Unexplained Ancient Mysteries
Göbekli Tepe (Turkish: [ɟœbecˈli teˈpe], "Potbelly Hill") is an archaeological site in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Şanlıurfa and Six miles from Urfa, an ancient city in Turkey.
This incredible archaeological discovery consists of massive carved stones about 11,000 years old, crafted and arranged by prehistoric people in a time when mankind had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery. Gobekli Tepe megaliths predates Stonehenge by some 6,000 years.
Göbekli Tepe attests to many centuries of activity, beginning at least as early as the Epipaleolithic period. Structures identified with the succeeding period, Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), have been dated to the 10th millennium BCE. Remains of smaller buildings identified as Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) and dating from the 9th millennium BCE have also been unearthed.
More than 200 pillars in about 20 circles have been found thus far, most not yet dug up. Each pillar has a height of up to 6 m (20 ft) and weighs up to 10 tons. They are fitted into sockets that were hewn out of the local bedrock. In the second phase, belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), the erected pillars are smaller and stood in rectangular rooms with floors of polished lime. The site was abandoned after the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB). Younger structures date to classical times.
Göbekli Tepe site during excavation.
Pillar 2 from Enclosure A (Layer III) with low reliefs of what are believed to be a bull, fox, and crane
A complex called "Temple of the Rock". Has a floor that was hewn out of the bedrock and smoothed, similar to the terrazzo floors of the younger complexes at Göbekli Tepe. Immediately northwest of this area are two cistern-like pits. One of these pits has a table-high pin as well as a staircase with five steps.
At the western escarpment, a small cave has been discovered in which a small relief depicting a bovid was found. It is the only relief found in this cave.
Animal sculpture (c. 9,000 BCE)
Pillar 27 from Enclosure C (Layer III) with the sculpture of a predatory animal in high relief catching a prey in low relief.
At the early stage of the site's history, circular compounds appear. They range from 10 to 30 metres in diameter. Their most notable feature is the presence of T-shaped limestone pillars evenly set within thick interior walls composed of unworked stone. Four such circular structures have been unearthed so far. Geophysical surveys indicate that there are 16 more, enclosing up to eight pillars each, amounting to nearly 200 pillars in all. The slabs were transported from bedrock pits located approximately 100 metres (330 ft) from the hilltop, with workers using flint points to cut through the limestone bedrock.
Pillar with the sculpture of a fox
Two taller pillars stand facing one another at the centre of each circle. Whether the circles were provided with a roof is uncertain. Stone benches designed for sitting are found in the interior. Many of the pillars are decorated with abstract, enigmatic pictograms and carved animal reliefs. The pictograms may represent commonly understood sacred symbols, as known from Neolithic cave paintings elsewhere. The reliefs depict mammals such as lions, bulls, boars, foxes, gazelles, and donkeys; snakes and other reptiles; arthropods such as insects and arachnids; and birds, particularly vultures. At the time the edifice was constructed, the surrounding country was likely to have been forested and capable of sustaining this variety of wildlife, before millennia of human settlement and cultivation led to the near–Dust Bowl conditions prevalent today. Vultures also feature prominently in the iconography of Çatalhöyük and Jericho.
Monolith with possible bird figures
Few humanoid figures have appeared in the art at Göbekli Tepe. Some of the T-shaped pillars have human arms carved on their lower half perhaps intended to represent the bodies of stylized humans (or perhaps deities). Loincloths appear on the lower half of a few pillars. The true meaning is not known.
Some of the floors in this, the oldest, layer are made of terrazzo (burnt lime); others are bedrock from which pedestals to hold the large pair of central pillars were carved in high relief. Radiocarbon dating places the construction of these early circles in the range of 9600 to 8800 BCE. Carbon dating suggests that (for reasons unknown) the enclosures were backfilled during the Stone Age.
Other structures assigned to Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) have several adjoining rectangular, doorless and windowless rooms have floors of polished lime reminiscent of Roman terrazzo floors. Carbon dating has yielded dates between 8800 and 8000 BCE. Several T-pillars up to 1.5 meters tall occupy the center of the rooms. A pair decorated with fierce-looking lions gives its name "lion pillar building".
The site was deliberately backfilled sometime after 8000 BCE: the buildings were buried under debris, mostly flint gravel, stone tools, and animal bones. In addition to Byblos points (weapon heads, such as arrowheads etc.) and numerous Nemrik points, Helwan-points, and Aswad-points dominate the backfill's lithic inventory.
Statue of a wild boar, Göbekli Tepe, 9000 BCE
All statements about the site must be considered preliminary, as less than 5% of the site has been excavated.
Steles and sculptures from Göbekli Tepe in Şanlıurfa Museum
Given that the original structures date to a time in our history when men were supposedly hunter gatherers, Göbekli Tepe is regarded by some as an archaeological discovery of great importance since it could profoundly change the understanding of a crucial stage in the development of human society. If indeed the site was built by hunter-gatherers as some researchers believe then it would mean that the ability to erect monumental complexes was within the capacities of these sorts of groups, which would overturn previous assumptions.
In addition to its large dimensions, the side-by-side existence of multiple pillar shrines makes the location unique. There are no comparable monumental complexes from its time.
It remains unknown how a population large enough to construct, augment, and maintain such a substantial complex was mobilized and compensated or fed in the conditions of pre-sedentary society. Scholars have been unable to interpret the pictograms, and do not know what meaning the animal reliefs had for visitors to the site. The variety of fauna depicted – from lions and boars to birds and insects – makes any single explanation problematic. As there is little or no evidence of habitation, and many of the animals pictured are predators, the stones may have been intended to stave off evils through some form of magic representation.
The assumption that the site was strictly cultic in purpose and not inhabited has been challenged as well by the suggestion that the structures served as large communal houses, "similar in some ways to the large plank houses of the Northwest Coast of North America with their impressive house posts and totem poles."
Human burials may have occurred at the site. The reason the complex was carefully backfilled remains unexplained. Based on current evidence, it is difficult to deduce anything certain about the originating culture or the site's significance.
Still, archaeologists have their theories—evidence, perhaps, of the irresistible human urge to explain the unexplainable. The surprising lack of evidence that people lived there, argues against its use as a settlement or even a place where, for instance, clan leaders gathered. So we are just don’t have any real answers, who built it or why or even how, it’s one of our greatest mysteries.
Stonehenge in Britain symbolizes mystery, power, and endurance. Its original purpose is unclear to us, but some have speculated that it was a temple made for the worship of ancient earth deities. It has been called an astronomical observatory for marking significant events on the prehistoric calendar.
Others claim that it was a sacred site for the burial of high-ranking citizens from the societies of long ago.
While we cannot say with any degree of certainty what it was for, we can say that it was constructed for something especially important to the ancients. Why else would they have put forth the effort and investment that it took to construct Stonehenge.
The stones we see today represent Stonehenge in ruin. Many of the original stones have fallen or been removed by previous generations for home construction or road repair. There has been serious damage to some of the smaller bluestones resulting from close visitor contact (prohibited since 1978) and the prehistoric carvings on the larger sarsen stones show signs of significant wear.
About 2,000 BC, the first stone circle (which is now the inner circle), comprised of small bluestones, was set up, but abandoned before completion. The stones used in that first circle are believed to be from the Prescelly Mountains, located roughly 240 miles away, at the southwestern tip of Wales.
The bluestones weigh up to 4 tons each and about 80 stones were used, in all. Given the distance they had to travel, this presented quite a significant transportation problem.
Modern theories speculate that the stones were dragged by roller and sledge from the inland mountains to the headwaters of Milford Haven. There they were loaded onto rafts, barges or boats and sailed along the south coast of Wales, then up the Rivers Avon and Frome to a point near present-day Frome in Somerset.
From this point, so the theory goes, the stones were hauled overland, again, to a place near Warminster in Wiltshire, approximately 6 miles away. From there, a slow float down the River Wylye to Salisbury, then up the Salisbury Avon to West Amesbury, leaving only a short 2 mile drag from West Amesbury to the Stonehenge site. Sound a little unbelievable to you as well?
Construction of the Outer Ring
The giant sarsen stones (which form the outer circle), weigh as much as 50 tons each. To transport them from the Marlborough Downs, roughly 20 miles to the north, is a problem of even greater magnitude than that of moving the bluestones. Most of the way, the going is relatively easy, but at the steepest part of the route, at Redhorn Hill, modern work studies estimate that at least 600 men would have been needed just to get each stone past this obstacle.
Once on site, a sarsen stone was prepared to accommodate stone lintels along its top surface. It was then dragged until the end was over the opening of the hole. Great levers were inserted under the stone and it was raised until gravity made it slide into the hole. At this point, the stone stood on about a 30° angle from the ground. Ropes were attached to the top and teams of men pulled from the other side to raise it into the full upright position.
It was secured by filling the hole at its base with small, round packing stones. At this point, the lintels were lowered into place and secured vertically by mortise and tenon joints and horizontally by tongue and groove joints. Stonehenge was probably finally completed around 1500 BC. Personally, it seems inconceivable to me that a people right in the middle of the Neolithic revolution, as it is called, introducing the basics of agriculture and communal civilization, would have the time or desire to put this effort forth.
The monument's construction has been attributed to many ancient peoples throughout the years, but the most captivating and enduring attribution has been to the Druids. This is an erroneous connection and was first made around 3 centuries ago by the antiquary, John Aubrey. Julius Caesar and other Roman writers told of a Celtic priesthood who flourished around the time of their first conquest (55 BC). By this time, though, the stones had been standing for 2,000 years, and were, perhaps, already in a ruined condition. Besides, the Druids worshipped in forest temples and had no need for stone structures.
As discussed earlier, in its day, the construction of Stonehenge was an impressive engineering feat, requiring commitment, time and vast amounts of manual labor.
The best guess seems to be that the Stonehenge site was begun by the people of the late Neolithic period (around 3000 BC) and carried forward by people from a new economy which was arising at this time. These "new" people, called Beaker Folk because of their use of pottery drinking vessels, began to use metal implements and to live in a more communal fashion than their ancestors.
Some think that they may have been immigrants from the continent, but that contention is not supported by archaeological evidence. It is likely that they were indigenous people doing the same old things in new ways.
The legend of King Arthur provides another story of the construction of Stonehenge. It is told by the twelfth century writer, Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his History of the Kings of Britain that Merlin brought the stones to the Salisbury Plain from Ireland. Sometime in the fifth century, there had been a massacre of 300 British noblemen by the treacherous Saxon leader, Hengest.
The story goes that the high king, Aurelius Ambrosius, wanted to create a fitting memorial to the slain men. Merlin suggested an expedition to Ireland for the purpose of transplanting the Giant's Ring stone circle to Britain.
The stones were located on "Mount Killaraus" were carried by giants and were used as a site for performing rituals and for healing. Led by King Uther and Merlin, the expedition arrived at the spot in Ireland. The Britons, none of whom were giants, apparently, were unsuccessful in their attempts to move the great stones.
At this point, Merlin realized that only his magic arts would turn the trick. So, they were dismantled and shipped back to Britain where they were set up (see illus. at right) as they had been before, in a great circle, around the mass grave of the murdered noblemen. The story goes on to tell that Aurelius, Uther and Arthur's successor, Constantine were also buried there in their time.
Whatever the truth is, we just don't know how or why this site was built. Many theories abound but certainty lies deep in our history. Could they have been constructed during one of our high period in another Golden Age,