The oldest building in the world
The sensational discovery of a German archaeologist in Anatolia allows you to take a fresh look at the ancient history of human civilization. On a mountainside in Southeast Turkey, not far from the Syrian border, an expedition led by Klaus Schmidt dug up a magnificent ancient temple, which is 12 thousand years old.
The oldest of the religious buildings found today, Gebekli-Tepe, built in the early Neolithic era, was discovered in the middle of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, scientists became interested in this cultural monument only after massive stone walls and covered with T-shaped columns were found in the 1990s.
It is assumed that the total number of temples in Gebekli-Tepe should reach 20. Each of the buildings probably marked the ascent of Sirius in the sky at different times.
For the first time, the star Sirius appeared on the earth's sky about 11,300 thousand years ago. In terms of brightness, it takes the fourth place immediately after the Moon, Venus and Jupiter, so it certainly made an indelible impression on a person from the early Neolithic era.
Let's take a closer look at it ...
Klaus Schmidt privat-docent of the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin, is studying the ancient history of mankind. When in 1994 Schmidt began excavations at Gobekli-Tepa, he was confident that these excavations would become the main business of his life. The archaeological complex in this area can be compared with Stonehenge in England, with the only difference being that the ruins in Anatolia are 6 thousand years older.
As a child, Klaus Schmidt did not climb out of the caves in his native Germany, hoping to find prehistoric drawings there. Thirty years later, already presenting the German Archaeological Institute, he discovered something infinitely more important - the temple complex, almost two times older than all similar structures on the planet.
“This place is a supernova,” says Schmidt, standing under a lonely tree on a wind-blown hill 55 km north of the Turkish-Syrian border. “Already in the first minute after its discovery, I knew that I had two ways: either to leave here without saying a word to anyone, or to spend the rest of my life here on these excavations.”
Behind him, the first bends of the Anatolian plateau open.Ahead of Baghdad, hundreds of miles ahead, the Mesopotamian plain, like a sea of dust and color, stretches further south. Straight ahead, hidden behind the ledge of the hill, the Gobekli-Tepe stone circles. In those days, when people did not build permanent dwellings for themselves, they did not know how to make a simple clay bowl, they obtained food for themselves by hunting and gathering, the inhabitants of Southeast Anatolia erected a monumental shrine to their gods.
Compared with Stonehenge - the most famous prehistoric monument in the UK - they are not amazed by the grandeur of scale. None of the excavated round structures (there are currently four out of twenty) does not exceed 30 meters in diameter. What makes these finds quite unique are the images of boars, foxes, lions, birds, snakes and scorpions carved on them, as well as the age of the finds themselves. They were created in 9.5 thousand years BC. They are 5.5 thousand years older than the first cities of Mesopotamia and 7 thousand years old - Stonehenge.
In Gobekli Tepe, archaeologists discovered on the hill a gigantic complex of round buildings and stone pillars with carved reliefs.At present, only a small part of the buildings has been excavated, but, if we take into account the age of the ruins, it becomes immediately clear that this is a unique archaeological monument.
The ancient ruins of Nevali-Keri, which since 1992 have been located at the bottom of the Ataturk reservoir, are almost as old as Gobekli-Tepe, their age is 10,500 years. But the posts there are much smaller, and the decoration is more modest. Gobekli Tepe temples can compete at the age of Jericho, but there are no large sculptures, no architectural decorations. All other ancient archaeological sites belong to another era - they appeared about 2 thousand years later. The people who created these rounded monuments and stone bas-reliefs, the whole complex, did not even have pottery and did not grow cereal crops. They lived in settlements. But they were hunters, not farmers.
Judging by the age of the Gobekli-Tepe complex, it was in this area that hunters and gatherers moved to a sedentary lifestyle. In Gobekli-Tepe, the intellectual abilities of the people of the Stone Age, their diligence and knowledge of the construction business are most striking.But until now, scientists were confident that the implementation of such huge projects as the construction of the temple, involves a sedentary lifestyle and a high degree of organization.
“It has always been assumed that only complex societies with a hierarchical structure could build such monumental buildings, and that they appeared only with the emergence of tillage,” says Ian Hodder, a professor of anthropology at Stanford University (Stanford University), who has been leading excavations since 1993 in Chatal-Hoyuk - the most famous of the Neolithic settlements in Turkey. - Gobekli turned all the views. This is a complex structure and belongs to the era before the birth of agriculture. This fact alone places it among the most important archaeological finds over a very long period of time. ”
The archaeological site at Gobekli Tepa was first surveyed in 1963. However, then archaeologists underestimated its value, and for a long time did not work there at all. On the hill, in the thickness of which the temple complex was located, there was a field of oats. The peasants now and then removed the bulky stones that hindered them from the fields, so that the upper part of the temple was destroyed before it was investigated by scientists.
From the excavated sites, it can be concluded that people have been here for a very long time. Near the round building of the sanctuary several smaller buildings were found, in which, apparently, some ritual meetings took place. But in all these buildings there are not the slightest signs of human habitation.
Excavations have been going on for ten years. As a result, only a small part has been cleared so far, but the purpose of Gobekli Tepe for the people who built it remains unclear. Some believe that this place was intended for fertility rituals, and two tall stones in the center of each circle symbolize a man and a woman.
But Schmidt is skeptical about fertility theory. He shares the opinion that Gobekli-Tepe could be “the last flourishing of the semi-nomadic society, which the farming epoch was about to destroy.” He points out that if today this place is preserved in almost perfect condition, it is only because its builders soon buried their creation under tons of earth, as if their world rich in wild animals lost all its significance.
“From my point of view, the people who cut them out asked the greatest questions of all,” the scientist continues.- What is the universe? Why are we here? ”But fertility symbols are missing here, which were found at the site of other excavations of the Neolithic era, and the T-shaped pillars, being obviously semi-human, are asexual. “I think that here we are confronted with the earliest images of gods,” says Schmidt, stroking one of the largest boulders with his hand. - They have no eyes, no mouths, no faces. But they have hands and they have palms. They are creators. ”
Perhaps the most interesting thing in Gobekli Tepe is his last days. The buildings are undoubtedly buried, and this is precisely what explains their good preservation. All the ancient religious buildings were simply abandoned, abandoned, but the temple on the Anatolian hill was literally buried in the ground. The massive building with monolithic giant pillars covered with magnificent reliefs, filled to the brim with stones and soil, so that it literally disappeared under the ground.
Although archaeologists have released only a part of Gobekli-Tepe from under the embankment, the unusually large dimensions of the sanctuary can already be assessed. It consists of four different temples, surrounded by a low stone wall. Of particular interest are T-shaped monoliths with partially preserved reliefs. They are very naturalistic depict birds, gazelles, bulls.Next to the image of a donkey and a snake can be discerned the head of a fox. There are even spiders and a wild boar with a volume that is made with a blunt, stupid snout.
The fact that the builders of the temple attached great importance to the animal world is not surprising in itself. But they depicted wild animals, and this confirms the assumption that the creators of the sanctuary were not sedentary farmers. Another interesting fact is that in the vicinity of Gobekli-Tepe all kinds of wild-growing cereals are presented, which were subsequently cultivated as grain crops.
Perhaps Gobekli Tepe is thus the missing link in the chain - a connecting element between primitive nomadic hunter-gatherers and sedentary farmers. Production of monolithic stone pillars with reliefs requires certain professional skills - for this, stone cutters are needed. It means that other people supplied the stonecutters with all the necessities for life, that is, they had a society based on the division of labor.
On some pillars are icons. Some archaeologists suggest that these icons could affect sign systems that arose at a later time, but it is difficult to see if there is a connection between them.The hieroglyphs were not common in neighboring Mesopotamia, but in ancient Egypt, that is, far from Gobekli Tepe. In addition, the time interval between Ancient Egypt and Gobekli-Tepe culture is very long.
The end of the Gobekli-Tepe sanctuary came at the beginning of the eighth millennium BC. At that time, agriculture spread in neighboring Mesopotamia. The soil around Gobekli Tepe is scanty, perhaps for this very reason the sanctuary lost its meaning. The most important centers were formed much more to the south, on the fertile plains, in the river valleys. At least, this can partly explain why people left the temple, where for hundreds of years their ancestors worshiped gods. They covered the sanctuary with stones and forever left it.
The lessons of Gobekli Tepe induce to reconsider the idea of the so-called Neolithic revolution. Until now, historians have thought that the transition of nomadic tribes to a settled way of life created the prerequisites for the construction of large urban centers and huge temples. But the Gobekli-Tepe experience proves that, in all likelihood, it was just the opposite: the very existence of the grandiose sanctuary, where the main rituals took place, prompted people not to move away from it, but to remain close to the holy place and arrange their permanent homes.So, at first, there was a temple, and then a house, a village and a city
The riddle of Gebekli-Tepe is no less surprising than the secrets of the pyramids, but much more ancient. Scientists can only assume that it was a ritual structure, but it is not known for certain what made the ancient people come together and build such a truly enormous structure.
Among the researchers and enthusiasts there are a variety of assumptions: from the mundane to the incredible. Some believe that Gebekli-Tepe was not a temple, but only a place where people lived, while others put forward ideas about the intervention of alien races in the history of the Earth and the construction of this complex by aliens. There are opinions that Gebekli-Tepe was the Garden of Eden or the prototype of Noah's ark.
RUSSIAN HISTORIAN GENNADY KLIMOV CONSIDERSthat the same race was erected by Gebekli-Tepe and similar structures in Russia. He confirms his theory with the fact that in the 9th millennium BC the Black Sea was not yet there, and the way from the Russian near-glacial steppes to these lands was free.
We are accustomed to the idea that agriculture first appeared, and then settlements, but Gebekli-Tepe also globally changes our understanding of ancient people in this matter.Scientists have found that for the construction of such a monumental structure it was necessary to collect at least 500 people at a time. That is, all these people lived together.
Scientists suggest that the construction of this temple played an important role in the process of transition to agriculture, and therefore to the emergence of civilization in our usual view. As soon as the ancient people came together, began to live at one point, it became difficult to feed so many workers and pilgrims. And perhaps this is what prompted them to the domestication of wild plants and animals.
All conclusions regarding the Gebekli-Tepe temple complex are preliminary, as excavations are carried out on only 5% of its territory. Archaeologists believe that research will continue for about 50 years. The dating of the studied part relates the end of layer III to the 9th millennium BC. e., and its beginning - to the XI millennium BC. er or earlier. Layer II belongs to the VIII-IX millennia BC. er
Since the complex appeared before the Neolithic revolution, the origin in this region of agriculture and cattle breeding should apparently be attributed to the epoch after the 9th millennium BC. erAt the same time, the construction of such a grand structure required the efforts of a large number of people and a certain social organization. For the Mesolithic, this is uncharacteristic. According to rough estimates, for the manufacture and delivery of columns weighing 10–20 tons from the quarry to the building, which share up to 500 m, in the absence of animals, up to 500 people were required.
In fact, some columns weigh up to 50 tons, so more people were needed. It is even assumed that slave labor was used in such works, which is also uncharacteristic for hunter-gatherer communities. Such work required a systematic effort and a social hierarchy in which many people were subordinated to the same religious or military leader, and the religious leader then had to control the rituals. In this case, the very existence of the temple complex in such a distant historical epoch testifies to social stratification at a very early stage in the development of the Neolithic culture.