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Gobekli Tepe

13 December 2015

This is a second look at Gobekli Tepe within a couple of days – the link was sent in by Bill Thompson. It was previously mentioned in the opening chapter of Hancock's book 'Magicians of the Gods' in the post 'J Harlen Bretz' and Hancock actually mentions Robert Schoch, the controversial geologist. In this post Schoch too has visited Gobekli Tepe and come up with his own explanation of what it was all about. He begins by telling us the site was open for over a thousand years but then it was intentionally filled in with spoil – around 8000BCE. See http://www.robertschoch.com/articles/schochgobeklitepenewdawnsept2010.pdf


Schoch is more famous for claiming the Great Sphinx is much older than mainstream allows. Instead of a date within the pyramid building era, c2500BC, he claims it was built between 5000 and 7000BC (possibly even earlier). This idea naturally is disputed by most archaeologists, somewhat vigorously. The initial announcement was made at a Geological Society of America conference (GSA) in 1991, in collaboration with Anthony West, another controversial geologist who has since become embroiled in the Younger Dryas Boundary event hypothesis (which has hardly raised a ripple over here in the UK but has led to lots of argumentative debate in the US). The Review issue of 2015:3 has an article by Han Kloosterman on the subject of the Usselo Horizon (the European equivalent of the Younger Dryas Boundary, named after the previous phase rather than the following phase as Younger Dryas is common to both).

The Sphinx sits at the very edge of the Sahara Desert, we are informed, in a very arid environment – yet it displays evidence of substantial rain induced erosion. In other words, Schoch pushed the date of the construction of the Sphinx back to a date he thought compatible with that erosion. Actually, to a period when Egypt did enjoy a certain amount of precipitation. This date is prior to extensive signs of agriculture in the Nile Valley – but surely it is the aridfication of the Sahara that led to the practise of irrigation agriculture. Was he justified? That is all we need to fathom.

Schoch thinks Gobekli Tepe has opened an entirely new box of tricks, and one that justified his early date of the Sphinx. If people in SW Anatolia were hunter gatherers yet built a massive monumental complex why could not the same thing happen in Egypt – just a Sphinx cut out of limestone bedrock and measuring  roughly 20m by 70m. The argument consists mainly of historians saying that people at that time were technologically incapable of creating such a monument and did not have the organising skills necessarily to set the construction in motion. Schoch and West were subsequently accused of pseudo science.

Gobekli Tepe is acknowledged to be an amazing place and Schoch suggests the site evolved to observe the skies – and most notably certain groups of stars that included the constellation of Orion the Hunter. He says the site of Gobekli Tepe, set on the slope of a hill, had a direct sight of vision with Orion. This constellation is purportedly also depicted in the cave paintings at Lascaux (according to Michael Rappenglueck, Frank Edge and Luz Antequerra Congregado). This has been dated around 16,000 years ago he continues – not much earlier than Gobekli Tepe. Many of the pillars there are decorated with animals but importantly, numerous remains of animals have also been dug out of the spoil during the excavations. This is supposed to demonstrate the builders were conclusively from a hunting community. These include numerous bones of gazelles, aurochs, wild ass, fox, wild sheep and goats etc, most of which were domesticated in the agricultural period. In all likelihood the people of Gobekli Tepe were in a transitionary stage – between hunting and farming. Schoch seems to prefer to date the rise of civilisation around 3000BC, pointing towards the sophistication of the Bronze Ages – yet agriculture was common all over the Fertile Crescent long before that stage of development.

We are also told that many of the pillars may have toppled over and been damaged prior to the site being abandoned – which again is something new. Or perhaps not. Schoch seems to think the two anthropomorphic figures in the centre of enclosure D might represent Orion the Hunter and a companion. Is he suggesting something like Gilgamesh and Enkidu? He likens their belts to the Belt of Orion (the three stars in a slightly offset alignment). Has anyone else noticed this?

Schoch then goes on to make a connection with plasma events witnessed in the sky at the end of the Ice Age (or within the Younger Dryas cooling episode) and to drive home the point he brings in the statues of Easter Island (which he had also visited not long before Gobekli Tepe). He says the two sites have distinct similarities as far as the Moia stone heads are concerned. The latter are positioned to look up at the sky – what were they looking at? He also says they have arms carved on the side of their bodies and hands and finger over the abdomen – suggesting the arms of the Gobekli Tepe stones are identical (which of course they are not). Never the less, if people (and not just stones) were looking up at the skies in 9600BC, and again, less than a couple of thousand years ago, what might they have been looking at? Do we have a situation here reminiscent of Isaiah in the Bible, sat in his watchtower looking at the sky for some kind of sign that Yahweh would show his presence and bring the Assyrian armies to a halt (and something was presumably expected imminently). Isaiah was apparently acting in a long tradition – even the priests of Meso-American societies watched the sky from special observation points. The sky intrigued people from the Ice Age all through the Holocene.

One of the most interesting things about the site is the purposeful closure – or ritual closure if you like. What was significant about the date of 8000BC? It was roughly the transition between the Pre-boreal and the Boreal climatic periods – although what this might mean in a real sense is not easily understandable. Why should one climate regime go out of business and be succeeded by another regime – warmer or wetter or drier. Various attempts have been made to tie them up with Bond events but as these are equally inexplicable changes in climate, that is merely making the climate change even more mysterious (but boxing it up into a cycle of some kind).

The article was published in New Dawn in the Sept/Oct issue of 2010 and it should be remembered that Schoch (and Hancock come to that) are writing to a populist market in a specific genre with quite a large audience – and the s ale of books is fairly lucrative. They go to areas most archaeologists ignore and no doubt provide a service, exploring the unknown and stretching their imagination in the process and the credulity of the reading public. It is a long way away from the dry writing of historians and archaeologists and is frankly challenging (even if a tongue in cheek approach is sometimes necessary). It is also worth pointing out that it brings people into the historical debate -if they are intrigued by a subject, such as the Spinx or Gobekli Tepe some people will go out and buy the mainstream versions of the history and therefore it breeds a greater interest in history as a subject. Hopefully, it will also breed a greater interest in Catastrophism as a subject.

What Schoch and West showed was the sphinx was heavily eroded – a fact largely ignored by mainstream. They ask the question, why is it so badly eroded – but mainstream don't want to answer that as they have no logical reply. First wind and sand are blamed, and the occasional severe storm is invoked – but generally it is a fact that is still mysterious. Either the erosion is dated prior to 2500BC or before 2500BC (and a lot of people might be persuaded the latter is a real possibility). The climate of Egypt is supposed to have been increasingly arid from 3000BC onwards which is why farmers had to rely on the annual flood of the Nile (and construct canals to contain the water when it overflowed). Limestone is notorious for eroding in the UK – but we have a wet climate.

Lastly, Schoch uses precessional drift as an argument to date various features in the past, such as the position of the constellation of Orion in the time of Gobekli Tepe. This kind of dating would naturally be foiled if there had been any movement in the axis of rotation during the post Ice Age era – either at 8000BC, 6200BC, or 3200BC (some suggested dates for this occurring gleaned from other sources).

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