The Rise of Civilisation

Discussion in 'Science and Nature' started by MelT, Sep 28, 2009.

  1. #1 MelT, Sep 28, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 28, 2009
    I know I've posted about this subject before, to me this is interesting stuff, I can't help it:) Forgive some of the sentiments in the opening moments, they're not mine.

    [ame=]YouTube - Göbekli Tepe[/ame]

    The second one is much better and contains a BBC doc' about the site (and also the wonderful Dr Alice Roberts:) ) The music in the first two min's is god-awful though, make good use of your volume buttons...

    [ame=""]YouTube - Gobekli Tepe Ancient History being Uncovered![/ame]

    This vid is about the temples at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey. GT isn't just another ruin, but the place where man began to move from being a hunter-gatherer to domesticating plants and animals. It all happened in the near vicinity of these buildings about 11/12,000 years ago. This is a long cut and paste, but I hope interesting to some of you.

    "...Göbekli Tepe is the oldest human-made place of worship yet discovered.[2] Until excavations began, a complex on this scale was not thought possible for a community so ancient. The oldest occupation layer (stratum III) contains monolithic pillars linked by coarsely built walls to form circular or oval structures. So far, four such buildings, with diameters between 10 and 30m have been uncovered. Geophysical surveys indicate the existence of 16 additional structures.

    Stratum II, dated to Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) (7500 - 6000 BC), has revealed several adjacent rectangular rooms with floors of polished lime, reminiscent of Roman terrazzo floors. The most recent layer consists of sediment deposited as the result of agricultural activity.

    The monoliths are decorated with carved reliefs of animals and of abstract pictograms. These signs cannot be classed as writing, but may represent commonly understood sacred symbols, as known from Neolithic cave paintings elsewhere. The very carefully carved reliefs depict lions, bulls, boars, foxes, gazelles, asses, snakes and other reptiles, insects, arachnids, and birds, particularly vultures and water fowl. At the time the shrine was constructed the surrounding country was much lusher than now and capable of sustaining this variety of wildlife, before millennia of settlement and cultivation resulted in the near–Dust Bowl conditions prevailing today.

    Vultures also feature in the iconography of the Neolithic sites of Çatalhöyük and Jericho; it is believed that in the early Neolithic culture of Anatolia and the Near East the deceased were deliberately exposed in order to be excarnated by vultures and other birds of prey. (The head of the deceased was sometimes removed and preserved—possibly a sign of ancestor worship.). This, then, would represent an early form of sky burial.

    Some of the pillars, namely the T-shaped ones, have carved arms, which may indicate that they represent stylized humans (or anthropomorphic gods). Another example is decorated with human hands in what could be interpreted as a prayer gesture, with a simple stole or surplice engraved above; this may be intended to represent a temple priest.

    All statements about the site must be considered preliminary, as only about 5% of the site's total area has been excavated as yet; floor levels have been reached in only the second complex (complex B), which also contained a terrazzo-like floor. Schmidt believes that the dig could well continue for another fifty years.[9] So far excavations have revealed very little evidence for residential use. Through the radiocarbon method, the end of stratum III can be fixed at circa 9,000 BC (see above); its beginnings are estimated to 11,000 BC or earlier. Stratum II dates to about 8,000 BC.

    Thus, the structures not only predate pottery, metallurgy, and the invention of writing or the wheel; they were built before the so-called Neolithic Revolution, i.e., the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry around 9,000 BC. But the construction of Göbekli Tepe implies organisation of an order of complexity not hitherto associated with pre-Neolithic societies. The archaeologists estimate that up to 500 persons were required to extract the 10–20 ton pillars (in fact, some weigh up to 50 tons) from local quarries and move them 100 to 500m to the site.

    Archaeologist Ofer Ben-Yosef of Harvard has said he would not be surprised if evidence surfaces proving slave labor was involved[11]—which would also represent something of a first, since hunting-gathering communities are traditionally thought to have been egalitarian and to predate slavery. At any rate, it is generally believed that an elite class of religious leaders supervised the work and later controlled whatever ceremonies took place here. If so, this would be the oldest known evidence for a priestly caste—much earlier than such social distinctions developed elsewhere in the Near East.

    Around the beginning of the 8th millennium BC "Potbelly Hill" lost its importance. The advent of agriculture and animal husbandry brought new realities to human life in the area, and the "stone-age zoo" (as Schmidt calls it) depicted on the pillars apparently lost whatever significance it had had for the region's older, foraging, communities. But the complex was not simply abandoned and forgotten, to be gradually destroyed by the elements. Instead, it was deliberately buried under 300 to 500 cubic metres of soil. Why this was done is unknown, but it preserved the monuments for posterity.

    Schmidt and others believe that mobile groups in the area were forced to cooperate with each other to protect early concentrations of wild cereals from wild animals (herds of gazelles and wild donkeys). This would have led to an early social organization of various groups in the area of Göbekli Tepe. Thus, according to Schmidt, the Neolithic did not begin at a small scale in the form of individual instances of garden cultivation, but started immediately as a large scale social organisation ("a full-scale revolution" ).

    Not only its large dimensions, but the side-by-side existence of multiple pillar shrines makes the location unique. There are no comparable monumental complexes from its time. Nevalı Çori, a well-known Neolithic settlement also excavated by the German Archaeological Institute, and submerged by the Atatürk Dam since 1992, is 500 years later, its T-shaped pillars are considerably smaller, and its shrine was located inside a village; the roughly contemporary architecture at Jericho is devoid of artistic merit or large-scale sculpture; and Çatalhöyük, perhaps the most famous of all Anatolian Neolithic villages, is 2,000 years younger.

    Schmidt has engaged in some speculation regarding the belief systems of the groups that created Göbekli Tepe, based on comparisons with other shrines and settlements. He assumes shamanic practices and suggests that the T-shaped pillars may represent mythical creatures, perhaps ancestors, whereas he sees a fully articulated belief in gods only developing later in Mesopotamia, associated with extensive temples and palaces. This corresponds well with an ancient Sumerian belief that agriculture, animal husbandry and weaving had been brought to mankind from the sacred mountain Du-Ku, which was inhabited by Annuna-deities, very ancient gods without individual names. Klaus Schmidt identifies this story as an oriental primeval myth that preserves a partial memory of the Neolithic.[13] It is also apparent that the animal and other images are peaceful in character and give no indication of organised violence, i.e., hunting.

    At present, Göbekli Tepe raises more questions for archaeology and prehistory than it answers. We do not know how a force large enough to construct, augment, and maintain such a substantial complex was mobilized and paid or fed in the conditions of pre-Neolithic society. We cannot "read" the pictograms, and do not know for certain what meaning the animal reliefs had for visitors to the site; the variety of fauna depicted, from lions and boars to birds and insects, makes any single explanation problematic. It is not known why more and more walls were added to the interiors while the sanctuary was in use, with the result that some of the engraved pillars were obscured from view. The reason the complex was eventually buried also remains unexplained. Considering that only a fraction of the site has so far been excavated, these and other mysteries may eventually be cleared up...."

    For some reason the article doesn't say that in Turkey it was believed that the deceased resided in the headstone of their burial.

    As a guess, I wouldn't be surprised if the temples had been covered over and their significance to the inhabitants forgotten after they hunted out and destroyed the local eco-system. Eden lost again...


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