Sunday, December 02, 2012

Gobekli Tepe and Nevali Cori. Astronomy, chronology and geography of the Vedas -- BG Sidharth (6 Oct. 2012, First Gobeklitepe Symposium)

Nevali Cori is a settlement of the Pre-ceramic Neolithic A-B (10th-8th millennium BC), that is the early Neolithic period, and is located on the Euphrates (south Turkey). It is the earliest up to now known settlement whose economy was not primarily based onagriculture and farming, but on hunting certain animals (gazelle, deer, wild boar, hare). Specialized hunting techniques led to a huge surplus of animal products whose conservation and storage required the construction of specific buildings, the so-called "Kanalhaeuser". Beneath the stone floor, there were channels a metre apart. These ensured ventilation, refrigeration and insulation against humidity. Apart from hunting, grains and legumes were also cultivated. A palaeoanthropological examination of bones from 50 burials in the area of the settlement has substantiated the variety and great quantity of vitamins obtained by the inhabitants of the settlement during the 9th millennium BC.
In the settlement area a building was unearhted, the so called "Terazzogebaeude" (14X14 m), which stands out because of its heavy sidewalls and its interior design. It is built of stone and its floor consists of smooth and hard lime mortar. Three architectural phases which go back to the Pre-ceramic Neolithic A and B were examined. In the center of the building two pillars stood with a human relief decoration.
By the east wall of the building, fragments of monstrous plastic figures and a human head of almost real size were found. These are the earliest segments of great plastic worldwide. The human head bore a tress resembling a snake and was found in a niche of the building. It could be one of the first statues of worship worldwide.

The body of a man and an anthropomorphic bird were found during the latest phase. The latter, as well as other monstrous sculptures from the middle phase of the building, belonged to a pillar of 13 m. high. The shape of the building, the type and the disposition of the sculptures (statue of worship, burial?) as well as the varied shapes of the foreign in this region flint arrowheads (from Damascus and elsewhere), leave no doubt as to the character of "Terazzogebaeude": it is the oldest temple of mankind!
A building similar to "Terazzogebaeude", but more recent, was found at Cayonu, close to the springs of the river Tigris and dates to the transitional phase from Pre-ceramic Neolithic A to B.
At Gobekli Tepe, south-east of Nevali Cori, buildings and many sculptures of the Pre-ceramic Neolithic B were unearthed. Further progress in the excavations will show the importance of this site in the region of Harran. 

News From Equinox Travel & Turkey / Gobekli Tepe and Nevali Cori

Up to 10 to 15 years ago, the first settled life for human beings in terms of animal feeding and agriculture, the so called “Neolithic Age” society, was being marked in history as B.C. 9500 by the archeology science and this was namely “Jericho” society, today known as “Tell es Sultan” in the “Levant” area. However, the researches of recent years in the upper “Mezopotomia” region of south-east Anatolia indicated that this marking in History shall be taken backwards and this era qualified by sociology and history as “Neolithic Revolution” for  civilization is to begin around the cities of Urfa and Diyarbakır. 
The area of “Nevali Çori” which was excavated between 1963 and 1991 is unfortunately under dam waters today. However, by the help of the excavations held in the area, all the information about “Neolithic Age” obtained up to then have been invaluably enriched and it was revealed that in fact, “Neolithic Age” had taken place between B.C. 12000 and 10000 in this area. The existence of temple architecture founded on stone with floor tiling gives us important clues about the belief of the man of this era. The sculpture out of stone and the art of “KABARTMA” beautifying this architecture proves the importance of this area. 
With its architectural and cultural similarities to “Nevali Çori”, the other significant site in the Harran Plateau, “Göbekli Tepe” which is being excavated since 1995 is another strong evidence of the thesis set forward for the first time by the findings of the former. Initiated by these two sites, as a geographical area where the roots of the civilization are fertilized, south-east Anatolia has become a point of attraction for researchers from all over the world. 
When both sites are viewed in terms of sculpture findings, as a surprising result, male figures are in the majority and no evidence related to “Mother Goddess” the irreplacable figure for the Anatolian cultures has been traced. However, Professor Hauptmann set forward his views on this topic that, with the existing evidence, we cannot talk of worship on male Gods within the area.

See:  Neo-Lithics 2-3/00 A newsletter of Southwest Asian Lithics Research Archaeoastronomy: (Prehistoric Astronomers)

Göbekli Tepe: the world’s oldest temple
A 12,000-year-old temple that is being excavated in Turkey is rewriting the historical record and seems to belong to a larger, hitherto unknown civilisation that is slowly being uncovered.
Philip Coppens

Five millennia separate us from the birth of ancient Egypt in c. 3100 BC. Add another five millennia and we are in 8100 BC, coincidentally the start of the Age of Cancer. Add another millennium and a half, and we have the date when Göbekli Tepe, in the highlands of Turkey near the Iraqi and Syrian borders, was constructed.
Archaeologically categorised as a site of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A period (c. 9600–7300 BC), the world’s oldest temple sits in the early part of that era and so far has been carbon-dated to 9500 BC. It is the time-frame when Plato’s Atlantis civilisation is said to have disappeared. And it was built an incredible 5,000 years before the rise of what many consider to be the “oldest civilisation”, Sumer, not too far south of Göbekli Tepe as one goes down the River Euphrates and leaves the highlands of the Taurus Mountains in Turkey.
Göbekli Tepe is an incredible site. David Lewis-Williams, Professor of Archaeology at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, says that “Göbekli Tepe is the most important archaeological site in the world”. It is a small hill on the horizon, 15 kilometres northwest of the town of Sanliurfa, more commonly known as Urfa—which has been linked with the biblical Abraham (some claim that Urfa was the town of Ur mentioned in the Bible) and which once hosted the Holy Mandylion, linked with Christ’s Passion. Once also known as Edessa, Urfa is on the edge of the rainy area of the Taurus Mountains, source of the river that runs through the town and joins the Euphrates. Urfa was (and still is) an oasis, which could explain why Göbekli Tepe was built nearby. A life-sized statue of limestone that was found in Urfa, at the pond known as Balikli Göl, has been carbon-dated to 10,000–9000 BC, making it the earliest-known stone sculpture ever found. Its eyes are made of obsidian.
An old Kurdish shepherd, Savak Yildiz, discovered the true nature of Göbekli Tepe in October 1994 when, spotting something, he brushed away the dust to expose a large oblong-shaped stone. A survey of the site had been carried out by American archaeologist Peter Benedict in 1963, but he identified the area as a Byzantine cemetery. When German archaeologist Harald Hauptmann and Adnan Misir and Eyüp Bucak of the Museum of Urfa began excavations in 1995, they soon learned that the site was so much more.
Göbekli Tepe is a series of mainly circular and oval-shaped structures set in the slopes of a hill, known as Göbekli Tepe Ziyaret. “Ziyaret” means “visit”, but this is often left out of the name. And though some translate “Göbekli Tepe” as “Navel of the World” and “Gobek” does mean “navel” or “belly” and “Tepe” means “hill”, the most correct translation of the site’s name should be “bulged-out hill”.
The more sensationalist media have made attempts to link Göbekli Tepe with the biblical Garden of Eden. Göbekli Tepe is indeed old, but it is not unique; nor was it a garden. However, over the past 50 years the time-frame for the beginning of civilisation has been gently pushed back from the rise of the Sumerian civilisation to the construction of Göbekli Tepe. Alas, it has been a voyage that has not received the attention it should have had.
Pushing back the birth of civilisation
The discovery of the biblical town of Jericho and its stone walls, dated to c. 8000 BC, was the first to push back the date of the birth of “civilisation”. ‘Ain Ghazal is often seen as a sister site of Jericho and, with its 15-hectare area, is the largest Neolithic site in the Middle East and four times as big as Jericho. American Gary O. Rollefson, its principal archaeologist, was able to date the town to 7250 BC, and there is evidence of agriculture in the area dating back to c. 6000 BC—later than the establishment of the town itself. In its heyday, 2,000 people lived at ‘Ain Ghazal. However, by 5000 BC the town was completely deserted. Thirty statues have been found there, measuring between 35 and 90 centimetres; they are human in appearance but may represent deities or the spirits of ancestors. Jericho’s discovery added weight to the argument that the Bible is history, not myth. But when it was next learned that there are even older sites than Jericho, “unfortunately” not located in Palestine but further north in Anatolia, southeast Turkey, media interest in these new discoveries seemed to wane.
The most famous of these sites is Çatal Höyük. It was discovered in 1958 by British archaeologist James Mellaart, who began excavations in 1961 and eventually dated the site to 7500–5700 BC. It is the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site found to date. Mellaart described it as “a Neolithic Rome”, and it is indeed worthy of the name “town”. Its constructions show clear signs that its inhabitants possessed a religion—labelled by some to be a Mother Goddess cult, although this theory has been the subject of much controversy. What is known is that the dead were buried beneath the floors of the buildings, and that several of these structures contain depictions of bulls. Some people have gone so far as to suggest that there is likely a common origin between Çatal Höyük and the Minoan civilisation on Crete, despite the fact that 3,000 years separate the two.
Çatal Höyük was the first of several discoveries to slowly unveil the Turkish region’s ancient history. Göbekli Tepe is but one of several extremely old sites and is the oldest discovered so far. However, the existence of these sites has only been reported within the specialised press, although each site has a wow factor.
The site of Çayönü, located around 96 kilometres from Göbekli Tepe, conforms to a design that is known as a “grill plan”, as it looks like a grill. This reveals that careful planning went into its construction. Americans Linda and Robert Braidwood, together with Turkish archaeologist Halet Çambel, began to excavate Çayönü in 1964 and found that the floors of the buildings were made of terrazzo (burnt crushed lime and clay), although at the time of the discovery it was thought that this had first been used by the Romans. The site also revealed the use of metals and the earliest evidence of the smelting of copper, though some nevertheless argue that the copper was originally cold-hammered rather than smelted. The use of copper should not come as a total surprise, as the site is within range of copper ore deposits (as well as obsidian) at Ergani in nearby Diyarbakir Province. And all of this in a site dated to 7500–6600 BC. Çayönü is often seen as the site that began the epoch that would culminate in Çatal Höyük.
Çayönü presented evidence of the first farmyard pigs, but it also revealed a hoard of human skulls, one found under an altar-like slab and stained with human blood. Some have concluded that this is an indication of human sacrifice, while others have been unwilling to go that far based on a single type of artefact. Other archaeological evidence suggests that some people were killed in huge death pits, while children were buried alive in jars or roasted in large bronze bowls. Çayönü is therefore civilisation, but perhaps not as we like to know it.
Another important site is Nevali Çori, in Hilvan Province between Diyarbakir and Sanliurfa. Here, Harald Hauptmann began excavations in 1979 and was able to uncover large limestone statues. In 1991, the site was submerged with the construction of Lake Atatürk Dam. It shares many parallels with Göbekli Tepe and is dated to 8400–8000 BC. All the artefacts retrieved are now in museums, including a life-sized egg-like head with crude ears and a carved ponytail, found in a niche at the centre of a north-western wall. Interestingly, the ponytail is actually a curling serpent that ends in a mushroom-like cap. Whatever being the figure is meant to represent, German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt believes it was worshipped as a deity.
Nevali Çori set the stage for Göbekli Tepe: shortly after its disappearance under the waters, Göbekli Tepe emerged from the sands. Many people highlight the T-shaped pillars of Göbekli Tepe as the “signature” of the site. However, such T-shaped pillars were also found in Nevali Çori. Site-wise, Nevali Çori is more square than circular in design, although a square precinct has been found at Göbekli Tepe, too. Although there are several parallels between the two sites, Nevali Çori’s pillars are nevertheless smaller and its shrine is located inside a village.
The Göbekli Tepe site revealed
In comparison, the site of Göbekli Tepe is small. British author Andrew Collins has compared its size to that of “three tennis courts”. Its principal excavators are Klaus Schmidt and Harald Hauptmann of the German Archaeological Institute in Istanbul. All of the complexes in Göbekli Tepe that they have unearthed so far are typified by structures containing T-pillars.
These pillars were used as “drawing boards” and many depict animals, with an apparent preference for boars, foxes, reptiles, lions, crocodiles and birds, as well as insects and spiders. Most of these were carved out of the flat surfaces of the pillars. However, some are three-dimensional sculptures, including one find, made during the 2006 excavation season, of a reptilian creature descending on the side of a T-pillar, demonstrating that whoever created this had mastered the art of stone carving—on a par with much of what we would see thousands of years later in Sumer and Egypt.
So far, four circular/ovalshaped complexes have been excavated. The walls are made of unworked dry stone and the floors of terrazzo. The interior of the walls usually have several T-pillars set along them in a radiating pattern, the depth of the pillar normally against or near the wall so that the two main surfaces of the pillar could be carved and seen by whomever was inside the complex. A low bench runs along the entire exterior wall of each complex.
The structures are situated on the southern slope of the hill, orientated roughly north–south with their entrances to the south. All the T-pillars were excavated from a stone quarry on the lower southwestern slope of the hill. One pillar remains in situ in the quarry; it is seven metres long and three metres wide, and if fully excavated would have weighed around 50 tonnes, underlining that building with stones that weigh tonnes did not begin in Egypt or in England with Stonehenge.
Complex A, the first circular structure to be excavated, is nicknamed “the snake column building” because depictions of the snake somewhat dominate the carvings on the T-pillars. One is of a “net” containing snakes. Another pillar, however, depicts a “triad” of bull, fox and crane, positioned one above the other. Some pillars only feature a bull, others only a fox, and so on.
Complex B measures nine metres in diameter when measured from east to west, and 10 to 15 metres north to south (part of it is still to be excavated). It is nevertheless the only complex dug to floor level, revealing the terrazzo floor surface. Two central pillars have a large fox depicted on them. One central pillar, no. 9, is 3.4 m high; pillar no. 10 is 3.6 m high; their weight is 7.1 and 7.2 tonnes respectively. The complex was clearly built to “house” these monolithic pillars, which prove how well-versed our ancestors were in working with gigantic stones, not merely in quarrying them but in shaping and decorating them as well. Archaeologists believe that 200 T-pillars originally stood at Göbekli Tepe. If each weighed “only” five tonnes, it would still mean that 1,000 tonnes of pillars were excavated and decorated, and it highlights the importance of the site and the effort that went into creating it.
Complex C is nicknamed “the circle of the boar”, as it depicts various wild pigs. There remain nine pillars around the wall, but several were removed at some point in the past. One pillar shows a net of birds. As later cultures are known to have caught migratory cranes in nets, could this be a custom that was practised much earlier than assumed? Complex C is also of interest because a U-shaped stone has been found there which is deemed to have been the access stone. This stone has a central passage of 70 centimetres in width, and one side of the U is topped with a depiction of a boar; the other side unfortunately is missing. Again, the U shape and the boar underline the craftsmen’s technical expertise in carving, which is shown even more so on pillar no. 27, featuring the earlier-mentioned three-dimensional reptilian creature. This intricate sculpture could be regarded as being on a par with Michelangelo’s statue of David.
Complex D is nicknamed “the Stone Age zoo”. Pillar no. 43 has scorpions, and some pillars are indeed so profusely decorated—much more intensively than in the other complexes—that “zoo” is quite an apt description. Once again, there are two central pillars (nos 18 and 31), though other pillars reveal symbols, like one in the shape of the letter H as well as one with an H turned 90 degrees. The site has revealed other symbols, specifically a cross, a resting half-moon and horizontal bars—evidence that the origin of writing is likely to be much older than is currently assumed. Pillar no. 33 is the “star” of the complex. Schmidt states that the shapes on this pillar come close to the Egyptian hieroglyphs, hence he posits the existence of a pictographic language in the 10th millennium BC.
Combined, these four complexes—and others, still unexcavated—are a series of ovals and resemble the layout of the oval-shaped Stone Age complexes found on Malta. This is all the more remarkable as Malta’s oval shapes were considered unique, though some of the megaliths on Sardinia also display some oval-like tendencies but not as profoundly as at Göbekli Tepe.
A “rock temple” lower down on the slope is equally oval in shape and has an opening to the “burial chamber”. Whereas at other sites these openings are so narrow that a human could not navigate to the interior, here it is wide enough to enter.
Elsewhere on the site, on the northern slope of the hill, there is a rectangular complex named “the lion column building”. Its four pillars have depictions of leonine creatures, which could also be tigers or leopards. One pillar has a 30-cm-high graffito of a squatting woman who appears to be giving birth.
Speculation on Göbekli Tepe
Excavations at Göbekli Tepe are still ongoing; only a quarter of the suspected 200 T-pillars have been discovered so far, and not all the structures have been unearthed. In short, further surprises may be in store. It is therefore early days to draw major conclusions, but what could it all mean? The site definitely demonstrates that things which we thought were much more recent are far older—and all present in one site, sitting in a region which shows that a civilisation worthy of that name existed there in the 10th millennium BC, millennia before anyone would have dared to guess a few decades ago.
Klaus Schmidt has labelled Göbekli Tepe “the first temple” and “a sanctuary of the Stone Age hunter”. He sees the site as part of a death cult, not specifically linked with a sedentary group but a type of central sanctuary for several of the tribes living in the region. The carved animals are believed to have been there to protect the dead. At Çayönü, as previously described, one structure has a cellar that was found to contain human skulls and bones. So far, though, Göbekli Tepe has no evidence of habitation and therefore appears to have been purely a religious centre.
Once again, it appears that, just as the ancient Egyptians did, the civilisation that constructed Göbekli Tepe had far greater regard for their religious buildings than for any structures of a “practical” or more materialistic nature. Still, with only Complex B excavated to floor level, no tombs or graves have been found to date.
Some have voiced criticism as to whether hunter-gatherers could have created such a structure as Göbekli Tepe. The many flint arrowheads (and the lack of construction tools) found around the site would seem to support this criticism, and one could even see these artefacts as part of sacred hunts rather than as part of the daily activities to put food on the table—if indeed tables even existed then.
Schmidt maintains that the hunter-gatherers convened at the site at certain times of the year. Whether these meetings were determined by solar or lunar cycles is anyone’s guess, but it is nevertheless an interesting question to ponder. Equally, one could logically conclude that those who constructed the site lived there and were a dedicated resource supported by others who sustained them in dietary and housing needs. Archaeologists have estimated that up to 500 persons would have been required to extract the 10- to 20-tonne pillars and move them from the quarry to their destination, a distance ranging from 100 to 500 metres. However, Schmidt actually believes that maintaining the community of builders was the real reason behind why our ancestors “invented” agriculture: they began to cultivate the wild grasses on the hills to sustain this sedentary population. In short, he believes that “religion motivated people to take up farming”.
As well as appearing to have ritual significance, Göbekli Tepe, with its large and exquisitely decorated stone blocks, reveals that its creators had an extraordinary ability and familiarity with stone masonry and carving. That our ancestors in 10,000 BC were so skilled is an archaeological discovery that is wiping out long-cherished beliefs about the origin of civilisation.
As for the carvings, why were some and not other animals chosen? Why do the depictions seem to have no clear or apparent organisation but appear to be a rather random collection? Truth is, we don’t know. In later civilisations, all of these animals were given divine attributes. Some cultures chose to depict snakes because these animals shed their skin, which they saw as a symbol of rebirth. Others opted for the same animal for different reasons. So far, there is no way of knowing what beliefs the creators and users of Göbekli Tepe held.
Some observers have pointed out that some of the cranes are depicted with human-like knees and have suggested that a form of shamanism was practised inside this temple. Sister sites have revealed sculptures of a mixture of animal and human, specifically that of the body of a bird with a human head. As it happened, thousands of years later the ancient Egyptians used this symbol as a hieroglyph to depict the ba, the human soul freed from the body at death or during shamanic flight.
Andrew Collins has specifically underlined the shamanic potential of these sites in modern-day Turkey. The image of the previously mentioned naked woman depicts her hair in the shape of a hemispherical mushroom cap. The side of one pillar at Göbekli Tepe features a series of serpents with mushroom-shaped heads, four winding their way downwards and a fifth one climbing up to meet them, while the other side shows several interwoven serpents wearing mushroom-like caps, eight emerging at the top and nine at the bottom. Is this evidence of a ritual involving hallucinogenic mushrooms or similar mind-altering substances?
The bones of vultures have been found at Nevali Çori, Göbekli Tepe and Jerf el-Ahmar (in Syria). A communal cave site, Shanidar, in the Upper Zagros Mountains of northern Iraq, contained a series of severed birds’ wings covered with red ochre. The remains have been dated to c. 8870 BC. The wings are believed to have been used in some ceremony, but precisely in what manner remains unknown. However, it is known that, in the distant past, the people of this region placed the bodies of the dead on high constructions and let vultures eat the flesh of the dead. Depictions of such a Neolithic excarnation tower have been found on a mural in Çatal Höyük. Interestingly, human bones have recently been found in the soil that once filled the niches behind the megaliths at Göbekli Tepe. Schmidt argues: “...the ancient hunters brought the corpses of relatives here, and installed them in the open niches by the stones. The corpses were then excarnated.” Not just vultures but wild animals seem to have taken part in this ritual. This may explain why so many animals are depicted on the T-pillars: perhaps the people who constructed these sites felt that “something” of the dead lived on in these animals.
Cradles of civilisation
What is known is that Göbekli Tepe and its sister sites have pushed back the age of monolithic building much further in time. Previously, we looked to the likes of Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, but now we find that our ancestors were hauling massive stones to build their constructions around 12,000 years ago. Even if a structure like the Sphinx were suddenly found to be 10,000 years old, the immediate reaction might now perhaps be: “So what? It is not that unique.” Furthermore, if the dates for some of these sites in Turkey pre-date the assumed time-frame for such events as the disappearance of Atlantis or the Great Flood, it means that these ancient ancestors cannot be neatly placed as “survivors from a deluge”.
Our ancient history has grown much more interesting and complex. The cultures that followed the establishment of Göbekli Tepe had domesticated pigs, sheep, cattle and goats and cultivated wheat species such as einkorn. Indeed, recent analysis has shown that the first cultivation of domesticated wheat occurred at Karacadag, a mountain 32 kilometres from Göbekli Tepe. Other domesticated cereals such as rye and oats also originated here. According to Schmidt, this adventure began c. 8000 BC.
It is easy and tempting to label this region as “the cradle of civilisation”, but the fact of the matter is that it has already been proven that corn (maize) was engineered in Mexico at the same time, only underlining how the frontiers of “civilisation” are being pushed back on both continents. In fact, there is evidence of Barbary sheep being cultivated by our ancestors in North Africa as early as 18,000 BC. Furthermore, several grains of emmer wheat have been found at the Palestinian site of Nahal Oren, suggesting cultivation of this crop occurred there as early as 14,000 BC.
In any case, it is clear that Göbekli Tepe is not alone. It may be receiving much of the focus, but another site, Karahan Tepe, 63 kilometres east of Urfa in the Tektek Mountains, deserves attention. Discovered in 1997 and investigated by archaeologist Bahattin Çelik of the Turkish Historical Society, it has been dated to c. 9500–9000 BC. It has a number of T-pillars as well as high reliefs of a winding snake and other carvings similar to those at Göbekli Tepe. Covering an area of 325,000 m2, Karahan Tepe is much bigger than Göbekli Tepe. The stone pillars are spaced 1.5 to 2.0 metres apart and protrude above ground level, waiting for an archaeologist to expose them fully. Other carved stones include a battered torso of a naked man and polished rock with forms of goats, gazelles and rabbits.
It is too early to draw any extraordinary conclusions from these sites, apart from the fact that our history is no longer as we know it. But just as Jericho proved in part that the Bible contains historical facts, these sites may yet substantiate some of the Sumerian myths which claimed that agriculture, animal husbandry and weaving had been brought to mankind from the sacred mountain Du-Ku, which was inhabited by the Anunna deities. Though it’s unlikely that this mountain was Göbekli Tepe, we are probably in the correct general vicinity here at the frontier of the Taurus Mountains.
Around 8000 BC, descendants of the creators of Göbekli Tepe turned on their forefathers’ achievements and entombed their temple under thousands of tonnes of earth, creating the artificial hill—a “belly”—that we see today. Why they did this is unknown, though it was a decision that preserved the monument for posterity but also involved an extraordinary amount of time and effort. Schmidt argues that the local landscape began to change around that time: as the trees were chopped down, the soil began to lose its fertility; the area became arid and bare, and the people were forced to move elsewhere. Could it be that they began to make their descent and, millennia later, established what is known as the Sumerian civilisation? Such a scenario is just one possibility.
Even in ancient Egypt, religious constructions were often abandoned if not dismantled after a while because they belonged to a particular “cycle” of time that had since passed. If that were the case with Göbekli Tepe, it would mean that knowledge of astronomy is older by millennia. The past five decades have so radically reshaped our understanding of the period 10,000–4000 BC, specifically the level of “civilisation” our ancestors had achieved in those days, that this shouldn’t at all come as a surprise. And it seems that it’s a given that somewhere, even older towns are waiting to be uncovered.
However, it is equally clear that entering into the mindset of these hunter-gatherers—how they saw these animals and what they believed happened to the dead—is a difficult subject which will require years of study. Alas, it is an area where few archaeologists dare to tread, and in all likelihood they will hop from one site to the next, as they’ve done for several decades, and will “only” uncover the fact that civilisation is much older than we’ve assumed. Already, other sites are vying for Göbekli Tepe’s fame. The previously mentioned site of Jerf el-Ahmar, located along the Euphrates in Syria, has been dated to 9600–8500 BC. Other sites will certainly soon submit their applications. It’s likely they will all reveal that they are part of our history, but not as we know it.
This article appeared in Nexus Magazine, Volume 16, Number 4 (June-July 2009) and Darklore (Volume 4).
The following presentation based on the lecture for the Swami Bhajananda Saraswati Award for Vedic Sciences of the International Academy of Physical Sciences and the keynote address at the First Gobeklitepe Symposium, 6th Oct.2012, gives an idea of his work in this area.
B.G. Sidharth, B.M. Birla Science Centre,
Hyderabad 500020 (India)
We discuss the astronomical content of    the Rig Veda and subsequent literature. This reveals good knowledge of a luni solar calendar on the lines of our present day panchang. It also reveals a surprising degree of other astronomical content. All this yields a tradition of continuing observation with dates and even latitudes consistent with Anatolia. Finally all this is matched with archaeological content, starting from about 10,000 B.C.
The Calendar & Chronology
The Rig Veda has been recognized as the oldest Indo-European text. Unfortunately it has not been properly dated.
It would be foolhardy for anyone to claim an understanding of the Vedic Samhitas or texts or even the subsequent Vedic literature. They constitute a body of largely inexplicable hymns whose meanings have been dubiously extracted over the millennia.
The Vedas themselves give a hint about the content. For example the hymn Rig Veda (1.164.39) declares,
  “These hymns (Rks) are writ on the highest heavens, wherein are situated the shining ones; what can he understand who knows not this; but they who know it are here present.”
Clearly the hymns are based on an astronomical study of the sky. Such a study was forced upon human beings when, following a thaw in the ice ages, they took up an agricultural lifestyle giving up the hunter gatherer ways.
This transition or Agrarian Revolution is in fact described in the ancient text, the Vishnu Purana. This lead to the River Valley civilizations, and moreover people needed to know when to sow the seeds, when to reap the harvest and so on, all dependent on seasons.
A calendar cum clock is readily available in the sky, in the harmonious motions of the Sun, the Moon and the stars. This harmony or rta mentioned in the Rig Veda, gives rise to words like Ritu or season, ritual or rite, as festivities were seasonal and ryot or farmer (Roy, 1976).
The calendaric and astronomical knowledge in the Vedic literature was in a camouflaged and allegorical form. A very good example is the Rig Vedic hymn  (R.V.1.105.18)
   “A ruddy wolf beheld me once and slunk through the houses.”
This is an apparently meaningless verse. The operative words here are Vrika (she wolf) and ma sakrit. However the line becomes extremely meaningful with the insight of the scholar Yaska of Nirukta fame.
Using the grammatical rules of Sanskrit, and taking the cue from a very ancient tradition even at that time, Yaska pointed out that Vrika literally means one whose light keeps increasing and decreasing (Vivrita Jyotishka va vikrita jyotiska va vi Kranta jyotishka va).. He concluded “Vrika chandrama bhavathi” that is Vrika means Moon.
The next thing to be noticed was that the second word was really to be split as masa krita, that is the maker of the months. On the other hand even today we call nakshatras or lunar asterisms as houses – this is true even for example in Arabic, where they use a lunar calendar.
So the meaning of the obscure line is, “the Moon, the maker of the months, moves through the nakshatras. (lunar asterisms)”
This gives a taste of the extreme care with which the Vedic mantras have to be studied and interpreted taking into account the deliberate allegory.
There are several other references in the Rig Veda itself. For instance, “Varuna  (literally ‘all encompassing’) knows the twelve Moons; he also knows the Moon of later birth.”
This is a clear reference to the 13th or intercalary month needed to bring back a purely lunar calendar into step with the solar calendar, as an agricultural society, ultimately needs a solar calendar, even though a lunar calendar can be more accurate.
It must be borne in mind that while the Samhitas or hymns were much revered, their meaning had already become obscure and a matter of guess work, even thousands of years ago.
Thus the Aitreya Brahmana, a very ancient text, the oldest in this genre already makes guesses about the meaning with phrases like, “Or this could mean …” and so on.
The obscurity of the Vedic hymns is contained in some of the Rig Vedic legends, some of which are all but forgotten  today.
For example there are a number of hymns in the Rig Veda which are sung by Sunaha Shepa. The Vedic legend tells us that he was being sacrificed to the God Varuna, and he was tied down with three bonds. Sunaha Shepa himself repeatedly refers to the three bonds that tie him and prays to Varuna for release.
This obscure legend becomes meaningful if one realizes that Sunaha Shepa represents the constellation Orion the Hunter which has three stars on the waist.
Around 10,000 B.C. Orion would  be barely visible, being low, near the horizon, this being the case at a latitude of between 37 and 40 degrees North –
  Anatolia!! Sirius the dog star would have been just on the horizon, barely visible. At higher latitudes, it would not have been visible at all while at lower latitudes it would be higher in the sky. Sirius the dog st
The legend of Sunaha Shepa resurfaces again in the legend of the emperor Trisanku in the Ramayana. The name literally means 3 knots or knobs. This emperor wanted to ascend to the heavens in his mortal or human body but was barred by Indra the King of Gods so that he remained hanging midway.
Curiously enough it appears yet again in the story of Yudhishtara a hero of Mahabharata and a faithful dog (Sirius the dog star) entering the heavens – the dog is not allowed in. All this is elaborated upon in (Cf.ref. Sidharth, Celestial Key to the Vedas).
The date, 10,000 B.C. suggested by the above is explicitly spelt out in the Taittriya Brahmana (3.1.2) which declares that Aja Ekapad (or the asterism Poorvabhadrapada) is exactly at the East point, this having occurred around 10,000 B.C.
A later marker comes from the statement, again from Taittreya Samhita (6.5.3) that the asterism Krittika (Pleides) was the North star, that is at Winter Solstice, something which occurred around 8530 B.C. This was actually noticed by the 19th century scholar S.B. Dikshit – but he rejected this meaning because 8530 B.C. was much too much in antiquity.
How could it be, when the earliest civilizations like the Sumerian or Egyptian were hardly as old as 4000 B.C.? Dikshit went on to interpret, the line forcibly and wrongly, as referring to Pleides at Vernal Equinox.
There are other indications to this very date, as well as also to other dates which I have described in greater detail elsewhere (Sidharth, Celestial Key to the Vedas and references therein).
   Similarly the Tripura legend refers to a date around 7300 B.C. We can also conclude this date from the fact that the nakshatra Pushya (Beta Arietes) was at that time at the Vernal equinox.
There are indications for a date 6000 B.C. as well. For example, the Aitreya Brahmana refers to Aditi or Punarvasu (Castor and Pollax) being exactly at the East point. Interestingly, Tilak interprets this differently, but came to the same conclusion.
Another explicit date is mentioned in the Satapata Brahmana, one of the later parts of Vedic literature. It refers to Krittika or Pleides as being at the East point something which happened around 2350 B.C.
We then come to a better known and more recent source of Indian Astronomy proper, the Jyotish Vedaanga which gives a date of around 1350 B.C. and a latitude of around 35 degrees from the ratio of the longest day to night. Incidentally the present day tradition of Kumbha Mela can be traced to this epoch.
2. Astronomy
Apart from these explicit references there is much of calendrical astronomy that is couched in the Samhitas and Vedic literature. For example the famous hymn from the Rig Veda (3.9.9), sometimes attributed to Vishwamitra that declares that “3339 Devas worship Agni…” The pre-Vedic Nivids characterize these as being 3003, 303 and 33 (giving an improving series for the computation of the exact length of the year).
Or the mention of “6333 Gandharvas”. These numbers couch a determination of the length of lunar months and the tropical year to an extremely high degree of accuracy, as has been explained elsewhere.
A few other examples of astronomical references in the Rik Samhita itself, and therefore dating back to at least 10,000 B.C. are:
1.  The Earth and heaven are described as two bowls – the rotundity of the Earth was known. This is corroborated in other and later literature.
2.   An obscure hymn about the Devas or bright ones declares, “Seen only are their lowest places but they of a truth are in secret locations”, a clear reference to the fact that while the stars appear to be all at the same distance from us, actually they are at different distances, something which even 16th Century scholars missed out.
      More importantly such hymns reveal that the observations encompassed considerations like parallax, so that the motion of the Earth was known.
3.  Several hymns to the Ashwins are very curious. They reveal that the Ashwins are the planets Mercury and Venus and that their motions were meticulously studied, including their periods of revolution etc. In fact a very obscure Rig Vedic hymn declares that they have forms like the Moon, that is phases, which is absolutely true. The other planets cannot have phases as they are outside the earth’s orbit around the Sun. As Galileo realized in the 17th century, this proved a helio centric theory.
4. There are any number of other interesting references: for example, that the Moon shines by sunlight, the water cycle and so on. Many of these concepts later reappeared in texts like Vishnu Sahasranama, Aditya Hridayam and Puranas and so on.
3. Archaeological Consideration: Gobekli tepe and Nevali Cori
Finally I would like to conclude with some archaeological evidence, which is the hard evidence, the last word. If we go back to the Rig Vedic times, purely from an archaeological point of view it should be easy to disprove the dates or put them under question if there was no such evidence.
Fortunately, starting from the early 1990s, exactly such evidence has shown up in the Anatolian region (Turkey). This evidence has completely stumped historians who have believed that the earliest civilization with Megalithic elements was from around 4000 B.C. that is Sumer and Egypt According to the textbooks the earlier civilizations would have been more of the Neolithic time.
However the excavations at Nevali Cori and Gobekle tepe (both within a few kilometers of each other) near Urfa (in Turkey) have turned the history books upside down.
Here, most amazingly is revealed amongst many other sculpted artifacts,  the head of a Vedic priest, complete with the shika or pigtail.
There are also several pillars and structures with all the astronomical motifs that could be found in the Rig Veda and indicative of a high degree of artistry. Most importantly, the latitude of this place is the same 37 degrees North alluded to earlier. Undoubtedly both these structures represented perhaps the oldest astronomical observation Centre in history.
Let us examine this in a little more detail. As noted, based on the rising exactly at the East point (Vernal Equinox) of the asterism Aja Ekapad (Uttara Bhadrapada), we can conclude that this observation was made in 10,000 B.C., the date of the Gobekli tepe excavations by Klaus Schmidt and coworkers.
The motifs on the pillars can be understood on the basis of the symbols of Rig Vedic Astronomy.
Firstly in an enclosure D there are 12 oblisques or pillars, one for each month. These pillars show the figure of a fox or wolf (Vrika). As noted this is a symbol for the Moon, the maker of the months. There are two central pillars, in addition, which are aligned in the East-West direction.
There is the symbol of the thin crescent moon eclipsing the Sun with a symbol resembling H. This is a reference to the total Solar Eclipse in the constellation of Gemini the twins (the H).
Beside enclosure D is the enclosure C, which according to some archaeologists is a temple to the Boar. There are several inlaid images and even beautiful sculptures of boars. The significance of the Boar “Temple” will be touched upon soon.
There are several other familiar astronomical symbols like the Scorpion, all mentioned in the Rig Veda. (In fact the word zodiac comes from the word “zodos”, (Greek for small animal))
Another striking motif on the Gobekli tepe pillars is that of a bird with a circular disc – they represent Garuda the bird which carries Vishnu, the Sun and the Sun itself. So also images of the bird Garuda carrying a snake as described in the Puranas.
Extremely significant is a phallic motif with a headless man. It is impossible to properly interpret this symbol without referring to the following Vedic legend from the Aitreya Brahmana.
The legend goes on to say that Prajapati (Orion) had an incestuous relationship with his daughter and the incensed Gods shot him with an arrow and also beheaded him Exactly such a motif is found!! 
The legend goes on that an animal’s head was then found for Prajapati. All this describes the constellation Orion: To this day the star Betelguese (Arudra) at the head is called Mrgsira (animal’s head) while the arrow represents the three stars on the waist of Orion.
There are some hymns in the Rig Veda elaborating on the legend of Sunaha Shepa. This young man was to be sacrificed and was tied down with three bonds or pegs, as described earlier. One kept him on Earth, one was in heavens and one was in the middle.
As described all this refers, once again to Orion and importantly the latitude of Gobekli tepe and the date 10,000 B.C.
Incidentally Taurus the bull (Vrishabha) itself is a motif in the pillars there.
The variants of the Sunaha Shepa legend have been mentioned and this story appears much later in other cultures also.
There are several other astronomical motifs both at Gobekli tepe and Nevali Cori which cannot be meaningfully interpreted except in terms of the astronomy of the Rig Veda. For example the twins (Gemini) dancing with a tortoise or turtle.
As explained elsewhere, tortoise is a symbol for the slow moving equinox in the sky due to precession and the whole motif represents the equinox in Gemini the twins (Mithuna).
All this provides irrefutable proof of the Antiquity of the Vedic Civilization, on the one hand, and on the other, how wrong our picture of pre history has been. The Gobeklitepe and Nevali Cori excavations are the hard evidence for the author’s prediction.
4. Miscellaneous Considerations
1. Recently Atkinson and coworkers have confirmed a conclusion they had come to a few years ago that the Indo European languages originated in Anatolia. This was on the basis of an analysis of several words and the model of a virus spreading amongst humans. However this is obvious from the above considerations. In fact the mother language would be the Vedic language.
2. There is also direct evidence of cloth being spun in this region, going back to something like 8000 B.C.Such spinning is referred to in the Rig Veda.
3. Is there any mention in history about a civilization going back to around 10,000 B.C.? As pointed out by the author several years ago such a legend, going back to that period, namely that of Atlantis has persisted, at least from the time of Plato.
4. It is inconceivable that the rich astronomical and even pictographical content mentioned above would suddenly spring up around 10,000 B.C. without any background. 
Indeed the cave paintings in Lassaux or the later mother goddess depiction (c.19000 B.C.?) going back to much earlier times would provide such a prelude.
In the case of the mother goddess depiction it is worth pointing out that also indicated is a horn with a number of markings, perhaps indicative of months. This would represent the crescent Moon and the  days of the lunar month or months themselves.
In this connection the earlier than Rig Veda Nivids have been referred to above, wherein the exact luni-solar cycle contained in 3339 has been mentioned.
5. We have already pointed out that this astronomical tradition coincided with the beginning of the Agrarian revolution.
Indeed it appears that all grain varieties in the world can be genetically traced to varieties found in this very Gobleke tepe – Nevali Cori region.
In fact the etymology of the word Aryan (Arya) could be traced back to the Sanskrit root Ri, meaning to plough.
6. Another very ancient legend is that of Daksha (literally dextrous) or the star Vega (Abhijith). According to the legend Daksha got into the displeasure of Siva, and was destroyed by the latter.
According to a popular interpretation this legend refers to the following fact: This lunar asterism (Daksha or Abhijith or Vega) was originally one of the 28 lunar asterisms which was later axed because the luni-solar month is closer to not 28 but 27 days.
However given the above circumstances the legend could refer to the fact that a little before 10,000 B.C. the star Vega was the pole star but thereafter moved away from this important position.
In any case a knowledge of what is called precession was there. For example the Maitri Upanishad declares, Even the fixed Pole Star moves away.
It must be mentioned that such “falling” stars or asterisms is mentioned in other contexts also referring to their moving away from important celestial points.
7. It would thus appear that astronomical observations and dating of important events like eclipses was closely observed and followed over the millennium.
Yet another good example is the legend of Tripura, in which the God Siva destroys the city of the Danavas when it was in the constellation of Cancer (Karkata). Shorn of allegory, the reference here is to a solar eclipse that took place around the same time as the Nevali Cori period.
8. Finally it should be mentioned that a single date here or there would not be conclusive. Indeed there are any number of cross references pointing to the dates which have been mentioned above.
An example is the boar symbol touched upon earlier, which is depicted on several of the pillars, and even beautiful sculptures – This plays an important role in later mythology as an Avatar or incarnation of God which rescued the Vedas from a terrible FLOOD.
This itself could be a pointer to some of the violent floodings that took place in that epoch, due to the withdrawal of the great ice age and the consequent rise in sea levels.
If the Gobeklitepe enclosure C is indeed a temple to the boar, as archaeologists suppose, then it would be the only such temple outside India, where there are still a few boar (varaha) temples.In any case the relef work on the pillars represent some mythology of that time (rather than being random), as is agreed by even Klaus Schmidt the excavator.
9. It appears that there might have been two types of people at that time: a priestly class and the more primitive hunter-gatherer or Neolithic folk. The latter might have realized the complex with stone tools, while the former might have directed them.
S.B. Roy, “Prehistoric Lunar Astronomy” Institute of Chronology, New Delhi, 1976.
B.G. Sidharth, “The Celestial Key to the Vedas” Inner Traditions, Rochester, 1999 (and several references therein).

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