritual activities.”
2) The site has none of the signs of settlement evident in other sites.There is no evidence that people lived at Gobleki Tepe. In Schmidt’s words, “ the erratic topographical setting of Gobleki Tepe… cannot be explained in reference to subsistence strategies, but instead non-profane reasons seem applicable.”
3) The builders covered the large stone rings over with “fill” at some point after they were finished.
4) The builders were on the verge of a major change in how they lived …moving from hunter-gatherers to farmers and keepers of livestock
5) Bone remains of animals indicate we are dealing with a hunter-gatherer site. People who lived here had not yet domesticated animals or farmed.
6) Because of the variety of animals depicted on the pillars, Schmidt has referred to the site as a “stone age zoo”.
7) In a 1998 article Schmidt states: “the existence of monumental structures gives proof for a complex social system with powerful individuals who used religious imperatives to motivate the community to enormous efforts”.
8) To Academic Archeologists, Gobleki Tepe shows, in the words of Stanford’s Ian Hodder, that “sociocultural changes come first, agriculture comes later”. In other words, what’s groundbreaking about this site is that it exposes that historians got things backwards. We always understood that, first we farm, then we live in communities, and then we organize and finally build. Schmidt, like Hodder, argues that Gobleki Tepe shows it was the other way around. That is to say, the organization required to build the monoliths, “laid the groundwork for the development of complex societies.”
9) The site was built by hunter-gatherers using flint tools.
II. While this site contains an abundance of content from which we could begin to glean it’s meaning, I was, first, struck by the glaring omissions in Schmidt’s interpretations. Now let’s look at some of the facts that have been overlooked or undervalued by this traditional view of this site:
1) There is no evidence whatsoever that there was, at that time, a centralized organization of prehistoric peoples with the motivation, equipment, specialized technical knowledge and engineering skills to plan and build such a “temple” period! But yet the site is there. Putting together all aspects of such a project would challenge any modern construction company. This includes fitting the up to 50-ton stones into sockets hewn out of the polished monolithic bedrock. To put this in perspective, it is believed that the wheel was not invented for at least another 6000 years.
Rather than be informed by the near impossibility of his conclusions and looking critically at the mounting evidence for alternative explanations, Schmidt and other traditionalists stick doggedly to their story of this special group of hunter gatherers with advanced engineering skills (acquired by unknown means ) who were motivated by “ powerful individuals with religious imperatives”. What we know about the abilities of these hunter-gatherers must be rewritten according to academia. The significance of the site lies in that.
2) Nor was there any known organized religion at the time. For Schmidt to attribute a religious function to the site is a clear projection of his own modern cultural framework. But things are more complex. Schmidt himself stated in a 1998 article: “the ritual world that can be seen at Gobleki Tepe again does not clearly indicate a specific religious concept…” Elsewhere he refers to the loose carvings as “ritually associated” pieces. Perhaps as time went on Schmidt changed this. There may have been pressures to have the site viewed in another way—to water down, as it were, the odd findings and to make the site more palatable and intelligible to the public. Thus the use of words like “Cathedral” and “holy”,may be seen in this way—as bridge words to help us relate to something so wholly foreign as to be beyond any of our existing reference points.
And so as we continue to look at the evidence, we note that nothing about the megaliths themselves suggests religion, as we understand it. But the National Geographic, and other conventional commentators, has repeated this distortion, referring to the site as containing “the oldest known temple “
3) There is a presence of themes in the carvings on the megaliths that we see thousands of years later in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Peru and other places---e.g., handbags; vultures with wings clutching a disc; 3 dimensional lizard sculptures etc. Hugh Newman expands on this and posits that the similarities in the artwork are indicators of a common underlying culture existing worldwide. Newman lists the following commonalities :
--the mysterious “H” carved on some of the monoliths at Gobleki Tepe look like the “H” molds at Puma Punku in Bolivia
--Certain rocks at Gobleki Tepe have perfectly round holes bored all the way through them.( I would ask what “flint” tool could achieve this?) These holes are seen throughout the world at various megalithic sites. According to Newman this is associated with burial sites and is said to be where the soul passes through, according to traditions, to rejoin the cosmos. These sites are typically oriented to the Milky Way.
--Statues of a 3 dimensional infant figure emerging directly out of the stomach can be seen in Peru, Costa Rico and Gobleki Tepe.
--Wriggling 3 dimensional serpents carved on the sides of Monoliths at Gobleki Tepe, are very similar to those seen at Cusco in Peru.
4) Cannibalized skulls at the site are of unknown significance and were dated thousands of years later. Traditional interpreters have coupled this with the “temple” thesis and called the site a “skull cult”. Carvings on the megaliths include beheaded humanoid figures. In this authors view, there is nothing here to suggest a pleasant “Sanctuary” or a “Cathedral on the Hill”.
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Part 2. This is the beginning of Part 2 . If you have not already done so please watch Part 1
There is another similar theme that needs to be mentioned here. It may or may not be significant. Extending down the length of some of the stones are long arms ending in 5 downturned fingers. Linda M. Howe interprets this as implying that there is a thumb and therefore 6 fingers (and makes reference to the Old Testaments 6-fingered Giants or Nephilim). She then looks to “Urfa Man”, the oldest life sized statue of a man (about 6 feet tall), discovered at a nearby site of a similar age. The artwork is also uncannily similar: 5 fingers are downturned, implying an absent thumb. While the arms on the T-shaped pillar reach above the belt to the naval, Urfa Man reaches lower. Extending from each of his hands is a testicle--although no phallus is visible. Given the obsidian stone black eyes and no mouth there is, in Linda Howes view, something frightening about this statue. I am reminded of the imposing Easter Island figures (If I were an ancient maritime explorer who passed by Easter Island, I would surely continue on at sea) or the many similar imposing statues such as the Giants of de Monte Parma in Sardinia. Hugh Newman has pointed out that similar statues with hands meeting at the Navel or genitals appear in Megalithic cultures throughout the world.
Schmidt distanced himself from the Urfa Man figure, claiming it was inferior to the inferred humanoid T-shaped megaliths. While I would agree, since it is not from the site, I would only point out the similar themes as thought provoking.
5) The bas-relief carvings on the pillars are precise sophisticated and layered. There are some 3 dimensional figures as well Most of the animals depicted are local fauna. But other carvings contain unrecognizable animals, insects, and humanoids and, again, even beheaded humanoids. They are executed with a precision that does not reflect what we would imagine from a prehistoric stone carver whose available tool of choice would be “flint”—since this was well before metal tools. Are there other explanations that we need to look at?
Another error or inconsistency is that Schmidt arrives at his assessment of the site by combining the two types of finds: 1) The megaliths with their precisely carved artwork and 2) the cruder limestone sculptures recovered, often damaged, from the “fill” of the site. Individuals who did not make the megaliths may have made these cruder pieces. Indeed, there is nothing technically special about them. They may also have been made later, as dating is imprecise. Certainly little care was taken to preserve them. Our point is that the two types of findings should be clearly differentiated.
6) Also overlooked is the fact that megaliths have traditionally been constructed with astronomical alignments—such as the Pyramids of Giza aligning with Orion’s Belt. Like later structures, Gobleki Tepe has a perfect North South alignment and detects the equinoxes. It is oriented to the stars as well as the coordinates of significant earthly sites. There is nothing to suggest that the hunter-gatherers of 10,000 B.C had this kind of knowledge. Alternative theorists have gone as far as to refer to the sight as an ancient astronomical observatory. None of this is coincidental and must be considered as an aspect of the meaning of the site.
7) Details of the so called “vulture stone” have not received due consideration outside of alternative circles. The art work on the side of this stone may point to a time when a comet hit earth. One view has it that if we interpret the animals depicted on the stone as symbols outlining points of constellations, and match their position in the night sky at the time using computer models, we can see that this points us to 10,950 BC. This is the time of the alleged comet impact and Younger Dryas event.
8) The site contains stylistically unique T-Shaped megaliths with carvings arranged in several Stonehenge like Circles. I know of no other megaliths with this specific T-shape. Perhaps significantly, they may very well be the earliest as well. Later megaliths were not so finely crafted and did not contain carved figures—to my knowledge. Again this is worth consideration.
9) No one knows why the site was buried. To say it was buried to be preserved is speculation --but it was undamaged. Maybe it was buried so that it would stay hidden. It was rediscovered by pure accident. Others have called it a Time Capsule of sorts.
10) Schmidt and traditional archeology in general, leave us very much wanting more information about the origin and meaning of the structure itself. To say that it is a place where rituals were performed ignores too many details we have just mentioned.
Schmidt gives us a theory about Gobleki Tepe’s sociocultural effect and significance. Because the emphasis of the traditional paradigm used by archeologists is on sociocultural evolution, academics like Schmidt bypass significant details that would help inform us about the meaning of the site in favor of speculations about the role Gobleki Tepe played in propelling human civilization forward. While this is important, we may then mistake hypothesized effect for meaning. A paradigm that is demonstrating little utility in explaining certain classes of phenomena is best abandoned as the wrong tool for the job. In an upcoming presentation I will take this up again in advocating for a more multidisciplinary and eclectic approach.
11)Andrew Collins has remarked about the sites meaning as an “Ark in Stone”—due to the varied animals depicted. Is the purpose of the site educational in the widest sense? Does it tell us something about ourselves and our place in the order of things on earth and to the stars?
III.What are some of the conclusions that we can draw:
1) Academia, wedded to its evolutionary paradigm, for better or worse, has not given credence to the thesis put forth by Graham Hancock and others that there must have been a transfer of technology. In other words, the evidence is strong here for some form of “interventionism”. There is strong evidence of “Sacred Geometry” and astronomical alignments employed in the construction at the site. Including this in the construction and layout of the site is well beyond the known capabilities of the hunter gatherers of 10,000 BCE.
Several traditional cultures throughout the world who have megalithic structures, have accompanying legends of “visitors”. For example, in his “Fingerprints of the Gods”, Hancock gives us some accounts in Peruvian culture of “Viracocha”, a visiting “god” who taught ancient Peruvians how to live and build their society. One can see abundant evidence of advanced construction in the megalithic walls at Macha Picchu and other sites in Peru.
2) As Paul Devereux has observed of megaliths in general: we project on the stones the “past that we want”. The Gobleki Tepe site is like an inkblot of sorts. It is a collection of large crafted stones arranged with an order and precision that remind us of monuments or memorials. But 10,000 BCE was not a time of monuments….at least not that we know. The real meaning or meanings of Gobleki Tepe remains hidden behind the plethora of enigmatic images and configuration of the stones.
There may be something hopeful in calling this arrangement of stark and otherworldly stones a “cathedral on a hill” But it is incongruous with what we see. Is it just “the past that we want”? Perhaps Gobleki Tepe is unknowable to us—its purpose hidden forever in the minds of the builders.
In conclusion, I would agree with Schmidt when he states in a 2004 article: Gobleki Tepe’s “…unique architecture and the unexpected richness and complexity of animal symbolism at this early stage of the pre pottery Neolithic period necessitates a more elaborate discussion of the possible functions of the areas defined by the decorated monoliths.”
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