Gobekli Tepe and Sirius

25 August 2013

At www.newscientist.com/article/mg21929303.400-worods-oldest-temple-built-t… … we have an update on Gobekli Tepe, which consists of around 20 circular enclosures. Each is surrounded by a ring of T shaped stone pillars some of which are decorated with fierce looking animals. Two more stone megaliths stand parallel to each other at the centre of each ring. The site is pre-farming era and the product of a hunter gatherer society (but using wild plants in a managed fashion), Guilio Magli, an archaeoastronomer at the Polytechnic University of Milan, has suggested it was an astronomical observatory. He thought it involved the Moon. Using a computer programme to simulate the sky 11,000 years ago, he found that at Gobekli Tepe (eastern Anatolia looking out over the Syrian Plain) the bright star Sirius was below the horizon until 9300BC. At that time it would have become visible as a new star – a newly born star with perhaps religio mythic parallels. Sirius, it says, is the fourth brightest object in the night sky, and would have been auspicious. Magli claims three of the excavated rings seem to be aligned with points on the horizon when Sirius rose in 9010, 8250 and 8300BC (www.arxiv.org/abs/1307.8397). Magli emphasizes these are preliminary findings – half expecting to be shot in the foot at some point as the calculations are somewhat ad hoc. A proper survey using a theodolite (shades of Alexander and Archie Thom) for measuring horizontal and vertical angles would be necessary – and it should be borne in mind the sequences in which the structures were built is not as yet established.

Eric Kvaalen commented … when Sirius first appeared in this part of the world it was a star that hardly rose above the southern horizon before setting again. Over the course of several generations of people its appearance would have lengthened, rising further to the east and setting further to the west, but still never getting high above the horizon. He says it would be surprising if much notice of it was taken – but what if the rising of Sirius was also associated with another phenomenon. The rising of a great comet. There is some indications that the Egyptians were at first not interested in the dog star – but in its companion (later epitomised as Osiris). Robert Temple famously wrote a book on the subject, assuming the companion was Sirius B (invisble to the naked eye, which meant he was never taken seriously). If the Clube and Napier theory of a short period come holds any validity this might be what it was all about and as the comet disintegrated through the middle of the Holocene the mythic story condensed into the tale of the dismemberment of Osiris.

There is one other feature about this story to bear in mind. Magli used software to simulate the night sky around 9000BC – and if his theory holds water the solar system during the Holocene would have been more stable than envisaged by Velikovsky, and others. However, we may also note that if the legend of Atlas shifting the weight of the world on his shoulders has any truth in it that would imply the axis of rotation may have changed. If so Magli's calculations would be invalid, as far as the first appearance of Sirius was concerned. It wouldn't affect the idea that Gobekli Tepe was aligned to Sirius, not in order to see the star (as an object of veneration) but in order to herald the arrival of its companion (every three or four years). No doubt more will be said on this interesting theory.

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