Göbekli Tepe – Probably the First Great Stonework of the Humankind

Photo taken from this site.

Göbekli Tepe (“Potbelly Hill”) is an archaeological site in Turkey – approximately 12 km northeast of Urfa (Şanlıurfa), where massive, mostly T-shaped monolithic pillars arranged in circles were discovered by German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt in the middle of the 1990s. Some of the stones have been skilfully carved. Many of the reliefs depict various kinds of animals. The oldest of the circles date back to 10 000 – 9000 B.C. There are about 20 of them – as it`s presently known (circa 200 pillars).

They are broadly believed to be actually a neolithic temples (this was i.a. the opinion held by prof. Schmidt, he died in 2014), possibly the oldest in the world.

This is one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made, because it gives an astonishing, new, and deep insight into the beginnings of our civilization.

For more detailed reading see for example:

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/06/gobekli-tepe/mann-text

http://archive.archaeology.org/0811/abstracts/turkey.html

I do not intend to repeat here easily available information about this archaeological site. I just would like to ask some questions which I find especially fascinating:

Regarding constructors` mentality:

How did some persons (or perhaps just one person) come up with the idea to erect such massive and elaborate structures, provided that they hadn`t seen anything similar before? What inspired them mostly? Surrounding nature or the world of their thoughts?

How were they able to express their ideas in the situation when philosophical, theological, and technological terminology almost didn`t exist?

How did they manage to convince others to engage in such difficult and long-term project? Did they have to act mostly as prophets, religious leaders, military chieftains or perhaps as engineers? Their contemporaries were simply preoccupied with hardships of daily life, and they at first maybe were not especially willing to comply with the leaders` instructions. I could imagine, for many people it seemed more proper to gather food rather than big stones.

Regarding the technology applied:

How did they manage to organize the construction sites for hundreds of people when any advanced social structure was in the craddle?

It`s worth bearing in mind that the entire human population circa 12 000 years ago is estimated to have merely numbered 1 – 10 million (source), so on the territories of modern-day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq lived just a tiny percent of them. People at the time were mostly non-sedentary hunters and food gatherers, and majority of them lived in small groups.

The human resources (using this contemporary corporate term) was pretty scarce out there. It could not be compared to the crowds available in ancient Egypt, for example. The pyramid builders in Egypt were also incomparably better organized by the state officials, and better motivated by the well established religious beliefs.

Photo taken from this site.

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5 thoughts on “Göbekli Tepe – Probably the First Great Stonework of the Humankind

  1. Interesting questions you ask, issues you raise! This construction suggests that some of our ideas about the local human population of the time are simply wrong. It’s hard evidence for more complex science, technology, theology then and for more social structure than we thought. What do you think?–Carol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It might be said that the emerging of the agricultural civilizations in the Middle East was the result of efforts made by the people who had constructed these objects. They proved to be astonishingly advanced in terms of creative imagination and practical skills.
    Prof. Schmidt maintained: “first came the temple, then the city”: This was one of the most revolutionary ideas regarding the history of the earliest civilizations. It will be carefuly researched by his successors.
    http://www.gobeklitepeturkey.org/pdf/G%C3%B6beklitepeKitap.pdf

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  3. You are indeed raising some very good questions here – actually not diffdring from those at the centre of our own research and interpretation regarding Göbekli Tepe.
    Regarding the mode of these monumental enclosures’ construction and the social implication behind these apparently communal ‘mega’ projects, we are suspecting strong cohesive, group-building effects working behind th scene in this case. The necessary workforce clearly exceeds the number of individuals of a single hunter-gatherer band, thus construction must have asked for some collaboration among several of such groups – most likely brought together at certain occasions for ritual gatherings, attracted by the prospect of a lavish feast. The need of coordinating such large gatherings and work events is the most extraordinary factor of Göbekli Tepe in my eyes. This and the probable impetus to explore other food ressources than hunted game to fuel these feast. We discussed this scenario some time ago in a paper which should be available here, in case your interested:
    http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9530672&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0003598X00047840

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Jens, thank you very much for these words, and for the link.
    It is an honour for me that a cooperator of Klaus Schmidt commented my post.
    I will read carefully this text (with magnificent photos and illustrations).

    Liked by 1 person

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