Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

The World Turns Upside Down

with 5 comments

People with a sense of the history of science know that there were amazing advances made in the realm of science during the 20th century. At the turn of the last century, we didn’t know what powered the Sun, how mountains were formed, or anything at all but about the age and origin of the Universe. Heck, we were still stuck with Newtonian physics, so our very understanding of the nature of reality itself was limited. Well, we discovered the Sun was powered by nuclear power, continental drift is what makes mountains, and that the Universe was apparently “created” out of “nothing” some fourteen odd billion years ago. And Einstein came along and showed us relativity, the science that made space travel possible. So, science has it all figured out now, right? <pause for laughter> Of course not. To lay people or or people of an anti-science bent, it may appear that scientists know it all. Not even close, while science is pretty sure about a lot of stuff, anyone who has seriously looked into science can tell you … there’s vastly more waiting to be discovered, since so many of science’s discoveries raised more questions than they answered.  There’s no reason to believe the 21st century will be any different than the twentieth, by the end of it, some of today’s science will seem quaint at best.

So, the next century is well underway, are there any scientific revolutions afoot? Yes, yes there are. One has to realize though that science doesn’t change over night. When new and revolutionary ideas and discoveries come up, scientists often debate for decades their importance and how they fit into our current understanding. Sometimes they do eventually fit in somehow, sometimes it turns out our current understanding is flawed. And in those cases, when enough of the hidebound old scientists die off, science adopts a new and better understanding of the world. So as a spectator sport, science makes baseball seem insanely fast and exciting. With that being said, I am going to write a few posts about some of the revolutionary discoveries and ideas that are very likely to shake up science’s understanding of thew world in the coming century.  And by extension, ourselves and our place in it.

And why not the best first? Göbekli Tepe. What the heck is Göbekli Tepe? Well, it’s helpfully illustrated above. Tepe just means hill, so literally the name of this place is Göbekli Hill. Or Belly Hill fully translated into English. Yes, we are talking an archaeological site in Southern Turkey. The various stone pillars visible  above weigh 10-20 tons, some as much as 50 tons. The pillars are carved with images of various animals and symbols. Your basic megalithic site, like Stonehenge or on Malta. So what’s so exciting about Göbekli Tepe? Well, Stonehenge dates from  3100 BC and the sites on Malta, the oldest free standing structures on Earth, date from 3600 BC. The world’s first cities were created around 4000 BC. Within about a thousand years, around 3000 BC, the first states arose and the history of the world began. Where does Göbekli Tepe fit in this neat picture? It doesn’t, Göbekli Tepe dates from at least 9,000 BC. The people who built Göbekli Tepe used stone tools, hadn’t invented pottery,  metalworking, writing, or the wheel. In fact the people who built Göbekli Tepe were paleolithic cultures who lived in villages only part of the year, didn’t have agriculture, and survived by hunting and gathering. Yes, the world’s first great structures were built by Stone Age people.

This, to put it mildly, Göbekli Tepe really upsets the applecart about our ideas of the growth of human civilization. People of this era were simply not supposed to have had the type of social organization to build structures like this. And more on point, what the hell was the point of all this anyhow? Moving and carving ten plus ton rocks isn’t something one does for fun or relaxation, a lot of work went into this site. The archaeologist in charge of excavating it, Klaus Schmidt, theorizes that Göbekli Tepe was a “temple complex.” I think that’s reaching more than just a bit, we really don’t know what the people who built Göbekli Tepe we’re thinking, although it does seem pretty clear that these structures had no functional purposes. People didn’t live in them, and no evidence of other use has been found.

Since they didn’t have writing, the pictures and symbols on the pillars may forever remain undecipherable. The site also contained the first life size statues of human beings, th0ugh they are pretty crude by our standards. It’s even been suggested that Göbekli Tepe figured into one of humanity’s oldest myths, and may have been the original Garden of Eden. There is evidence that the cultivation of wheat actually started very near the site of Göbekli Tepe. And as one final mystery that may never be understand, around 8,000 BC, just as agriculture was starting to flourish … Göbekli Tepe was deliberately buried. It wasn’t buried by a  landslide or the sands of time,  people went to a great deal of trouble to completely entomb the site in a man made hill. What the hell was up with that?

Most of the Göbekli Tepe site has yet to be excavated, so this discovery is still unfolding … slowly.  Stay tuned.

(I am not sure of the origin of the above image, so I’m claiming it as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, and not only is it central to illustrating the post, there appears to be no such other image available. It may possibly be produced and copyrighted by the Deutsche Archaologische Institut. The title of the post was an English Ballad from 1643, written as a protest against the policies of Oliver Cromwell, who had outlawed traditional Christmas celebrations in favour of a more somber observance of the holidays. Puritans take the fun out of everything, what can I say.  Some good pics of the  Göbekli Tepe site can be found here, more pics including the human sized statues can be found here.)


Written by unitedcats

March 29, 2010 at 6:05 am

Posted in History, Science, World

5 Responses

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  1. Hi Doug,

    Great piece of work and yes once it’s fully excavated I’ve no doubt it will leave Stonehenge very much in the shade.

    I’m also working on something of a similar ilk and wondered if you’d be so kind to visit and give me some feedback. Would Göbekli Tepe feature in your top ten……I truly wonder if there were no limitations.

    Thank you


    March 29, 2010 at 6:13 am

  2. Good post. I had never even heard of Göbekli Tepe, learned something new. I wiki’d it and they refer to Göbekli Tepe as a place of worship. Maybe it was just an attempt to create a meeting and social gathering place and/or an expression of art, power or status. Heck even today many places of recreation are decorated with pictures & statues of animals and humans, doesn’t mean everyone who walks in the door worships them. Many ancient, preclassic cultures used religion as a way to explain the world around them on a very practical level. What the sun was, why it rains, tornadoes, lightning, crop patterns, death, etc. In a lot of ways ancient religion and more modern religion have very little in common, the former was more practically and influential on a daily basis and the latter deeper and more philosophical on a less practical level.
    Regardless we are mostly guessing when it comes to cultures that existed eleven thousand years ago. We are also looking at them through modern eyes and values, not sure that’s appropriate. Even well versed historians are going to compare this site to other ancient sites, problem is about six thousand years separates those eras, not sure how much similarity their would be over that span of time. Not to mention the geographical difference, in pre-classical times Stonehenge and Göbekli Tepe might have as well been on opposite end of the globe.

    “So as a spectator sport, science makes baseball seem insanely fast and exciting”, how true.

    Josh V.

    March 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm

  3. Cool, I really like those little anomalies, its good to know there is still much to discover! the fact that the Göbekli Tepe was purposely burried reminds me of Stephen King’s “Desperation” in the novel an ancient evil is uncovered in a old mine, and the uncovered evil creature was also purposely burried in order to rid the world of it, interesting. So, maybe they needed to get rid of some percieved dangerous/evil thing. Great post Doug!


    March 30, 2010 at 6:49 am

  4. […] second in my series on possibly revolutionary scientific discoveries that are unfolding also involves our ancestors. Well, our relatives to be more precise. For all of […]

  5. I believed Robert Bauval, Graham Hancock, John Anthony West, and Dr. Scoch the whole time. And they went through some serious BS because of the “establishment”. Must feel good for those guys to finally be proven to be correct. It must really piss off Zahi Hawass to be shown as the stooge that he is. Well…this bell can never be unrung so I look forward to watching professors (all over the world) in: Egyptology, Archeology, Anthropology, and History squirm. My daughter will be starting college in a few years. Had to tell her that I’ll be paying for classes that are teaching her the wrong information. But at least she knows about Gobekli Tepe and she’ll be applying the “Gobekli Tepe Rule” whenever her teachers start spewing out nonsense. If “the world” has only known about Gobekli Tepe for the past two or three years, you can bet that it won’t change the textbooks for many MANY years to come. Thanks, Guys, for all your work and sacrifices. It was not in vain.

    Chris Smith

    March 6, 2011 at 10:17 am

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