Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gobekli Tepe -- the first great human monument

I am not teaching ancient history this year but I am still very interested. It's hard to imagine anyone with a feeling for any sort of early history not being fascinated by this one.

Archaeologists working in that part of the fertile crescent which is now located in Turkey have found a huge hill which seems to be the remains of late Stone Age temple building on a grand scale at a place now called Gobekli Tepe. The great stone structures date to long before Sumer -- as one archaeologist says, there is more time between Gobekli Tepe (9000 BC) and Sumer than there is between Sumer and us -- and in fact before agriculture was invented. Somehow hunter gatherers mustered the resources to build what was not a town or settlement or fortification but simply an immense complex of stone monuments.

Smithsonian Magazine has a very good article, the best part of which for me is the speculation by the archaeologists that it was the demand for resources to build such a site that made necessary agriculture and domestication of animals. For a very long time historians have been telling students and the general public and each other that it was the invention of agriculture which made possible big projects like Gobekli Tepe; but maybe it's the other way around.

Thanks to Phil Paine and Skye Sepp for drawing my attention to this.

Image: Gobekli Tepe from Smithsonian Magazine. This is just one of a collection of amazing pictures at the Smithsonian site.

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Blogger Oscar1986 said...

wow, things like that just get my imagination racing!
I wonder what kinda people built it and why, maybe there is another lost civilization in the mid east?

Thanks for posting it:)

12:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I first became aware of Gobekli Tepe a couple of years ago through Dr. Nigel Spivey's excellent BBC TV series 'How Art Made the World'. I tried to find out more and was surprised at how little was written about such an important site. There are now 65,000 refernces to Gobekli Tepe on the web! I am sceptical of Dr. Spivey's premise that the complex was made as a venue for art(as much as I would like to belive it!) but I am convinced that this important site has many more things to teach us about our collective past, and therefore, give us an incite to who we are now.

4:47 AM  

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