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Erosion and Gobekli Tepe

14 March 2024
Archaeology, Geology

Another interesting research paper at https://doi.org/10.31015/jaefs.2021.3.17 … this one got people at Ancient Origins excited. Published in the ‘International Journal of Agriculture, Environment and Food Sciences’, which is a somewhat contradictory sort of word jumble. In spite of that the subject is archaeology. Gobekli Tepe, which is on the outskirts of Urfa, going back to the very early Holocene. Were the enclosures at Gobekli Tepe the result of erosion? A large amount of soil and spoil washed into the site, and covering it. One thing  against this idea is that it consists of a raft of enclosures which I understand were built one on top of the  other. I might be wrong but would the soil and spoil have been washed into the site on several occasions – and came to form what was a hill until excavations began.

From a catastrophist angle there is nothing wrong with erosion and water invading the enclosures – and on more than one occasion. However, we are not talking about a period of time over thousands of years as Gobekli Tepe was built and rebuilt over a much shorter period of tens and hundreds of years. Although I might be wrong about this. The point is there is a long archaeological tradition of what is known as ‘ritual closure’ of sites – after they have gone out of use. We can only guess what had changed in the environment to make them go out of use – but something did change. If only the arrival of new people with new ideas. This was particularly true of the Neolithic period – and it is recognised Neolithic farmers with  origins in Anatolia [modern Turkey as far as Urfa and possibly beyond] introduced the Neolithic to Europe after the 6200BC event. Hence, there is a direct link between the European Neolithic and the ideas expressed at Gobekli Tepe.

Ritual closure of sites continued right into the  Roman period. Iron Age sites went out of use and their ditches were filled with pottery, broken quern stones, and various other products of the period. The people then moved into the new Roman settlement, usually nearby. Indeed, I’ve just been listening to a talk on Orkney archaeology and the famous Tomb of the Eagles was ritually closed by having its roof removed and the passage grave then filled up with soil and spoil, and broken stones etc. It ended up in the modern world as a huge mound with a turf covering. There are numerous sites all over Europe that were ritually closed down – or simply ceased to be important anymore and were put out of use by  the back breaking task of covering them with soil and spoil. Why would it be any different at Gobekli Tepe?

We may note the erosion envisaged by the authors is not catastrophist in nature but consists of that wonderful uniformitarian notion of wind and water [heavy rainfall], at intermittant intervals. Human activity is also blamed for the erosion – which sounds like a page out of the Global Warming bible.

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