reply to post by punkinworks
From Inside the Neolithic Mind: Consciousness, Cosmos and the Realm of the Gods by David Lewis-Williams and David Pearce (2005):
"Even more elaborate pre-farming structures occur at another site in south-eastern Turkey. It is known as Gobekli Tepe. The German archaeologist
Klaus Schmidt is excavating it. Discoveries of this magnitude are given to very few archaeologists.
"Gobekli Tepe is on the summit of a hill strewn with Neolithic flint artefacts; it has a wide view over the adjacent countryside. There, in this
commanding position, Schmidt found at least four circular structures partly cut into the limestone bedrock, a feature that made them semi-subterranean
and rather like crypts. Dating them proved difficult. But two radiocarbon dates from charcoal that had been part of, and covered by, infill when the
structures were abandoned suggest that 9600 BC may be a fair estimate of their age. This conclusion places the structures in the very early period
known as the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) . Confirmation of this date comes from later round structures of the succeeding Pre-Pottery
Neolithic B (PPNB ) Period that partly overlapped the depressions of the infilled older structures. The massive rock-cut structures at Gobekli Tepe
were thus roughly contemporary with Nevali Cori and the first hunter-gatherer (rather than farming) settlements at Jericho.
"As if rock-cut structures were not enough, Schmidt found that two huge stone stelae, of pillars, had been ereted in the centre of each 'crypt',
and as many as eight further pillars around the peripheries of each. They are rectangular and flat in cross section; each has a wider top section.
Some of the pillars are as much as 2.4m (8 ft) high and weigh up to 7 tons. Between the encircling pillars are stone-cut benches, as at Nervali
"Most sensationally, Schmidt found that the pillars had images carved on them. They include wild boar, gazelles, wild cattles, foxes, snakes and
birds - no domesticated animals. Nor is there sign of any domesticated plants or animals in the deposits. These people were hunters and gatherers,
albeit socially and economically complex. One pillar appears to have a human arm carved on it, and this feature, seen in association with the armed
pillar at Nervali Cori, seems to confirm the impression that the stone columns are all somewhat anthropomorphic [...].
"The pillars came from a quarry about 91m (300 ft) away. There, the limestone bedrock was cut and the pillars shaped, at least to some extent. One
pillar still in place in the quarry would, had it been removed, have been as much as 6m (20 ft) long and would have weighed 50 tons [...].
"Schmidt has found no traces of early Neolithic houses nearby. He therefore concludes that Gobekli Tepe was a ritual centre to which Neolithic people
came for religious purposes. It may have been a site of intense religious experences that reinforced beliefs and social networks. Perhaps 'pilgrims'
came regularly from as much as 100 km (62 miles) away, from a site known as Jerf el Ahmar, where there are comparable round structures with benches
and also images of animals, but no rock-cut structures with stone pillars.
"While contemplating Gobekli Tepe, the English archaeologist Steven Mithen had an idea that supports what one of us had previously advanced for the
domestication of cattle at Catalhoyuk and which, in general terms, followed in [Jacques] Cauvin's footsteps . Mithen concluded that the religious
beliefs embodied in the massive stone structures and associated carvings came before and eventually led to agriculture. How could this inversion of
the sort of scenario that [Gordon] Childe would have recognized have happened?
"Schmidt pointed out to Mithen some hills about 30 km (18.6 miles) to the south. These are known as Karacadag ('Black Mountains'). Phylogenetic DNA
studies had shown that this area was the origin of domesticated einkorn wheat. To put the matter more forcefully, Karacadag was the place of origin of
domesticated grain and therefore the origin of the Neolithic . Mithen suggested that the switch to domestication came about as a result of frequent
ritual and construction activities that took place at Gobekli Tepe [...]. Large numbers of people, possibly measured in hundreds, would have been
needed to make the Gobekli Tepe structures and pillars, and this would have necessitated the gathering and processing of much wild grain to sustain
the workers. This activity would, in time, have resulted in fallen grain springing up, being gathered again and thus becoming domesticated. Mithen
concludes that a drier climatic spell may not have been the trigger that set off Neolithic agriculture, as many researchers believe: 'It may have
been a by-product of the ideology that drove hunter-gatherers to carve and erect massive pillars of stone on a hilltop in southern Turkey'.
"The good quality of Karacadag grain may have led workers returning home to take some with them to sow in their own gardens at Jerf el Ahmar and
other settlements, eventually step-by-step even as far as Jericho itself. In addition to seashells and shiny obsidian that we know Neolithic people
traded, the first domesticated strains of grain may also have spread across the Near East. Indeed, there is more obsidian at Jericho than one would
expect for a town of that size; it may therefore have been a trading centre and one of its commodities may have been the Neolithic itself" (pp.
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