Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of September 23rd - September 29th,  2011

Turkish Temple

Columns Archive


Gobekli Tepe site at sunset

A small fraction of the entire site

Photographs by Vincent J. Musi for National Geographic

        One of our favorites past times here in the WEB is pushing back the awareness of just how far temples and stellar observation go. Hipparchus publicized his knowledge of the precession of the Equinoxes in the 2nd century BC, but, the question remains; did he discover it?

        We believe that Stonehenge fell out of use as a stellar observatory in the 16th century BC. The Egyptian pyramids are oriented to the cardinal points, and their air passageways were sighted on specific stars in the constellations Orion and Draco when constructed a thousand years earlier.

        Stonehenge Phase I was laid out sometime within a century of 3000 BC, while Newgrange and Malta were established concerns, each lasting centuries, through 3500 BC. Nabta Playa in Egypt remembered days of greater rainfall, greener pastures and solar alignments two thousand years older than Stonehenge.

Gobekli Tepe

Note loincloth, belt and hands carved in pillar

        Other than a few resistant British archaeologists entrenched in traditional attitudes, each of the above sights have now been acknowledged as celestial observatories. There is a common thread that binds these sites in their various guises.

        The June 2011 issue of National Geographic has discovered a far older site than any of these located in southern Turkey. It is now thought to be the oldest temple construction anywhere on the planet. Unlike Stonehenge with its roughly hewn blocks, it contains cleanly carved limestone pillars containing images of snakes, foxes, scorpions, gazelles and wild boars.

        Among a world of hunter-gatherers, the temple's builders were able to cut, shape, and transport 16-ton stones hundreds of feet despite having no wheels or beasts of burden.

Gobekli Tepe

Using a zodiac long forgotten?

        What the authors of the article claim is that this must have been some great religious site, and that its purpose was as a goal for would be pilgrims to journey to, with the implication that there could be great numbers of individuals found.

        I believe that it is an astronomical site (like all the others) used as a chronometer to mark the heavens and measure time. It, therefore, did not need or encourage commoners who knew nothing about celestial observation to steer clear on evenings when the skies would need to be read.

        Whether nomad, traveler or agricultural entrepreneur, having a good measure on the season could have life and death ramifications. For the nomad star lore helped to mark the path, to chose which direction to go. The traveler knew to journey during appropriate seasons, and the farmer when to plant, tend and harvest the crops.

        All marked by celestial cadence.

        These were stories the stars told. You don't have to have a fixed village base before the beginnings of civilization can take hold, or the cycles observed. Maritime cultures are notoriously famous for being on the move.

        So how old is this site, you ask?

        Well, if we go back from now to the early Stonehenge, that's about five thousand years.

  Gobekli Tepe is seven thousand years older than that, for a total of almost 12,000 years ago.

        That's a little more than a stone's throw.


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