Alternative Archaeology: Does the Gobekli Tepe Site in Turkey Radically Change our Views of the Distant Past?

orion-constellation-stars-aligned-above-the-pyramids-of-giza_e1k2eowze__S0000Questions regarding the origins and mysteries of human civilization are seldom considered by mainstream discourse. There is a tendency by many to approach the distant past as absolute – chronologically progressing events as an unalterable set of realities, brought to them by peripheral interest or exposure to various scholastic disciplines. Popular culture, the media, politicians, literature, intelligentsia and post-secondary institutions reinforce these beliefs, and constantly remind us that the past is unalterable. As a basic principle of reality the past is unalterable, but our understanding and recollection of it certainly is not – since so much of it consists of gaps in continuity, supplemented by speculative leaps of faith.

Many of our notions regarding civilizations from thousands of years ago are characterized by long held orthodoxies within the fields of antiquities and archaeology. Most lay people, without careful consideration, parse over these long held views without ever considering alternative explanations. Archaeology, although admirable as a scientific practice in attempting to gather objective facts, can only go so far as to shed light on many of the worlds more ancient sites and artifacts. It can give a general idea or hypothesis, but fully attaining the complete context of a find can never be fully achieved, given the obvious lapses of continuity and disconnect we suffer from our current existence to the ancient past.

Questions regarding how and when we developed the ability to think, to reason, and to transcend our environment by devoting efforts to things outside basic modes of survival can never be known for sure. We can speculate, but never get a definitive answer. It is this acknowledgment which fuels alternative views regarding human history.

Alternative archaeology and academic approaches that don’t fit the mainstream narrative are often met with ridicule and not taken seriously as considerations. Much of this vitriol comes from those in academic circles whose professional identities becomes threatened when new ideas wildly contradict long held beliefs in their immediate fields of professional research. One’s own ego is enough to shoot down any suppositions outside the realm of immediately held orthodoxies. Therefore, it is unlikely for mainstream academics to embrace radical new ideas. Academics may reject that this is the case, but biases regarding the preservation of ones own identity and reputation is a powerful human force that often goes unnoticed by those guilty of it.

Conversely, a lack of absolute positive evidence is often an inhibitor to the forwarding of alternative ideas regarding antiquities. Negative evidence, although compelling to supplement speculations or lofty hypotheses toward the mainstream, cannot be definitely accepted as empirical evidence in scientific approaches. A lack of evidence for one idea does not necessarily mean proof for another.

The discovery of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey in 1995 provided irrefutable positive evidence to suggest a re-examination of orthodox views regarding the chronology of human innovation. Many who challenged mainstream views were completely vindicated when carbon dating done in 2008 found that the site dated back 11,000 years. This is an outstanding find because it completely reroutes the known capability of human beings during hunter-gatherer pre-history.

Gobekli Tepe (meaning potbelly hill) was discovered by German archaeologist Klauss Schmitt. The now deceased Schmitt was and is the foremost expert on the site, and his hypothesis regarding it remains highly respected. There are 20 temples on the site, with only 6 to have been excavated. The temples are circular, and their inlays are imprinted with highly impressive animal carvings that protrude outwardly from large T-shaped monoliths. The fact that the stones were carved around the intended images, as opposed to the simpler method of carving inwardly, implies a high level of sophistication. The most prominent temple (Temple D) contains two large monoliths in its center with 10 or 12 smaller ones surrounding them (some have been deteriorated so it’s not known for sure how many there were). If there were 12, then this formation could be speculated to be associated with the 12 signs of the zodiac – with the 2 larger centered monoliths perhaps representing dualistic concepts in nature (like male and female).

Gobeklitepe_Galeri_008  gobekli tepe beastgobekli tepe temple d







It is assumed that the mount served as communal place of worship, where surrounding peoples congregated. Due to large amounts of animal bones and traces of wild grains, food was likely communally cooked and eaten here, and may have even been stored for protection. Schmitt takes a leap to assume that this was a place where concepts of agricultural advancement were administered and reinforced through the religiosity of the time. He pokes holes in the theory that agriculture was something which developed gradually over time, and assumes that it was taught and pasted down by a higher class of learned human beings. It begs questions of the origins of organized religion, suggesting that it was perhaps imposed by those who possessed knowledge as a means of subjugating lesser learned humans.

Geological evidence at Gobekli Tepe indicates that the temples were intentionally buried. Why this occurred, no one knows for sure. Whatever knowledge or symbolism the site contained may have been deliberately hidden for the sake of either preservation or erasure from history.

Those who built the site must have had a heightened sense of awareness and being, and likely used this knowledge to their advantage over others in some fashion. But where did this knowledge come from? Was it something that developed in the region, or was it transferred from another place and time all together?

Could it really have been hunter-gatherers who built Gobekli Tepe? That is the view of conventional academics, because it fits a historical narrative they are accustomed to operating in. The proposition that it was non hunter-gatherers that established this site is controversial to say the least. The champion of this claim is renowned author and autodidact Graham Hancock. The discovery of Gobekli Tepe fits his belief of a prior civilization that was wiped out at the end of the last Ice Age.

His belief has in recent times become reinforced by geologists who have accumulated evidence to suggest a massive climactic overall during a period known as the Younger Dryas roughly 12,000-14,000 years ago. The Younger Dryas impact hypothesis suggests that massive climate change caused by a comet or asteroid impact into the ice caps caused a massive unleashing of cold into the southern hemisphere, followed by cataclysmic flooding into coastal areas. Hancock believes that during the last Ice Age human’s fostered advanced civilizations along southern coastal areas because of relative levels of hospitableness. Rapid climate change from natural disasters would have virtually wiped out these supposed civilizations and all of their innovations, forcing civilization to start again out of the ashes. This plays into Schmitt’s theory of Gobekli Tepe as an administrational hub, where past knowledge was doled out by some higher class of people to the surrounding inhabitants.

converted HIPS image
The World During the Younger Dryas (10,000-12,000 BCE)

Although compelling due to the geological evidence coming out to support the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis, the idea of a previous unknown civilization existing during the Ice Age is a romantic one. It is possible that a massive disconnect in human development exists due to a a cataclysm – and if humanity was forced to start again without a trace of itself, then naturally there would be a massive gap in historical memory to commemorate this prior civilization. We can contemplate all we want from the dark unknowns of the past, but without positive evidence to suggest otherwise, we can never know for certain.

This type of supposition, although not based in absolute objective fact, challenges us to re-examine what we know about ourselves. It is fun to believe there was some kind of Atlantian civilization that existed before recorded human history. It is also worthwhile to contemplate that since so much of the distant past is pieced together by educated guesses, the official narrative may very well be subjected to fallaciousness. Whatever the truth is, individuals like Hancock and others should at least be considered in order to enable ourselves to think outside of what we have been told, and acknowledge that our ancient heritage is wrapped in mysteries with an infinite number of possibilities.

References and Sources: (with sources referenced from Klaus Schmitt’s writings)

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