What is the connection between Göbekli Tepe and…

Göbekli Tepe is often compared with other megalithic architecture. Stonehenge is an example here, others include the temples of Malta, the Taulas of Menorca, or the Moai of the Easter Islands. And fairly often, people also construct or believe in direct relations between these sites.

I believe this partly happens  because people tend to categorize things in relation to other things they already know.  Especially Stonehenge – for many people the iconic example for megaliths par se – can be found in every popular history book, making such comparisons with other sites with large standing stones, some of them decorated with reliefs, easy. But there is a little more to it. I remember that my  schoolbooks used to invoke the idea of a somehow interrelated Neolithic „Megalithic Culture“ that spread throughout Europe by migration. This was in the later 1980ies. Of course by this time the diffusionist view on the spread of megaliths had long been discredited by Colin Renfrew, i.a.  based on radiocarbon dates (you can see him talk about this here – external link). But textbooks just hadn’t noticed what was going on in academia. This is, by the way, a problem that archaeologists should address in some way also today.

But back to Göbekli Tepe. As we really get a lot of inquiries regarding possible interrelations of important megalithic sites, I thought I should post a short checklist here to show how different these sites really are. So here they are, in chronological order; please note that I am just writing down the main points from memory, if you have further questions please post them in the comments.

Göbekli Tepe

gt09_anlc_klausschmidt_n03-09.jpg

Göbekli Tepe, Enclosure C, illustrating the characteristic layout of the older buildings (copyright DAI, photo K. Schmidt).

Location: southeastern Turkey, on the highest point of the Germus mountain range.

Built / used between: ca. 9500-8000 cal BC, Pre-Pottery Neolithic.

By: Hunter-gatherer groups from a catchment area of about 200km around the site using stone tools.

Main characteristics: The oldest layer III (10th millenium BC) is characterized by monolithic T-shaped pillars weighing tons, which were positioned in circle-like structures. The pillars were interconnected by limestone walls and benches leaning at the inner side of the walls. In the center of these enclosures there are always two bigger pillars, with a height of over 5m. The circles measure 10-20m. The T-shape of the pillars is clearly an abstract depiction of the human body seen from the side. Evidence for this interpretation are the low relief depictions of arms, hands and items of clothing like belts and loinclothes on some of the pillars. Often the pillars bear further reliefs, mostly depictions of animals, but also of numerous abstract symbols. Layer III is supraposed by layer II, dating to the 9th millenium BC. This layer is not characterised by big round enclosures, but by smaller, rectangular buildings. The number and the height of the pillars are also reduced. In most cases only the two central pillars remain, the biggest measuring around 1,5m.

 

IMG_5239

Miniature madel of a Maltese temple from Mġarr, Museum of Valletta (Photo: O. Dietrich).

Temples of Malta

Location: Malta and Gozo, islands in the Mediterranean Sea, temples are spread widely, sometimes forming clusters.

Built / used between: The Neolithic and the Bronze Age. However, the actual  ‘Temple Period’ falls within the 4th millennium BC and the 3rd millennium BC. Temples were constructed using stone tools.

By: The local population of these islands, evidence for external contact is rare.

Main characteristics: The temples are made of limestone orthostats forming walls. They usually have an oval forecourt and a facade with an entrance made up of three megaliths, of which two are supporting the third, forming a trilithon. Inside is a passageway of similar construction leading to an open paved space flanked by apses. Decorations inside the temples include spiral motifs, animals and surfaces covered entirely with drilled holes.

Further reading: For an easily accessible and well written overview: Trump, D.H. 2002. Malta: Prehistory and Temples. Midsea Books: Malta. Also, check out the Website of the UNESCO World Heritage List entry [external link].

 

Stonehenge_plan

Stonehenge, features of all construction phases (Drawn by en:User:Adamsan, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons).

Stonehenge

Location: Wiltshire, England.

Built / used between: several building phases between 3100 and 1600 BC.

By: People from a wider catchment area, some of the raw material was transported over vast distances, e.g. the so-called bluestones from nowadays Wales, metal tools available during the later phases.

Main characteristics: The iconic view of Stonehenge shows a ring of  standing stones around 4 m high, partly still forming trilithons. But Stonehenge has a highly complex building history that includes many changes to the layout of the site, accumulating to two megalithic stone rings and two orthostat arrangements surrounded by wooden posts and earthworks. Further, Stonehenge is part of a Neolithic/Bronze Age cultural landscape marked by earthworks and burial mounds.

Further reading: Mike Parker Pearson is the person to ask about Stonehenge and here is a great overview article that´s also freely accessible: Parker Pearson, M. 2013. Researching Stonehenge: Theories Past and Present. Archaeology International. 16, 72–83. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334

 

Taula3

Taula of Trepuco (Juan Costa Archiv, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons).

Taulas

Location: On the Balearic island of Menorca.

Built / used between: roughly between 1000 and 300 BC.

By: The local, so-called Talaiotic Culture, which is restricted to Menorca.

Main charateristics: Taulas (meaning tables) are formed of a vertical pillar (sometimes made up of several stones) on which another stone rests horizontically. They are around 4 m high and usually stand within u-shaped buildings.

Further reading: There is not so much published about the Taulas in English and available to access freely online, if you are able to read Spanish, this artcle may be a good start: Daniel Albero Santacreu, D.A. 2009-2010. Análisis arquitectónico de los recintos de taula de la isla de Menorca: significación técnica y simbólica de los parámetros constructivos. Mayurqa 33, 2009-2010: 77-94 [external link].

 

Ahu_Tongariki

Moai at Ahu Tongarik (Rivi, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons).

Moai

Location: Easter Island, Polynesia.

Built / used between: 1250-1500 AD.

By: the Polynesian colonizers of the Easter island.

Main charateristics: Monolithic human figures with facial features, arms/hands, up to 10 m high and integrated into ceremonial sites   The letter consist of a levelled plaza, from which a ramp led up to a rectangular platform, where the moai stood.

Further reading: A classic is Routledge, K. 1919. The mystery of Easter Island. The story of an Expedition. London: Hazel, Watson & Winey [external link]. There isa vast amount of literature though, and also an ongoing research project by the German Archaeological Institute [external link].

Conclusion

The sites discussed here may have had similar social functions as centers for gatherings, expressions of belief systems etc. for the societies that built them. But I believe that this short comparison also shows clearly that we are dealing with very different sites indeed, evolving in different timeframes and regions, and rooted in a very specific local cultural background each. Their architecture is hardly comparable. Superficial similarities like the T-shape of GT´s pillars and the Taulas can be explained much better by a similar function, e.g. as roof supports, than by direct interconnections between the builders over large chronological and spatial distances.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

41 thoughts on “What is the connection between Göbekli Tepe and…

  1. Like you, Oliver, but in the late 1950s, when Gordon Childe’s account of the European Neolithic was the uncontested key text, and before there was any radio-carbon based chronology, I learned about the megaliths of the Atlantic and North Sea coastlands, and their possible links from southern Spain back through Malta to Cretan “tholoi”. We have much more information, and we have calibrated radiocarbon dating to help establish some, but it is still very difficult to think how these various kinds of more or less contemporary, Neolithic,megalithic monuments around the edge of Atlantic and North Sea relate to one another. You chose the iconic Stonehenge to stand for them all, but of course, henge monuments and stone circles are particular to Britain, and Stonehenge in particular is quite unique. I believe that two things about Stonehenge are helpful in prompting our thinking about Göbekli Tepe, however. First, as you say, the Stonehenge that we see as visitors today represents the final stage in a long, long history of construction, reconstruction, re-modelling. I know that detailed study at Göbekli Tepe shows that the major circular enclosures and the T-monolihts within them are the end-product of a complex history of construction, reconstruction, and re-modelling. But we don’t yet have the kind of long-term evolutionary history that we have for Stonehenge that describes how a relatively simple circular bank and ditch around a circle of pits that contained cremated human remains grew in ambition and complexity over the long term. The second point of relationship between Neolithic Stonehenge and Neolithic Göbekli Tepe concerns the scale of the “community” that came together to create these monuments. You speak of the extensive area of around 200 km from which communities came together to join in working and feasting at Göbekli Tepe – was it an early Neolithic “aggregation site”, an evolved descendent of the kind of aggregation sites (e.g.. Kharaneh IV) that are beginning to be known from the Epipalaeolithic of the Levant? Concerning Stonehenge, we have known of the geological origin in southwest Wales of the bluestones, but recent work by Mike Parker Pearson and others is showing that large numbers of people came together periodically in the area around Stonehenge, accompanied by much feasting (as at Göbekli Tepe). So I don’t think that it is correct to think that Stonehenge and the other monuments in the area around it were the work of the local community. I am pretty sure that that isotopic analysis of the bones in the feasting remains indicates that the animals that provided the meat had been driven to the area from all over Britain. So perhaps Stonehenge and Göbekli Tepe both represent central places where many related communities came together to memorialise and make a reality of their strength as “super-communities”.

    Like

    • You are absolutely right about the catchment area of Stonehenge, ‘local’ was meant to emphasize that there is most likely no direct connection between Stonehenge and GT. Corrected that in the text.

      Like

  2. Pingback: What is the connection between Göbekli Tepe and… — The Tepe Telegrams | tabletkitabesi

  3. Perhaps you should include in this list the pyramids in Bosnia because of the proximity of the location to GT, and because of the probably contemporaneity. For a brief summary, although almost a decade old, please check
    http://www.gizaforhumanity.org/scientific-analysis-of-the-bosnian-valley-of-the-pyramids/

    One can find at the end of the linked text that the organic material remains found embedded in the walls of those pyramids were C-14 dated to be 29-34 ka old, which if true would put them in the time while Neanderthals still lived in the area. But, one should take into account that properly built pyramids (including these) are somehow able to permanently diminish the natural level of radioactivity by up to 2/3 (if I recall the value correctly, this is still research in progress). In that case, such reduction makes them contemporaneous with GT.

    What is your opinion on that ?

    Like

    • Judging from the evidence I have seen, my personal opinion is that there are no man-made pyramids in Bosnia. Of course, everybody is entitled to an own opinion here.

      Like

      • I too have looked into the Bosnian pyramids and found insufficient evidence that they are anything but natural. I will keep following the archaeologists’ reports in case new evidence comes up.

        Like

  4. Interesting article, Oliver. Thank you. I agree that there is no realistic chance of direct contact between these sites nor even of influence, given the distances in time and space.

    I do believe there is a common factor, though, and that is that these were all gathering sites by people with the same basic needs and same basic brain structure – all made significantly different by culture and environment. My research shows common factors in the mnemonic practices of oral cultures all over the world to do with the way they encode vast amounts of information without writing. The commonalities occur because of the most effective ways to memorise information using human brains which include song, dance, mythology, memory palaces, decorated posts, formalised art works and a vast array of decorated objects. Without writing, oral cultures had a need to memorise because of their dependence on huge data banks on pragmatic knowledge (animals including invertebrates, plants, navigation, astronomy, timekeeping, geology, genealogies, laws, land management, inter-tribal agreements, ethics … Ceremonies along with an array or oral and physical mnemonic technologies enabled this capacity. Non-domestic gathering places structured according to the optimisation of memory palaces, along with enigmatic decorated objects are two of the signs of these mnemonic requirements.

    From my reading of the archaeology of Göbekli Tepe and the other sites you mention, I am convinced that a primary (though not only) purpose was to enhance the memory systems of the elders gathering, learning and teaching there.

    I adore this site because of the practicalities of the discussions by the archaeologists involved. Thank you.

    Lynne

    Like

    • I absolutely agree with you and Trevor – the sites mentioned certainly served very similar social functions for the societies that built them. Maybe I should add a few sentences on that topic. What I wanted to do within these few lines is to show that there is no evidence for direct genetic/evolutionary connections between these sites – because we get a lot of questions regarding this aspect.

      Like

      • “there is no evidence for direct genetic/evolutionary connections between these sites”

        I don’t think that you can emphasise that enough. Do you get questions about global consciousness and similar concepts linking the different sites? I do. I would appreciate knowing how you reply. As a science writer, I’d need more evidence than the anecdotes and beliefs that I hear so often to believe such consciousness exists. That is another reason that I think that the “no connection” message is really really important.

        Like

      • Oh, that´s interesting. We haven´t had any questions regarding global consciousness yet. I was aware of the Global Consciousness Project in Princeton, but so far have not seen any possible connection to our work. Thanks for pointing this out, we definitely should prepare some answers here. The questions we are getting are more ‘old school’ so far, mainly related to the spread of the ‘megalithic phenomenon’ through migration.

        Like

      • In the link that I supplied above, which you apparently never visited, one can find that those pyramids are arranged in a perfect equilateral triangle, a side of which measuring 2170 metres. This is almost the number of years in one month of precession, signifying that the builders knew about the precession, and about the size and shape of Earth (2160 is value used by Egyptians). Coincidence ? What is the chance for such a coincidence ? What are the chance that those 5 pyramidal hills’ are all aligned to north with laser precision, better than the man-made Giza pyramids ? Or that they are made of concrete, as they apparently are ?

        From that text:
        “2006: …Egyptian geologist Dr. Aly Barakat, who came through the Egyptian Government to give his opinion about the site, after 42 days he spent in Bosnia, announced at the press conference in June that Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun is the combination of natural and anthropogenic forces – man has shaped existing hill to the geometry of pyramid, with four triangular sides and later coated with stone blocks. He called it first “primitive pyramid”.

        – Two weeks after Dr. Barakat’s announcement the meeting was held in Cairo between Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture and Supreme Council for Antiquities. On Agenda was “***effects of discovery of Bosnian pyramids to Egyptian tourism***”. After the meeting Dr. Zahi Hawass (***politically***) proclaimed that “Bosnian pyramids are just the pile of rocks”

        2007: …Team of four Egyptian experts officially (thru Egyptian Government) came to investigate project: Dr. Nabil Swelim (archaeologist and Egyptologist, ***discoverer of four pyramids in Egypt***), Dr. Aly Barakat (geologist), Dr. Mona Fouad Ali (archaeologist from Cairo University) and Dr. Soliman Hamid (archaeologist from Cairo University).
        Conclusion after 15-day visit, which was announced publicly, was that the “Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun is the biggest pyramid in the world.”…”

        While I can agree that there are no connection between GT and those far away monuments from much later times, there are a few peculiar details that indicate a possible connection between GT and Bosian pyramids:

        1. The internal corridors of Bosnian pyramids were deliberately buried, and are now being laboriously excavated, just as was and is the case with GT, indicating the same style of decommissioning, not otherwise present elsewhere.
        2. Both sites are approximately contemporaneous and in relative proximity one to another, making cultural links quite possible.
        3. Another Younger Dryas Boundary event monument ? If so, then their beliefs were the same, although the ways of expressing them differed by many orders of magnitude in size.

        That said, you might continue to defend the Egyptian tourism by ignoring the supplied evidence, or you might consider what that evidence means to GT (no, it does not make it tiny in comparison, but a part of the bigger whole), and then make your judgment.

        Like

      • It is agreed that these cultures, under discussion, had no direct connections with each other. It is also agreed that the sites served similar social, and cosmological systems. But the comparing of architectures can be misleading as this perspective is biased by how we, today, define architecture. Ancient societies were much more “holistic” than today. They wove, science, politics, and cosmology into one fabric. They were also in possession of a system of communication that is nearly subliminal to present day researchers. Because this system had its pictorial aspects that is what attracts the eye and the system itself goes, pretty much, unnoticed.

        The structures of Gobekli Tepe, the Maltese, Stonehenge, Menorca, and Easter Island all used the ancient system of depicted sign language to organize their structures. Some people recognize bits and pieces of the underlying system in the different cultures and this gives rise to conjectures (sometimes wildly so) that all these ancient cultures were, somehow, in direct contact with each other.

        Depicted sign language was highly positional as it was based on a transposition of gesture signs. Thus we see that both at Gobekli Tepe there are depictions of Arm and Hands that are positioned, “on the sides.” Also we see the “T” shaped gesture sign employed in as the Nose and Brow on the Face of the Moai that indicates, “below.” The Maltese “temple” is completely composed of signs that indicated that its function as an Oval “turning-place” of the spirit. The signs indicate that it was considered “a center-portal” located between the east and the west. Stonehenge used the gesture sign for a Circle to indicate, “the great one, on the hillside or mountainside.” This was a common phrase among a great many ancient cultures meaning “a great leader” and his relationship to a place higher than the common man. The Menorca structure is a combination of the “T” shape for “below” and the Pi shaped sign for, “a portal” from the underworld to “the surface-place” or “upper-world.” All of the above used depicted signing to illustrate aspects of a cosmology that was kept quite uniform over time and space due to the use of the language itself.

        Like

  5. “No man-made pyramids” could mean that they were built by Neanderthals, or some other species of homo, or even aliens.

    Perhaps you should just clarify whether you think that there were no artificial pyramids in Bosnia ?

    Like

      • Yes, of course, everyone is entitled to have a personal opinion.

        However, considering that you are a professional archaeologist, I am just curious on what kind of evidence should be supplied for you to change your opinion in this particular case ?

        Like

      • Artefakts and a cultural layer clearly associated with the site, tool marks on the stones, plausible scientific age determinations, for example.

        Like

      • The stones were made of concrete, not carved, so no tool marks. The same type of concrete that the Romans used.

        The soil sediments on top of the pyramids were dated to 12 ka. This is how old (young) they are.

        Organic material found inside the walls of the pyramid (between the bricks, in the mortar) was C-14 dated to 29-34 ka. But, the pyramids were also found to have unusual electric properties, not presented on ordinary natural hills. One peculiarity is substantial reduction of natural radioactivity levels inside the pyramid, even though one can expect the opposite in caves due to radon buildup. This makes the age assessments based on C-14 samples taken from within the pyramid unreliable.

        Few artifacts were reported, some of them shown at 1.12 point on the supplied link. Stone amulet is quite peculiar in my opinion. One can only build such a thing by casting (of concrete). The presence of concrete, in my opinion, is a sufficient proof of artificiality.

        Cultural layer is still lacking. I think that they are primarily focused on excavating the pyramids themselves, not looking for those who built them. They are focusing on proving the artificiality, but not really expecting the man-made possibility, nor speculating on who built them or why.

        Like

      • I’ve read these things before. That’s exactly why I don’t believe in these pyramids. With a building project that big, there’s just no chance to not discover massive traces of human activity. And there is far too much speculation and odd-looking reasoning involved in the scientific dating attempts.

        Like

      • You are correct, for man-made pyramids of this size there must be massive traces left of human activity.

        Yet, how come that the very presence of concrete is not enough as a proof of artificiality ?

        Like

      • I have seen no evidence for concrete. But if so, as you said, (real) concrete is a Roman innovation. How does that fit with the presumed early date?

        Like

      • First 6 steps of the Khafre pyramid are of solid concrete, so it is not the Romans who invented it.

        Like

      • This is highly disputed. And there is no evidence for a pre-Younger Dryas civilization. At the end of arguments speculation begins.

        Like

  6. Suppose that long time ago somebody invented concrete, and built these pyramids. Then came the Younger Dryas event and destroyed that civilization, back to stone age.

    Or, which is also possible, barbarians invaded.

    Like

  7. One myth:
    In ancient, Zep Tepi times, Osiris went to teach wisdom to Earthlings. He went all the way to India and back. Then he went to Thrace (Balkans) and for the first time he found an equal match in wisdom. He had to fight and kill a barbarian king there, after which he returned to Egypt.

    That is only a myth, but it refers to Thrace as being a civilized place, before there was a civilization in Egypt itself.

    Like

  8. Thank you for another enlightening piece Oliver, I always enjoy reading the various contributions to this blog by the different members of the team (i.e. yourself, Jens and Lee).

    You’ve raised an important point here. I think its a strange feature of human psychology, likely rooted in some kind of primeval instinct, that makes us look for patterns and shared meanings where, in fact, their are none. The task of science is to deal with evidence-based data and hypotheses, not metaphysical speculations. As you note, these are all megaliths separated by geography, time and other factors.

    That said, I noted an interesting discussion earlier in the thread between yourself and Lynne regarding “the similar social functions for the societies that built them”. In this respect I cannot help but think of the Maya civilization and the ancient settlement of Ceibal in Guatemala (circa. 950 B.C.), their oldest settlement, which seems to have begun life as a place where a diverse collection of hunter-gatherer groups assembled to build religious festival sites that were the origin of their later cities. The Maya developed in complete geographical isolation from the Old World, and many thousands of years after Gobekli Tepe (making contact, obviously, impossible) but I can’t help but be gripped by the impressive similarities from a sociological perspective.

    As Inomata, one of the archaeologists working on this site has noted:

    “The ceremonial complex was the first architecture built at Ceibal. Durable residences were not built until two to six centuries later. The collective activity of building temples and worshipping eventually encouraged integration of the diverse traveller groups and the growth of an urban centre, rather than the other way round.”

    My understanding (please correct me if wrong) is that a similar sequential progression occurred with Gobekli Tepe in terms of social function, with its social use being as a ceremonial complex for hunter-gatherers prior to the emergence of sedentary living/agriculture and indeed probably helping to ultimately facilitate the latter, in the sense that religion spurred the need for building activity which in turn led to cooperation.

    By the way, if I may ask: has Lee Clare made any further progress with that paper on Rene Girard? I’m very eager to read something on it!

    Like

    • The Maya example is really interesting and certainly would be a great topic for a sociological comparison with GT. There are some gradual differences though, I think.
      In the Near East, an semi-sendetary lifestile (sedentism during times when abundant plant ressources were availble for example) is attested from the Epipalaeolithic onwards (Ohalo, Abu Hureyra). GT and similar sites may have accelerated the process towards domestication/full sedentarism by generating a need for surplus. GT´s layer II is very different from the earlier layer III, whether we have constant domestic activities there remains to be seen.
      In any case, GT ends at the moment when full domestication becomes visible in plant and animal remains, it seems to have been entangled too much with hunter-gatherer ideology to be useful beyond that point.

      The article is still in press, we will definitely post something here when it´s out.

      Like

      • Many thanks Oliver, I understand the difference you have noted between the Maya continuing to use Ceibal as a ceremonial complex after full domestication/sedentarism (indeed ultimately constructing their first city around the site, after centuries of hunter-gather usage) and GT being abandoned at this “sedentarism/domestication” phase given its presumed entanglement with hunter-gatherer belief, such that GT had now outlived its original purpose/function.

        Still it intrigues me that both sites appear to testify to the fact that megalithic construction, motivated by (in all likelihood) religious beliefs, preceded agriculture/full sedentarism in two completely unconnected (both in terms of distance and time) parts of the globe, the differences you’ve noted notwithstanding. If they both followed the same path in being built by nomads rather than farmers (as used to be thought), perhaps that tells us something profound about human cultural evolution.

        Like

  9. Hi Sean (and Oliver),

    I am really enjoying your discussion with Oliver on this fascinating blog post, Sean. Apologies for the length of this reply, but your comment strikes right into the heart of my research.

    I would just like to question the phrase: “megalithic construction, motivated by (in all likelihood) religious beliefs”. I would argue that megalithic construction is motivated by the need to maintain the knowledge system on which their physical and cultural survival depends. My academic field is primary orality – the communication and knowledge systems used by cultures with no contact with writing. Without literacy, they have an alternative – orality.

    My PhD and subsequent research and books are about the way non-literate cultures record vast amounts of pragmatic information without writing. Some studies here in Australia show that 70% of the songs performed at the large gatherings – corroborees – are about animal behaviour, plant properties, laws, tides, timekeeping and so on. The knowledge system is integrated – that is ‘religion’ is enmeshed with the mundane and pragmatic. There are no gods as such, but mythological characters whose stories ensure the information is accurately retained.

    Cultures which are no longer nomadic, but still mostly hunter-gatherer, such as most Australian Aboriginal tribes, moved between a number of sites during the year or sometimes a longer cycle. They were (some still are) mobile cultures, but not wandering nomads. Among a whole swag of memory methods, they use the landscape features not only for navigation but as memory guides to perform rituals (by definition, repeated events – nothing more can be assumed) which repeat the songs, stories and dances which encode the entire knowledge system. Much of this encoding is done through the use of mythology because vivid stories which assign character to plants, animals and abstract concepts, are far more memorable than a list of facts.

    In order to settle, they must localise these landscape memory trails (in Australian terms, they are songlines, for Native Americans they are pilgrimage trails, for the Inca they are ceques, in the Pacific they are ceremonial roads …). There are songlines recorded for the Yanyuwa people of northern Australia which cover over 800 km – all retained in memory! I am constantly amazed by this stuff the more I research into it.

    On settling, my thesis and books argue, it is essential to retain the mnemonic indicators by localising them. Monuments structured to act as memory palaces are essential to retain these memory locations through transition to large scale sedentary societies. There are a lot of indicators which need to be present before you can assume a site was primarily, but not exclusively, a memory palace. Once a culture gets large enough to have specialists, then the elders who retained power through control of knowledge (as it is with Australian cultures, Native American and so on) give way to power based on individual wealth and coercion, if they stay put and grow as a society. That is a massive generalisation and each site is distinct and needs to be analysed as such. It depends on the culture, the environment and the materials available among many other things. But there are neuroscience studies about the way the human brain functions best to memorise information: memory palaces (associating information with place), music and narrative being key. For small-scale non-literate cultures, large gatherings at ceremonial centres are essential for the transmission and repetition of knowledge, much of it pragmatic. The gatherings served a multiplicity of purposes, though, including trade, finding marriage partners and just having fun. Trade included the trade of knowledge. There are a lot of material indicators of a site being used this way – too much for a blog comment.

    So I look at the archaeological reports of the sites Oliver refers to in terms of the way the design and function would serve the memory systems. It will only be one of a complex of functions, but I think that it is a pretty important one. But only time will tell how the archaeological world responds to my ideas.

    Lynne

    Like

    • ” megalithic construction is motivated by the need to maintain the knowledge system…” I fully agree with you on this. The images on GT, Enclosure D tell a coherent narrative. Yet, these people were not entirely illiterate, but proto-literate. There are several letters used on the pillars as pictographs (‘H’, ‘I’, ‘V’, reversed ‘V’, ‘-‘, arc, handbag, triangle, even the animals themselves). All together, they give a message about… Younger Dryas Boundary impact event.

      The important difference in tradition between Australia and northen hemisphere is the trauma of the YDB event. It knocked out the mammoths et al. After that, the surviving people of the northern hemisphere all developed a profound interest in celestial ‘affairs’. I argue that almost all of the northern constellations were named (or renamed) back then to commemorate that event.

      The previously debated fox paper presumes that the constellation names existed before. I argue that the names to constellations were given to describe the YDB event, which is why the authors of the fox paper found them on pillars. What is your opinion on that claim ? How would a traumatized society of hunter-gatherers react on such an event ? Would it be logical for them to name stars and constellations to integrate such unique event’s experience into their system of oral tradition ?

      Like

  10. Lynn and Sean have a major point to make. The simllarities can never be explained away via mathematical probability. Oliver is trained to look into the subtlest of differences and makes important remarks. Yet, there are some huge similarities between these structures in addition to their differences which can/will be/are explained just like their simliarities. Sumerian civilization tells a lot about these societies. Compare them to animal life human progress in other parts and the similarties will appear very sgnificant in terms of beliefs and social context/progress. And also the emergence of class society!

    Like

    • As you can see from the comments, everybody agrees here that these sites may have served similar social purposes for their builders, e.g. For gatherings. Thus they share some characteristics, like prominent placement in the landscape, monumentality etc. They are however not directly interrelated, and none of the sites mentioned is Sumerian.

      Like

      • Interrelatedness is a result of migrations!

        There is no way people have come up with such unlikely and unnatural themes/events each on their own. Mathematically speaking, all you will need to do is to write down each similar component of these monuments, riturals, social structore, cohesion, gatherings and check the likelihood of a natural evolution happening each on its own.. these are extremely specific human behaviours.that require complex tasks.

        Unfortunately people do not talk about the migrations of the last 25000 years yet geneticists keep coming up with facts and proofs of these migrations out of Siberia/Central Asia. Otherwise impossible to explain similarities of totem poles in Northwest America and Gobekltepe, Shigir Idol Russia. Even a concept of totem pole is a very very unnatural thing that would require a set of thoughts and beliefs as well as social organization that cannot happen independant of each other. The last 50000 years is what made all major human changes possible and many migrations can be mapped since.

        As for the Sumerians, a look into their mythology reveals all the Siberian/Cetral Asian hunter gatherer rituals and some of them can be seen in Gobeklitepe, and maybe of help in Gobeklitepe research since they are the earliest written records of humanity.

        As for the differences: Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish people cannot reasonably communicate with each other in their own language even though their vocabularies are 70% similar and these languages stem from the same vulgar Latin of 1000 years ago. Divergences and common roots for major civiliziatons is a fact of life and the idea is to check for both and why

        Like

  11. Thank you for your interesting comments, Mehmet. I would appreciate expansion on why you say this: “Even a concept of totem pole is a very very unnatural thing that would require a set of thoughts and beliefs as well as social organization that cannot happen independant of each other.”

    I have argued that the concept of totem poles is a very natural thing for the human brain. I have many examples of similar topologies from Australia and New Guinea as well as the better known ones you quote. One of my mnemonic experiments based on technologies from oral cultures is encoding information to a post with abstract symbols – in fact so abstract that it is merely the rings in the verandah post design – and it still works well as a memory device for a sequenced set of narratives.

    I am convinced that the similarities seen across these sites relates to the way the human brain memorises using a swag of technologies as mentioned in my comments above. Totem poles – or other forms of decorated posts and stones – are common precisely because to the way they relate to human brain structures and natural memory systems. I have no doubt that these similar technologies happened independently of each other, but happy to be proved wrong.

    I am very interested to know why you think that the concept of a totem pole is unnatural from the neuroscience or any other approach. I am only just starting to delve into the neuroscience of memory with some very helpful scientists, but what little I have read indicates that any objects which use place from the landscape and skycape to smaller versions such as totem poles, are highly memorable and consistent with the findings in research into the cerebellum grid cells and the way they encode spatial information. But I am very far from knowing what I am talking about yet!

    Lynne

    Like

  12. It strikes me that that the references to particular ways in which humans produce very similar structures, be they of wood, stone or earth have far more to do with the ways they react to concepts that are common to all societies than they have to the similarities in those structures.
    There are a number of ways in which communal attempts to project or embody the supernatural may produce physical structures and more often than not there will be a superficial resemblance, as in the case of ‘totems’, whether of wood or stone: they are relatively easy to produce and erect and lend themselves to carving. Collections of such enhance the effect and offer an increasingly potent centre for communal gatherings. A collection of pillars may lead to a working structure, and so on..Their function as ‘memory palaces’ need not be primary though, even if that role is coincidentally very significant. I would have thought the immense work involved in constructing a Stonehenge or a GT for a far-flung hunter-gatherer population suggests a motivating power in the realms of belief in a supernatural power rather than one at the more mundane level of tribal/social affiliations.
    In short, it is the way all societies have reacted to the unknown and uncontrollable that is the common ground, not the shape of the structure, particularly since the significance of particular structures fades over centuries, never mind millenia: we struggle to comprehend the significance of features built in the Iron Age, like hill ‘forts’, so what price Someone involved in the construction of Stonehenge, cerca 3000BC, knowing the mind of a builder of GT?

    Like

  13. Pingback: Recap: #AskGT – ‘Q&A’ about recent research at Göbekli Tepe | The Tepe Telegrams

  14. One should have in mind that the hunter-gatherer cultures were substantially more mobile than the later sedentary farmers. People roamed the wilderness, encountered each other on occasional festivities-gatherings and exchanged their tales and stories. Some of these were legendary and of global importance, so they survived, written on monuments.

    It is my impression that people grossly underestimate the ability of ideas, carried by individual people, to travel.

    As I reported on the 2nd fox page a week ago, to which nobody commented more, images on GT pillars represents groups of stars, as viewed from various places on the Earth, describing as mnemonics events that took place there. this type of writing is exceptionally clever for recording locations and times, aside from stories. Unfortunately, it seems that nobody cares about it.

    Since this page is about other monuments, separated wildly in time and space, I should add that the story depicted on the Vulture Stone establishes a direct (cultural) link between the *7-stone-antas people* (3-4 ka BC, Iberian peninsula) with the GT people.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s