History Books Will Need To Be Rewritten
Göbekli Tepe is a phenomenal time capsule of discovery and insight. We are faced with an untouched, and relatively intact window into a culture that has refused to be forgotten. Göbekli Tepe stands as a reminder that there is grand folly in making any final determinations about who we are, how we lived and where we came from. Göbekli Tepe also shows that there is profound arrogance to call any prior culture, a primitive culture, by any measure or standard. History books will need a complete rewrite as well as Wikipedia’s various citations on ancient history. Sadly some of this data is 20 years old and is still not cited nor put in the proper context.
I have posted on this subject before: What are the most fascinating known unknowns?. I hope to give more details on this amazing discovery with Some information that is not yet easily available (on the internet) or otherwise Peer Reviewed published (Eg: Beer/Bread production, Written Language/Symbols, Plant domestication). However none of this data is unannounced or otherwise proprietary unreleased data. Please see notes at the end of the paragraphs for more detail.
Most of this data is still being uncovered and thus will be published in Peer Review publications when appropriate. Some of this data comes directly from Professor Klaus Schmidt, the chief Researcher and Archeologist on site, in updates to academics that are following his work. Professor Schmidt came to Turkey in 1978, but it wasn’t until 1994 that he felt sure enough of the data he collected to begin to publish. Professor Schmidt is academically quite conservative and faced the undesirable task of putting archaeology on notice that general assumptions held very tightly were, just wrong. It took him many years of checking and then rechecking before he would publish his discoveries as he knew they were highly controversial. Thus it may be a few years before we see some of what I mention here fully published and accepted. This is an early view and have no doubts is very, very controversial.
Warning: I have a clear bias here that I must warn the reader about. I feel very, very strongly that academia has not givenproper encomium, citation, commendation and tribute forProfessor Schmidt and his 30 years of work at Göbekli Tepe. I feel rather strongly that this position of academia has caused many discoveries of similar magnitude to be stunted by little to no funding. Please forgive a bit of cheerleading for what I believe is one of the most important discoveries in human history.
All Too Human
I must point out that one of the most difficult things about Göbekli Tepe has been the Historians and Archaeologists that have invested so much into a paradigm of human development, that they found it nearly impossible to accept the realities that Göbekli Tepe presented. This has hampered progress, funding and peer review of Göbekli Tepe. This shows how even the most empirical Researchers and Scientists are all too human and fall prey to the fear of a rewriting of history to a more accurate context. It is my profound hope that Göbekli Tepe helps to change this point of view in some material way.
Here are just some of the new insights Göbekli Tepe has produced:
Earliest Organized Society Yet Discovered
Organized society is now at least 13,000 years old and perhaps far older as there is evidence that at least another society lead up to this site. This nearly doubles the period that was assumed before. It was assumed prior to Göbekli Tepe, that the Sumerians were the first Organized Society, and perhaps in some measure this is still valid but not by every measure (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civ…). We see signs of a very high level of cooperation spanning almost 3000 years at Göbekli Tepe. (This Data is published and not currently challenged).
Possible Earliest Written Language Yet Discovered
At Göbekli Tepe we are confronted with what appears to be the earliest yet discovery of a human writing. This is very early days but there appears to be about 20 symbols in use. This in itself does not portend to a complete language but there is promising signs in some of the most recent digs at the site. Prior to this discovery it was assumed that it was a product of the ancient sumerian culture in perhaps 3200 BCE. Göbekli Tepe may move this back to at least 10,000 BCE. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lis…) (This Data is published but not to the level of a determination of a complete written language)
Earliest Use Of Advanced Tools Yet Discovered
The neolithic period is still called the “Stone age” and at this point the defining characteristics, stone tools and “primitive clans” needs massive adjustment. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo…). There is nothing ‘Stone age” about this culture. Stone tools did not carve these amazing artistic reliefs. Stone tools did not create an almost a perfect circle through stone pillars. One can try to debate that stone tools were used to create what we see here, but that would have to face Occam’s razor for believability. (This Data is published however many still hold to the current view that all you see at this site was performed with stone tools)).
Earliest Plant Domestication Yet Discovered
Plant domestication is clear. They grew crops and perhaps irrigation systems and cultivation systems. Prior assumptions placed this to about 6000 BCE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agr…). Today the closest known ancestors of modern Einkorn Wheat is found on the slopes of Karaca Dağ, a mountain just 60 miles northeast of Göbekli Tepe. This strain has been domesticated and dates back to about the time this site was in peak use (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ein…) (This Data is published in some forms, eg: the location of the first domesticated wheat crops, however many still challenge the view early Neolithic cultures had the insight or technology to domesticate plants. More data should be published soon).
Possible Earliest Use Of The Wheel Yet Discovered
There is very provocative evidence (thus far unpublished, no photo) that the people of Göbekli Tepe used at the very least “Pull Sleds” or in a more fantastic possibility, “Wheeled Carts”. There are “roads” that show tracks formed in what was mud and limestone that clearly shows that this took place over 100s if not 1000s of years. Prior to this discovery it was thought only the Sumerians processed the knowladge of the wheel in perhaps 3000 BCE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheel) and the use of sleds in 5000 BCE. (This Data is not published and would be very vigorously challenged).
Earliest Production Of Beer And Bread Yet Discovered
Göbekli Tepe has the earliest discovery of bread making and the corollary to this, beer production. Prior to the discovery of these Beer making Vats, it was assumed that this was first produced in what is now modern China about 5000 BCE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/His…). Here is a rather old citation at National Geographic on the discovery of Beer Vats (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.co…). (This Data is not yet fully published and is not currently challenged. However it would likely be challenged once published).
Earliest Megalithic Buildings Yet Discovered
Massive building projects on the scale seen at Göbekli Tepe were never attributed to Neolithic people. The prior example was at Stonehenge, it was built perhaps 6000 years later. The design, engineering, workmanship and overral site complexity is not in the same realm as Göbekli Tepe. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meg…) (This Data is published and not currently challenged).
A Peaceful Society
Thus far all the evidence we see at Göbekli Tepe the people lived in relative peace for over 3000 years. The site shows none of the signs one would expect from conflicts. This does not 100% rule out the possibility, but thus far there is none of the expected evidence one would expect. There have not been any human remains discovered so we do not have this information to go by. But we also do not see any signs that victory in battle would produce in countless other ancient and modern cultures.
We also know this, it takes a rather sophisticated culture to build and operate such a complex. It takes and even more forward thinking culture to completely bury a site that was in continuous use for 3000 years and to do it with such delicate care.
Thus far we have been convinced by most accounts that no long term organized society existed without great battles and conquests. Prior to this discovery it seemed most cultures could not last perhaps a few hundred years peacefully. If this turns out to be confirmed at Göbekli Tepe we will have a completely new insight on how a culture can thrive through what was certainly very difficult times.
Göbekli Tepe has like every major discovery created more questions than it has yet to answer. For example, where did everyone live? There are no signs of human habitation thus far unearthed. Professor Schmidt has found himself also at odds about the use of this site. He had postulated that this site was purely ceremonial however his new findings may now change this view.
(This Data is published and is 100% conjecture as is all insights on ancient cultures. However there is quite a bit of published evidence that concludes a peaceful culture. This data will be very fiercely challenged).
In Our Lifetimes…
This is just some of the grand discoveries that has been found up until this point. The site is not even 15% unearthed (we have unearthed 3 Circle complexes, there are at least 20 more with other structures yet to be unearthed, some may be older then 13,000 years). There are no doubts that there will be far more truly world changing discoveries. And just as fascinating is the cultures that lead up to Göbekli Tepe as it is clear there had to be a few thousand years of evolution of culture to produce what we see here today.
All of us will stand witness, in this generation, to discoveries that perhaps our ancient family hoped us to rediscover, as a testament to not only what we could do, but who we really are.
What are the most fascinating known unknowns?
Göbekli Tepe, built about 13,000 years ago is the oldest site showing building, art, agriculture and perhaps a written language ever discovered. This is the big Unknown, about our past, who we really are and how far we have come.
The Unknown Question:
Why did this advanced and well organized culture, after about 2000 years of continuous use, bury this huge complex? There are no typical signs of war or famine. In fact, thus far, not a single skeletal remain has been discovered, this is clearly not a burial site.
Here is the real issue: Göbekli Tepe, the entire site, was so well buried that it denied discovery for this long. It was clearly buried in a very gentle, dedicated and seemingly loving fashion. And it took decades, perhaps over 75 years to completely bury the site. Why?
Even more extraordinary is the fill dirt, it was brought from sites many miles away, perhaps 10s of miles away. They did not just move dirt around at the site, they thought about this.
A primitive culture does not seem to be attributed with the foresight to want to preserve such a monumental group of structures. Think of the 100s of years to build this complex with tools and technology we certainly can not currently fathom.
Why did they bury this place? So that we may rediscover it? Or is there more to this story?
At Göbekli Tepe, we observe a pristine time capsule preserved from intrusions of nature and man. Today it stands as a testament by our relatives that at the very least says “We were here”. This is some of what we can see with our eyes and perhaps feel:
Göbekli Tepe is located in south east modern day Turkey the primary structures are stone circles that seem to clearly perform Astronomical functions. This discovery has set ancient historians running for cover as it completely breaks all models on what was thought to have been the sequence of engineering and art progression of “hunter/gathers”. Göbekli Tepe was the work of a far more sophisticated society.
We can see in the craftsmanship an eye for details. We also see stone building and engineering that present a great knowledge of numbers and mathematics.
Show this site to any uninformed historian and there would be very little chance they would assign this to a Neolithic settlement. Simply put, this is not the work of Cavemen or even “Hunters and Gathers”.
It is very hard to fathom that prior history claimed little more than bone tools and stone tools were in use at this time. One can see a nearly perfectly round hole (you must see it straight on to verify) drilled through a granite pillar. This is an astonishing find, how would this exactness be accomplished with these primitive tools:
The art from the reliefs on the stone pillars are so finely etched they appear to be almost modern. This is not the very primitive cave drawings you and I read about in our ancient history classes as an example of the work from this epoch. The stone statues are the oldest full sized statues thus far discovered and are beautiful and perhaps, haunting.
German archaeologist and Professor Klaus Schmidt came to Turkey in 1978, but it wasn’t until 1994 that he began to see the impact of Göbekli Tepe. Professor Schmidt faced the task of putting archaeology on notice that general assumptions held very tightly were, just wrong. It took him many years of checking and then rechecking before he could face the reality of what he has discovered. Professor Schmidt:
“It would be better to call it the ‘oldest yet found and excavated’ place of cultic activity. Finds at Göbekli Tepe and natural scientific age determination place the site in the 10th millennium BCE. It appears that building activity at Göbekli Tepe ended at the end of the 9th millennium BCE. I was quite aware of how my colleagues would question this unique finding.”
A majority of the entire complex is yet to be uncovered
Professor Schmidt has estimated with ground penetrating radar that quite a number of Stone Circles and supporting buildings are yet to be uncovered. Each new excavation will no doubt expand our understandings of what was called “Primitive Culture” is capable of.
What is utterly fascinating to me is that Göbekli Tepe not only rolls back the start of “organized culture” by a magnitude, it portends to a deeper issue of what were the cultures that lead up to this level of sophistication. How many prior cultures are still in the ground waiting for us to rediscover? How many were erased by the forces of nature and man?
One is astonished with the perspective of the most well known early Megalithic site, Stonehenge, it was built perhaps 6000 years later. The design, engineering, workmanship and overral site complexity is not in the same realm as Göbekli Tepe.
I think it is supremely important to be humbled by what we truly do not know. I think it is also a lesson on how arrogance in any facet of life is one of our largest failings. When will we get to the place where we accept that the latest chapter in any study is not the last chapter? We are fortunate enough to witness live discovery of history at Göbekli Tepe.
I have walked this area and can say that without a doubt it was one of the most impactful places I have yet to visit. It is a most powerful feeling to stand next to a pilliar only few have stood by since 8000 BCE. You stand in awe knowing that history is still being unearthed yet the condition of the stone and the artistic reliefs look as if they were just cut. It is breathtaking.
Why did they bury this place?