Most of the science on this blog is linked to biology or chemistry in one way or another, in large part because it's what I study in.
Today we take a look at something a little different. And by "a little", I mean a lot. I have the awesome Steph Sinkhorn to thank for one of the most major mindblowing discovery I've made in the last month: Göbekli Tepe.
What is Göbekli Tepe?
Göbekli Tepe is a set of ruins discovered on a hilltop in southeast Turkey. The complex appears to be a sanctuary of sorts. It contains multiple round subterrean structures, each of which has a series of massive limestone pillars (we're talking 8 feet tall and seven tons here). The pillars themselves are decorated with complex carvings of animals, plants and other enigmatic pictograms.
The construction of Göbekli Tepe, which involved the carving and carrying of the pillars uphill, would take a staggering amount of manpower - estimations speak of 500 men.
Okay. But the Egyptians built the pyramids, so what's the big deal?
A Little Historical Context
The big deal came with the carbon-dating. At the moment, the oldest dating on Göbekli Tepe places it at 9000 BC. They are not done digging the site, however, and most archeologist estimate the ruins' beginning to be in 11,000 BC.
Mesopotamian writing systems are estimated to the end of the 4th millenium BC.
Animal husbandry is estimated to 9000 BC.
What this means, in short, is that Göbekli Tepe was built before the Neolithic Revolution, when humans were still hunters-gatherers. Before agriculture and animal husbandry.
The hilltop sanctuary speaks of a level of organization that was never associated with the time period. Archeologists now believe a priestly caste supervised the work (good job on gathering those 500 men, there) and, afterwards, the religious ceremony that took place there.
Kind of awesome, how wrong we were about the small packs of hunter-gatherers, eh?
And Now the Actual Crazy Inspiration Part
There is something else unique with Göbekli Tepe, and I'll admit that's the part I found the most interesting. It spoke to the writer in me, because it implies a story.
Göbekli Tepe was deliberately buried under 300 to 500 cubic meters of sand. They took the sand from elsewhere and filled their sanctuary with it, and no one knows why. Protection from invaders? Preservation for future generations? Respect for a religious site no longer in usage?
We don't know. Chances are, we never will.
If you're like me, though, you are weaving an epic tale that would lead hundreds of hunter-gatherers to work together and fill their holy sites with sand, in the desperate hope that when danger passes, they can return to it and honour their gods.
Images are from Ancient Wisdom, where there's a lot more to see.