Wednesday, January 04, 2012

WORLD'S OLDEST TEMPLE AND THE DAWN OF CIVILIZATION FEATURED IN DEC 19-26 NEW YORKER MAGAZINE

There is a vast complex of Stonehenge-style megalithic circles called Gobekli Tepe in the Urfa, Turkey countryside as reported by Elif Batuman in a fascinating article in the New Yorker. Gobekli is estimated to be 11,000 years old (6 1/2 thousand years older than the Great Pyramid, 5 1/2 thousand years older than the earliest cuneiform texts and about a thousand years older than the walls of Jericho.)

The site comprises more than 60 multi-ton T-shaped limestone pillars, most of them engraved with bas-reliefs of dangerous animals. Interestingly, the site has yielded no traces of habitation. And then, strangely, the pillars appear to have been buried deliberately and all at once around 8,200 B.C., some 1300 years after their construction.

Ms Batuman goes on to say: The idea of a religious monument built by hunter-gatherers contradicts most of what we thought we knew about religious monuments and about hunter-gatherers ... Formal religion, meanwhile, is suppose to have appeared only after agriculture produced such hierarchical social relations as required a cosmic back-story to keep them going and supplied a template for the power relationship between gods and mortals. The findings at Gobekli Tepe suggest that we have the story backward -- that it was actually the need to build a sacred site that first obliged hunter-gatherers to organize themselves as a workforce, to spend long periods of time in one place, to secure a stable food supply and eventually to invent agriculture.

Do read the rest of the article on pages 72 -85 of the Dec 19-26 New Yorker Magazine --- fascinating!

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