Amazing ancient Gobekli Tepe

iBrian

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Mesopotamia is usually regarded as the birthplace of civilisation - but it wasn't. It was the birthplace of consistant civilisation. The actual birth of civilisation as we know it is recorded in Turkey. In fact, I'm astonished to stumble on this topic after only a brief reference to a book review in New Scientist.

Forget about Erich Von Daniken, Conspiracy Theory, and Atlanteans for a moment. Let me introduce to you Gobekli Tepe.

I'll risk quoting from other sites, as I don;t want to lose either the references, or the links.

The first link is to this site:
An ancient place of worship--a cult site carbon-dated to the second half of the 9th millennium B.C.--Gobekli Tepe is as good a point as any to begin a diverse archaeological tour of Turkey, a country astonishingly rich with the remains of scores of civilizations and empires stretching from caveman days to the early 20th century. Put simply, Gobekli Tepe--older than the renowned Anatolian city of Catalhoyuk--is where some of our hunter-gatherer ancestors (who were just starting to settle down and organize into societies) first created sophisticated art for ritual purposes.

"This place is as important as the discovery of 14,000 B.C. cave art in France," says Harald Hauptmann, the team leader and director of the German Archaeological Institute in Istanbul. Gobekli Tepe reflects what the experts say is a turning point from the Epipaleolithic to the Early Neolithic era in upper Mesopotamia--that is, the time when early man was just beginning to control nature, before the advent of food production, until the first domestication of plants and animals. "In this site and the one at Nevali Cori, 45 km northeast of here," says Hauptmann, "we have found an art we never knew before--not on cave walls but in public buildings, with sculpture and painted haut-reliefs [sculpted stone panels]. What we have ascertained is that art is not something someone just invented one day, like the wheel or fire. It has always been an active part of the human psyche, since the very beginning."

In each archaeological digging season, hundreds if not thousands of new and often startling discoveries are made by Turkish and international teams at scores of excavations, providing insights into the earliest days of humanity. "Anatolian Turkey is perhaps the most richly diverse archaeological site anywhere. It reaches from Paleolithic [early Stone Age] to Ottoman," says Oscar White Muscarella, a senior conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, who has been assisting a Turkish team excavating a 9th to 7th century B.C. site once inhabited by Urartians--Bronze Age people who lived near Lake Van, close to the Iranian frontier.

Archaeology today, on the cusp of the 21st century, is not a treasure hunt. It is a painstaking search for cultural context. Sometimes, too, it is a race against time as aspects of modern life--the growing demand for energy and food by an expanding population, and the avarice of private art collectors willing to break the law--put new pressures on old sites. Uncovering clues to how ordinary people lived and how societies developed--what Marie-Henriette Gates, an American professor of archaeology and Bronze Age specialist at Bilkent University in Ankara calls "blue-collar archaeology"--now takes precedence over "golden bowls." The experts' focus has evolved from treasure hunting to people hunting, from the bowls themselves to what was eaten from them, and why. Their findings are prompting revision of the idea that Anatolia was simply a corridor for migrant peoples, rather than a font of civilization in its own right, populated by locals knowledgeable about the wheel, communication, art, agriculture, metallurgy and much more. The bounty is rich in Turkey, and any summary of the Anatolian cornucopia of truly significant discoveries barely scratches the surface. In recent years, for example, the soil has yielded the following:

At Gobekli Tepe, 15 km northeast of the city of Sanliurfa, stand four megalithic limestone pillars, 7 m tall and weighing perhaps 50 tons each. Two of them bear the image of a snarling lion defending what Hauptmann believes to be a cult sanctuary or shrine. Erected without the aid of domesticated animals 6,000 years before giant structures were built in Pharaonic Egypt, the pillars suggest that early Neolithic workers knew how to use poles, boards and pulleys to handle huge stones. Hauptmann's site also features a unique floor relief of a squatting woman--perhaps giving birth--reliefs of a variety of animals, and a field of flint chips, indicating the site also hosted a fairly sophisticated tool- and weapon-producing operation.

A rich collection of small limestone sculptures and clay figures was found at Nevali Cori, as well as life-size limestone figures, providing for the first time an idea of how people in the area worshiped 8,000 years before the birth of Christ. The larger work is animistic, some of it featuring humans and animals in carvings resembling totem poles. The masterpiece of the site is a sculpture of a female head grasped in the talons of a bird. Another, male, head is shaved, with a snake positioned at the back like a braid.



The subject of Gobekli Tepe is also covered on a traveller site here:

The Neolithic Period was an era of major changes in human life. They had such an effect on people’s lifestyle that the period is often referred to as the Neolithic Revolution. The greatest advancement, the invention of agriculture, enabled people to settle in one place rather than rove as hunter-gatherers. By cultivating the land, people were able to live in the same location year-round, which led to establishment of the first planned and organized settlements. Since they needed to remain near their fields in order to produce food, people abandoned caves and other natural shelters and began living in dwellings they had constructed themselves.

Asiatic Turkey was the locale for many significant developments in human life. Many Neolithic cultures flourished there and left behind them sites that give rich clues to their lifestyles and beliefs. Most of them are found in the Central and Southeast regions of Anatolia.

Catalhoyuk, near the modern city of Konya. is the first planned urban development in the world dating back to 7,000 B.C. and covering an area of 32 acres. Each house shared common walls with its neighbors and its entrance was on the roof. The walls, made out of mud-brick and presenting a solid, windowless aspect wherever they faced the city’s outside, formed an effective, continuous defensive rampart. Inside, the house walls were covered with paintings that depicted rich scenes of nature and wildlife. Painted relief sculptures, especially in the form of the Mother Goddess, were popular. Her popularity pointed to a possibly matriarchal society. (Good examples of these sculptures can be seen at the Ankara Anatolian Ancient Civilizations Museum.)

Hacilar is another important center in Central Anatolia, near the modern city of Burdur. There is evidence there of agriculture dating back 9,000 years. Archaeologists have found considerable amounts of wheat, barley and lentils in the houses at Hacilar, giving clues to people’s diet and the history of domesticated foods.

Catalhoyuk and Hacilar are also considered two of the earliest clay pottery centers. The existence of pottery is one very important indirect benefits of the sedentary lifestyle created by the ability to produce food year-round and even amass surpluses. Assured of their ability to eat, and able to feed more than just the people who produced food, these stone-age city dwellers had the opportunity and time invent and create.

Recent excavations near the modern city of Urfa revealed very important facts about the advancements of the Neolithic Period. The first settled life for humans in terms of advanced agricultural knowledge and animal feeding was originally dated at 9,500 B.C. by archaeologists in the "Levant area" of present-day Israel and Lebanon. However, researchers are suggesting that the date should be moved backwards since ancient urban centers around Urfa in upper Mesopotamia now qualify as Neolithic.

The first human settlements there probably took place around the Southeastern Anatolian cities of Urfa and Diyarbakir. Excavations at one of these sites, Nevali Cori, revealed clues that the Neolithic Age had started between 12,000 and 10,000 B.C. in this area, at least 500 years earlier than at Catalhoyuk and Hacilar.. The temple architecture found there gives important clues about the beliefs of the people in that era, as well as their architectural ability. Their use of T-shaped pillars showed an advanced knowledge of how to build strong, load-bearing structures.

The other important site, Gobekli Tepe, shows similarities with Nevali Cori and provides support that earlier advancements in human life had taken place in this region. Rooms excavated at this site have revealed stone pillars decorated with floral and faunal reliefs.


As an addendum, a reference to the following site
strongly suggests that Gobekli Tepe and the surrounding area is only minimally excavated


 

Dave the Web

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This is quite interesting. I had heard of cities such as Jericho having an extremely ancient pedigree going back to around 7000 years. I had no idea that there had been anything so utterly remote in history as this. What is the possibility that the Turkish sites have been wrongly assigned a date? Is it possible that the actual archeological dating could be wrong and later corrected?
 

philippgrote

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antiquity of culture

Hi Brian, thanks for the links.
There was a very interesting program on on BBC (a few years back) suggesting quite plausibly that any ancient human civilisation dating to the ice age would have had its cultural centres near the sea and that such sites would now be far beneath the ocean. Some alledged sites have been found in Japan and India. The melting of the ice could have resulted in the dislocation of many ice age cultures, giving an explanation for the existance of flood myths in most cultures around the globe.
Also, civilisation is not necessarily the only argument for the existence of culture. 'Culture' is the way a community can assimilate and incorporate the ways of other entities around it. Ice Age conditions may not necessarily encourage cultures that delve in their exhuberance as may be seen in warm periods when life on land abounds. It would seem that at a time when life on land is restrained the notion of culture would be to preserve rather than to exploit.
Culture has a lot to do with attitude and does not merely rely on intelligence. A domestic animal can enter a culture-relationship with a human person that diverts from its 'natural' habitat until it forms its own species. However it seems that humans are masters at instigating such relationships. The roots for this ability may go back millions of years. Other animals that display culture in their behaviour (and incidentally an enlarged cortex) are usually aquatic mammals.
There are many arguments for an aquatic past in humans (the straight pelvis being one). If indeed humans have an aquatic past, then not only the size of the human brain has to be taken in consideration when comparing humans to other apes but also its structure.
Philipp
 

iBrian

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philippgrote said:
There was a very interesting program on on BBC (a few years back) suggesting quite plausibly that any ancient human civilisation dating to the ice age would have had its cultural centres near the sea and that such sites would now be far beneath the ocean. Some alledged sites have been found in Japan and India. The melting of the ice could have resulted in the dislocation of many ice age cultures, giving an explanation for the existance of flood myths in most cultures around the globe.

That's a very interesting point, and one I had not actually considered. Certainly there's going to be some inevitable loss to sea-rises, but the extent of the loss never hit. Especially as human's have a nasty habit of settling along major delta areas, you would have the loss of these low-lying settlements included.

I am under the impression though, that archaeology generally doesn't see much expectation of signs of civilisation to any extent happening around the time of the last ice-age. Still, it would be absolutely remarkable if Gobekli Tepe repersents a lost norm, rather than an isolated case.
 

Susma Rio Sep

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Instant civilization

About the rise of society, civilization, and culture, try this experiment.

Get a number of new born babies together and put them in a controlled environment, some kind of a laboratory in a contrived wilderness setting.

No, that’s not feasible.

Let’s do it this way:

Get a number of gown-ups and remove their memory by artificially induced total amnesia, even language skills. Put them in a controlled environment of wilderness where they are challenged to survive among themselves – but make sure they don’t become an extinct species.

Sounds familiar?

Now, see if they produce a society, a civilization, and culture.


If they survive long enough – and they should, because we make sure they don’t become an extinct species, and reproduce among themselves, I think they will produce a society, a civilization, and culture.


Susma Rio Sep
 

philippgrote

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ancient culture

I said:
That's a very interesting point, and one I had not actually considered. Certainly there's going to be some inevitable loss to sea-rises, but the extent of the loss never hit. Especially as human's have a nasty habit of settling along major delta areas, you would have the loss of these low-lying settlements included.

I am under the impression though, that archaeology generally doesn't see much expectation of signs of civilisation to any extent happening around the time of the last ice-age. Still, it would be absolutely remarkable if Gobekli Tepe repersents a lost norm, rather than an isolated case.

Hi Brian, there is an important difference between culture and civilisation. Culture is an exchange that occurs between different entities which provides value respectively to such entities. Usually such entities mark different species or different cultures but they may also be abstract. It may exsist between a person and a mountain, an asket meditating a wall. I once met a man on Crete who was living in a tiny hollow in the face of a mountain listening to the faint noises of a radio transmitter (to him voices of the cosmos). Culture does not have to leave any traces. It can be a Buddah sitting in an empty room. We perceive a lot of things that are man-made because our life is full of rituals attached to them. This is a mark of civilisation. Civilisation needs a lot of artificial things because it relies on huge populations that dwarf our surroundings. What I perceive during the ice age is a lot of culture and faint civilisation. However, when the human race was tossed into the warm period and inter glacials, not only were these faint civilisations dislocated but they also encountered what existed ouside their perimiter. They left the garden of their existance and exploded into a world of space and toil. Life during an ice age is not one of abundance on land, only in the oceans. However, by 10,000 before present there had already been an interglacial (warm period) and arguably this would have helped early civilisations well on their way. I see evidence for this in the sudden disappearance of the Neanderthal culture (never mind the people). The Neanderthal had culture (tools, ancestor worship etc), yet they lived in very small (tribal) groups. The people that followed were not just a lot more prolific but also a lot more specialised and therefore lived in a much larger network of people. They certainly traded and had cultural relationships with areas far beyond traditional Neanderthal territory. That is not just a matter of intellect. It is a matter of infrastructure, of logistics and therefore of cultural centres where people would congregate. Until the emergence of early civilisations has fully been explained, in my view, the possibility of early ice age civilisations has to be considered as a viable option.
 

Susma Rio Sep

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Civilization and culture

Dear Philip, you say (among other things):

Hi Brian, there is an important difference between culture and civilisation. Culture is an exchange that occurs between different entities which provides value respectively to such entities.

Culture does not have to leave any traces. It can be a Buddah sitting in an empty room.

......

Civilisation needs a lot of artificial things because it relies on huge populations that dwarf our surroundings.

.......

What I perceive during the ice age is a lot of culture and faint civilisation.

........

I lost you somewhere in your post about the important difference between civilization and culture, your promise at the very beginning of your post-reply to Brian. And I was thinking that finally someone will tell me what’s the difference between the two.

Can you please in your next post tell me then in more definite delineation the difference between civilization and culture?

Here’s my own attempt on their difference:

Civilization is a stage of human life in community that marks a clear transition from that of non-human so-called savage animals. Humans can lapse back to the kind of life led by savage animals so-called. One civilization can be distinctly different from another, but all civilizations are clear transition from the life of so-called savage animals.

Culture is the more concrete lines of developments in a civilization. Thus there is culture in cuisine and in hairdo which can be very different from one civilization to another.

For example, ancient Roman civilization is distinct from ancient Chinese civilization.

As to culture, ancient Roman couture and hair fashion are distinct from those of ancient Chinese. Today Japanese dining with their buttocks on the floor is culture, while Westerners dining with their buttocks on an elevated support is their peculiar culture different from that of Japanese. But both Japanese and Westerners today are possessed of civilization.

Salva meliore opinione from you.


Susma Rio Sep
 

philippgrote

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Dear Susma, thank you for your reply.
I am not sure how much I can help you. Let me point out that to me civilisation is not so much an achievement as it is a phenomenon that occurs when many people live together. There are many reasons why at certain times and places many people manage to live together while at others they do not.

Sincerely yours

Philipp
 

mahogan

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There are some interesting finds in Egypt, although not as old, the results can be extrapolated to argue that humans have been a bit busier than we tend to think.

First, the Egyptians used Lapiz Lazuli, which comes from Afghanistan (Kabul to Cairio is as far as Cairo to London, as a little further than New York to Mexico City).

Second, trade was carried out with Central Africa until the climate changed.

Thirs, trad continued accross the North African desert, despite its inhospitability.

When we have found written records, they are hardly 'new' but speak in a confident voice and clearly articulated language of what we call myth, or legend. Clearly, this all had a pre-history that we do not know but which at the time must have been reasonably well known, if it was not, I would have expected the surviving stories to have exlanations; I can't help but think that whoever read or listened to these stories must have understood the context better than we do at the moment.
 

philippgrote

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Hey Mahogan, thanks for your reply.
I have studied Jean Clottes Report on Chauvet Cave in France. The images are believed according to carbon dating to be between thirty to thirtytwo thousand years old. However, I believe that there are still sites of huge interest in that cave that seem to suggest an older link with the Neanderthal culture. Cave art stopped about ten to fourteen thousand years ago, around the time of the great floods. A lot of what is going on at Chauvet and other caves suggests a progressive formalization of style and content. The caves are all located along water ways which suggests a context with an unknown seafearing culture.
My main interest in anthropology and prehistory is as an artist with a slant towards shamanism. I believe that if I empty my mind I connect with a more ethereal world. I recommend Holger Kalweit on shamanism. Also, I do not think that there is any ground for the interpretation of species according to bone structure in humans since what shapes humans and domestic animals is culture. The same applies to aquatic mammals. Which is why I believe there is a good argument that humanity had aquatic origins and that the further we venture back in time the more we ought to look for an aquatic context. Culture is not dependent on the size of the brain, but of the structure of it. The size of the brain, the social brain, determines the size and extend of culture. The evolution of the human (social) brain is the evolution of culture. Culture is the result of different approaches to life merging into one. That is why all high cultures have a shelf life. Sooner or later the establishment becomes so rigid that it cannot absorb new ways of thinking. This sort of social failure is well known in the business world where an elite task force is under too much pressure to conform and where the detection of flaws or weaknesses are seen as a critisism and disturbance of the cosy general upbeat mood.
I maintain that the end of the ice age and its warm interglacials changed the social dynamics of human culture. Ice age culture is more spiritual and deep. It requires greater sacrifices of the individual. Therefore groups are smaller and individuals larger and stronger (not along tropical belt). In warm periods there is room for cultural explosion, huge populations and all the results this yields. Life is focused more on exploiting resources.
The Egyptians derive their knowledge from various ice age cultures that were dispersed with the great floods and regrouped along the main rivers such as the Nile, the Euphrates, the Tigris, and the Indus. Early Egyptian human depictions are more varied than later ones. This seems to support the idea that early Egyptian culture was more cosmopolitan, and that a lot of its optimism came from the sense of achievement that came from the merging of several different cultures, from Asia, Africa and Europe.
 
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