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12,000 year old megalith circles turn knowledge of ancient humans upside down

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zoobyshoe
#37
Mar4-12, 03:37 AM
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Quote Quote by arildno View Post
You may read the following article by Jared Diomand:
http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/24/042.html

It is fairly uncontroversial that it was NOT the Europeans that brought upon Easter Islan its decline, it was a self-destructive cycle of status competition; self-destructive with massive deforestation on an isolated island, where the logs where used at great bonfires&banquets and as rollers for the statues.
The comparison of the heads to Egyptian pyramids as status symbols probably holds water. Were you suggesting the circles in Turkey might have had a similar function?
zoobyshoe
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Mar4-12, 05:00 AM
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Quote Quote by apeiron View Post
Geometric decoration, as opposed to geometric monumentalism, is in fact very old. See - http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/ge...tric_signs.php

But again, this would about symbolism rather than "geometry" - proto-writing rather than proto-maths.

Societies that favoured geometric decoration were also most likely responding to constraints in their materials. Such as a habit of body painting - simple patterns rather than representations making more sense when your skin is the canvas. Likewise, weaving and beading rather push the maker in the direction of simple geometric patterns.
It makes sense that geometric designs would be arrived at incidental to the process of weaving. They are carried over, though, onto non-woven artifacts like painted designs and pottery glazes and wood carvings, due, I would say, to their inherent visual power (which is probably due to the fact of Kluver Form Constants). As you say, this isn't math or Geometry. And, generally, this kind of non-geometric geometric design is only applied in cases where it doesn't take that long to make.

Huge projects, like stonehenge and the pyramids, that involve years of work and large numbers of workers, seem to require that the designers and political "muscle" driving them to completion, be inspired by understanding of a deeper math behind them. This site under discussion seems to defy that to me. All this stone work must have taken a very long time and involved a lot of people without any of them seeming to even realize you can generate a perfect circle with a stake and a piece of rope. So, you have to wonder what was inspiring them to work so hard on something that wasn't going to be "perfect" in a higher sense.

The kind of "spirit" site you mention strikes me as something that would only be set up temporarily for a dedicated rite, a healing, rain dance, vision quest, etc. If they always returned the same "spirit" site for a given ritual over centuries, though, it would make sense that at some point after they acquired stone carving skills they would decide to set up permanent structures and that these would naturally be installed in the original informal layout.
Amusing you should mention Hundertwasser. His was the first proper exhibition I went to as a kid. Unfortunately he had very little architectural impact on NZ - the only monument he left here was his local public toilets I think!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kawakawa,_New_Zealand
Which leads me to the not-very-serious suggestion these things could have been elaborate public toilet facilities for all we know.
arildno
#39
Mar4-12, 05:28 AM
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Quote Quote by zoobyshoe View Post
The comparison of the heads to Egyptian pyramids as status symbols probably holds water. Were you suggesting the circles in Turkey might have had a similar function?
Yes.
Nor is it unlikely, considering what is well attested in other cultures.
The concept "conspicuous consumption" is well established within anthropology in that a primary manner in which local magnates rule is NOT through terror&violence, but by proving their worth to the community through spectacular feasting, temple building, organizing great gladiatorial displays etc. (It is these "gifts" that in a way "justify" them in also, when they feel the need, to maintain their power through..terror&violence)

Furthermore, the concept of conspicuous consumption is, in MY view, probably related to the biological principle underlying, for example, the male pheasant's ridiculous tail:
It is only the very strongest males, in genetic terms, that can survive with such a anti-adaptive tail (considered relative to factors like flight capability, being able to hide from predators etc), and THUS, the females will pick these as their favourites.

A not incidental side effect of the system of conspicuous consumption is that it effectively bars wannabe magnates from becoming actual magnates.

Who would you follow?
The one who can invite you to great banquets, or the one who can't afford to organize such in the first place?
Evo
#40
Mar4-12, 08:14 AM
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Quote Quote by zoobyshoe View Post
It seems to me this is the case. Every aspect of it could probably be reasonably questioned.
The article Andre referenced was from 2008, the oldest parts of the site that they have uncovered are now believed to be over 12,000 years old.

But the plants and bones they tested might have been backfill thousands of years after the structure was built, so yes, it is highly likely that the actual structures are much older than thought.
Dotini
#41
Mar4-12, 09:35 AM
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https://www.google.com/search?q=gobe...w=1024&bih=557

From this one page, many interesting symbols and images may be studied.

This one strikes me as closely resembling one the more prominent pillars at Gobekli Tepe:
http://img689.imageshack.us/img689/8679/birthp.jpg

There may be a bit of archeoastronomy going on in this one:
http://www.seshat.ch/home/goebekli.GIF

Respectfully submitted,
Steve
zoobyshoe
#42
Mar4-12, 10:21 AM
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Quote Quote by arildno View Post
Yes.
Nor is it unlikely, considering what is well attested in other cultures.
The concept "conspicuous consumption" is well established within anthropology in that a primary manner in which local magnates rule is NOT through terror&violence, but by proving their worth to the community through spectacular feasting, temple building, organizing great gladiatorial displays etc. (It is these "gifts" that in a way "justify" them in also, when they feel the need, to maintain their power through..terror&violence)

Furthermore, the concept of conspicuous consumption is, in MY view, probably related to the biological principle underlying, for example, the male pheasant's ridiculous tail:
It is only the very strongest males, in genetic terms, that can survive with such a anti-adaptive tail (considered relative to factors like flight capability, being able to hide from predators etc), and THUS, the females will pick these as their favourites.

A not incidental side effect of the system of conspicuous consumption is that it effectively bars wannabe magnates from becoming actual magnates.

Who would you follow?
The one who can invite you to great banquets, or the one who can't afford to organize such in the first place?
This all makes perfect sense. Rather than religious sites these things might have been essentially political.

But, rather than a whole monument being about one "magnate" the various animals each might symbolize a clan, tribe, or clan/tribe leader/magnate, who had entered into a pact of some sort with all the others. As time went on and old leaders died off, the political climate could have dramatically shifted. The past would be, quite literally, buried and a new picture of the new political structure would have to be created nearby.

On the other hand, they could all each be about one magnate. If we say a given 'circle' represents a given prehistoric 'Caesar', the various different animal slabs might represent the various foreign peoples he had subjugated under the central government. Here, too, the political situation would have to be revised over time as successive 'Caesars' won or lost dominion.

I think there's a lot of realistic non-religious purposes these things could have been created to serve. Religion would naturally be the matrix in which it was all set, but only in the sense most governments have historically been set in a religious matrix.
zoobyshoe
#43
Mar4-12, 10:28 AM
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Quote Quote by Evo View Post
The article Andre referenced was from 2008, the oldest parts of the site that they have uncovered are now believed to be over 12,000 years old.

But the plants and bones they tested might have been backfill thousands of years after the structure was built, so yes, it is highly likely that the actual structures are much older than thought.
The dirt used to fill in might be much older than the monument, though. If they took the fill dirt from layers of ancient middens, the organic matter in that dirt would be much older than the monument it buried. Carbon dating of charcoal that seems to come from the layer right on top of which the pillars were first erected would be the most reliable, I'd think.
arildno
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Mar4-12, 10:31 AM
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Quote Quote by zoobyshoe View Post
This all makes perfect sense. Rather than religious sites these things might have been essentially political.
That separation is just meaningless for just about any other culture than the judeo-Christian.
Rather, those sites are AS MUCH religious as they are political. There is no reason, to think, that the magnates were snickering atheists out to awe the dumb religionists. Furthermore, to curry favour from the gods by creating temples clearly has the premise that you believe in the gods to begin with. Even though you hope the gods will favour you with political success.
But, rather than a whole monument being about one "magnate" the various animals each might symbolize a clan, tribe, or clan/tribe leader/magnate, who had entered into a pact of some sort with all the others. As time went on and old leaders died off, the political climate could have dramatically shifted. The past would be, quite literally, buried and a new picture of the new political structure would have to be created nearby.

On the other hand, they could all each be about one magnate. If we say a given 'circle' represents a given prehistoric 'Caesar', the various different animal slabs might represent the various foreign peoples he had subjugated under the central government. Here, too, the political situation would have to be revised over time as successive 'Caesars' won or lost dominion.

I think there's a lot of realistic non-religious purposes these things could have been created to serve. Religion would naturally be the matrix in which it was all set, but only in the sense most governments have historically been set in a religious matrix.
Sure, these are a number of hypotheses that are highly interesting; we might even be able with more knowledge make some of them more likely to be true than others.
zoobyshoe
#45
Mar4-12, 10:36 AM
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Quote Quote by Dotini View Post
There may be a bit of archeoastronomy going on in this one:
http://www.seshat.ch/home/goebekli.GIF
This is interesting. I was wondering if sighting along the tops of the pillars pointed to any astronomical events. I'm not sure what this diagram shows though. Some sort of moon calendar?
Dotini
#46
Mar4-12, 10:47 AM
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Quote Quote by arildno View Post
Sure, these are a number of hypotheses that are highly interesting; we might even be able with more knowledge make some of them more likely to be true than others.
Since we may be able to put Gobekli Tepe in the context of Kilisik, Navali and Catal Huyuk, it occurs to me that what we may have is a sort of Neolithic University. Founded by a powerful and persuasive elite, knowledgeable from earlier experiments in proto-agriculture, a center of initiation and learning is established from which graduating classes may be sent to establish flourishing cultures throughout Anatolia, Mesopotamia, the Levant and beyond. Each class builds its ring, and fills it in after training is accomplished?

Respectfully submitted,
Steve
Evo
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Mar4-12, 10:50 AM
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Quote Quote by zoobyshoe View Post
The dirt used to fill in might be much older than the monument, though. If they took the fill dirt from layers of ancient middens, the organic matter in that dirt would be much older than the monument it buried. Carbon dating of charcoal that seems to come from the layer right on top of which the pillars were first erected would be the most reliable, I'd think.
It's hard to say, but they did find piles of animal bones that show signs of having been butchered by humans. I would assume that the piles of bones would not have been from piles of dirt moved there. They have also done testing on the pillars, but the tests only show when they were buried. Carbonate layers only begin to form after the burial.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/1...20134/abstract
zoobyshoe
#48
Mar4-12, 11:41 AM
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Quote Quote by arildno View Post
That separation is just meaningless for just about any other culture than the judeo-Christian.
Rather, those sites are AS MUCH religious as they are political. There is no reason, to think, that the magnates were snickering atheists out to awe the dumb religionists. Furthermore, to curry favour from the gods by creating temples clearly has the premise that you believe in the gods to begin with. Even though you hope the gods will favour you with political success.
The distinction arises from your concept of the magnate, though. If only a magnate can afford to commission a temple and the point is to conspicuously consume to create the aura of power and wealth, the conclusion that it is essentially a political, rather than religious, gesture is obvious. That's a completely different motivation than propitiating the spirits of the dead because they'll haunt you if you don't, sort of thing.
Sure, these are a number of hypotheses that are highly interesting; we might even be able with more knowledge make some of them more likely to be true than others.
There's quite a bit more to dig up as Evo pointed out, so there's no telling what interesting clues are still hidden.
zoobyshoe
#49
Mar4-12, 11:53 AM
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Quote Quote by Dotini View Post
Since we may be able to put Gobekli Tepe in the context of Kilisik, Navali and Catal Huyuk, it occurs to me that what we may have is a sort of Neolithic University. Founded by a powerful and persuasive elite, knowledgeable from earlier experiments in proto-agriculture, a center of initiation and learning is established from which graduating classes may be sent to establish flourishing cultures throughout Anatolia, Mesopotamia, the Levant and beyond. Each class builds its ring, and fills it in after training is accomplished?

Respectfully submitted,
Steve
Something like this occurred to me after reading one of your earlier posts.

The Lakota were a huge nation and very spread out. They used to have an annual gathering to touch base and reinforce the fact they were all the same.

This site could be where something similar took place, where far flung but related bands gathered periodically to teach the young their common mythology. It would explain all the animal bone fragments in the dirt everywhere if it turned out to be the site of a huge annual picnic/reunion place.
arildno
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Mar4-12, 03:13 PM
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Quote Quote by zoobyshoe View Post
The distinction arises from your concept of the magnate, though. If only a magnate can afford to commission a temple and the point is to conspicuously consume to create the aura of power and wealth, the conclusion that it is essentially a political, rather than religious, gesture is obvious. That's a completely different motivation than propitiating the spirits of the dead because they'll haunt you if you don't, sort of thing.
Not really, because what you base it on is a very narrow conception of how people regard the spirit world from interacting with the real world, and how "secular" power is considered as proofs of "sparks of divinity" in those individuals fortunate to have it.
For example, the hero cults in Hellenistic Greece and the imperial cults in Rome are highly interesting in these respects.
The historian Price has written an excellent, and still considered seminal, study on the Roman Imperial Cult in Asia minor, "Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor "
This book has university academic standard, and was used in my stint at studying history at oslo University.
Here's the Amazon link:
http://www.amazon.com/Rituals-Power-...895326&sr=8-10

My main point of contention though, are what WORDS are appropriate in history, and which we should not use.
The couple "essential/inessential" is basically either rhetorically pointing at som "eternal essence" (and I do NOT think you intended that), OR, as a quantifying measure of relative weights.
But, quantification of the importance of different causes in history is highly suspect, or must be used with extreme caution, and we need a more modest idea besides:
To which extent our sources seem to indicate that analytically separate ideas were intertwined in some particular culture, or equivalently, how "separate" those ideas where.

(Judeo-)Christianity is quite unique in this degree of separatedness of the sacred and the secular, the normal picture seems to indicate a much stronger degree of intertwining.


BTW, Price* is quite adept in showing that in terms of quantification, LOCAL status competition for construction of imperial cults was probably more important than heavy-handed, centrally directed adoration policy from the Roman State.
It was the LOCAL magnates, in scurrying not just for (or even mainly for) imperial favour, but in order to be resplendent in the eyes of the local population by having a "closer tie" with the almost-divine, far-off Emperor through his temple construction in his honour..
More than enough sources indicate that the Emperors themselves were rather embarassed on the personal level at the prevalence of this religio-political "Greek" phenomenon, closely related to the city-state structure of Asia Minor.


*Whose main laudable effort in that work is to "de-Christianize" religion as such, in particular opposing the traditional view that worship of a living, or dead, person, was some sort of "debasement" of religion for "mere political" reasons. Rather, the mentality landscape, Price argues, between religious might and secular power should NOT be regarded in such a way that the clear distinction between "religion" and "politics" is to be assumed to have been felt as "natural" as it is for cultural Christians.
apeiron
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Mar4-12, 05:27 PM
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The question remains whether Gobekli Tepe does change anything much about "what we know". What actual questions does it either pose or answer?

After all, it is not a first city, far more ancient than any other. It does not have anything directly to do with first agriculture - any such claim seems very speculative.

It is indeed a monumental structure. But the only surprise about that is that a hunter-gatherer economy could produce it. The level of symbolism and craftmanship had already been around 20,000 years of so. So the interest boils down to the particular circumstances that allowed it to actually happen.

Was it simply just the post-ice landscape was fertile enough to support a suddenly larger population? Or did it also require some new kind of social organisation not seen before?

There seems no reason to think it involved slaves to build it, or a priest caste to maintain it (no evidence of secondary habitation being cited).

It seems simply to be an established ritual that persisted many centuries - a sacred hill accumulating a succession of the same structures serving the same symbolic function (with later circles being built inside/on top of earlier ones).

Maybe there was already a tradition of building these things out of wood or whatever, and this hill became special because of some convenient limestone that split nicely.

But the question is really how many people would have devoted how much time to one of these acts of construction? The programme claimed about 50 people over a year, from memory, which would be rather a large investment.

Get an accurate figure and some firmer speculation about the social economy would be possible.

A gathering of the clans is an attractive model. You can imagine the men going off to do the sacred work, the women then left to gather grass seed to feed the group. Learning to collect, mill and bake wild wheat may have indeed been the key to it all. But if that was going on, then the evidence should be there as well.

The fact that what is being found is a lot of rock shaping flints and a lot of gazelle bones suggests a simpler scenario so far.

You could turn the story around I guess. As is said about the San bushmen, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle can leave people with a lot of time on their hands. So people might invent crazy religious projects like these circles as they want something "meaningful" to do. They had no cable TV in those days.
arildno
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Mar4-12, 05:51 PM
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There are many fascinating hypotheses one might consider.
For example this one:
Chiselling the objects was some sort of initiation ritual, where young men, gathered from different clans or tribes were expected to seclude themselves for some time with a generally revered priest and made a collective effort in thanking the gods.
Then they returned to their own tribes and were considered "mature" males.
the site itself would on clan-specific occasions be revisited, where one marvelled at the old, and new, signs of piety...
zoobyshoe
#53
Mar5-12, 07:57 AM
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Quote Quote by arildno View Post
Not really, because what you base it on is a very narrow conception of how people regard the spirit world from interacting with the real world, and how "secular" power is considered as proofs of "sparks of divinity" in those individuals fortunate to have it.
For example, the hero cults in Hellenistic Greece and the imperial cults in Rome are highly interesting in these respects.
The historian Price has written an excellent, and still considered seminal, study on the Roman Imperial Cult in Asia minor, "Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor "
This book has university academic standard, and was used in my stint at studying history at oslo University.
Here's the Amazon link:
http://www.amazon.com/Rituals-Power-...895326&sr=8-10

My main point of contention though, are what WORDS are appropriate in history, and which we should not use.
The couple "essential/inessential" is basically either rhetorically pointing at som "eternal essence" (and I do NOT think you intended that), OR, as a quantifying measure of relative weights.
But, quantification of the importance of different causes in history is highly suspect, or must be used with extreme caution, and we need a more modest idea besides:
To which extent our sources seem to indicate that analytically separate ideas were intertwined in some particular culture, or equivalently, how "separate" those ideas where.

(Judeo-)Christianity is quite unique in this degree of separatedness of the sacred and the secular, the normal picture seems to indicate a much stronger degree of intertwining.


BTW, Price* is quite adept in showing that in terms of quantification, LOCAL status competition for construction of imperial cults was probably more important than heavy-handed, centrally directed adoration policy from the Roman State.
It was the LOCAL magnates, in scurrying not just for (or even mainly for) imperial favour, but in order to be resplendent in the eyes of the local population by having a "closer tie" with the almost-divine, far-off Emperor through his temple construction in his honour..
More than enough sources indicate that the Emperors themselves were rather embarassed on the personal level at the prevalence of this religio-political "Greek" phenomenon, closely related to the city-state structure of Asia Minor.


*Whose main laudable effort in that work is to "de-Christianize" religion as such, in particular opposing the traditional view that worship of a living, or dead, person, was some sort of "debasement" of religion for "mere political" reasons. Rather, the mentality landscape, Price argues, between religious might and secular power should NOT be regarded in such a way that the clear distinction between "religion" and "politics" is to be assumed to have been felt as "natural" as it is for cultural Christians.
I think I'm familiar with the concept you're talking about but from a completely different source. The artist, George Catlin, observed and described the same thing being in play among the Mandan Indians, a tribe he lived with for a few months and whose culture he recored in both paintings and journal entries. For the Mandan everything was a matter of sacred power: if a guy was a better marksman with a bow and arrow it was because he had more sacred power, if he won more at gambling, same cause, if he bested someone in a trade of goods, same thing: more sacred power. There was no secular concept of skill, intelligence, acumen.

Catlin's own artistic abilities amazed the Indians and he was deferred to everywhere due to the perception he had a huge amount of sacred power. All the local magnates lined up to have their portrait painted.

In one band of Indians, though, he was disturbed to find out that a particular shaman was preaching against him, warning that he was evil and up to no good. He was perplexed at first, but then he figured out what was going on. He invited the shaman to sit and have his portrait painted, and suddenly the man's whole attitude changed. He suddenly announced he'd been wrong and that Catlin had completely good "sacred power", and was a good man.

I don't think it would be any different in Greek and Roman hero cults. Regardless of how any of those ancients might rationalize their purely political maneuvers as having a religious motivation, it doesn't mean we are misunderstanding them if we don't buy it as they would represent it. This isn't Judeo-Christian vs ancient pagan, it's modern secular psychology vs primitive.

The quantification of the importance of different causes in history happens. Many claim Caesar's Gallic campaigns were essentially self serving, intended to increase his status, in contradiction to his own characterization of them as necessary for the good of the empire. I think the whole point and advantage of retrospective analysis is to sort out what was most likely really going on from a third party, outside perspective, rather than to side with any participant on their own terms.

To that end I appreciate you linking to that book and I'll make an effort to get hold of it at some point. I think you'd love Catlin's book given your general interest in anthropology. It's called Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of North American Indians. Two volumes, published by Dover.
zoobyshoe
#54
Mar5-12, 08:21 AM
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Quote Quote by apeiron View Post
A gathering of the clans is an attractive model. You can imagine the men going off to do the sacred work, the women then left to gather grass seed to feed the group. Learning to collect, mill and bake wild wheat may have indeed been the key to it all. But if that was going on, then the evidence should be there as well.

The fact that what is being found is a lot of rock shaping flints and a lot of gazelle bones suggests a simpler scenario so far.

You could turn the story around I guess. As is said about the San bushmen, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle can leave people with a lot of time on their hands. So people might invent crazy religious projects like these circles as they want something "meaningful" to do. They had no cable TV in those days.
Great post. You suddenly reminded me of the fact of "societies" in plains Indian culture. In most tribes men and women were inducted into one "society" or another when they came of age. These were something like a cross between a fraternity and the Freemasons. Each society had their own secret rituals and lore and also their public contributions to the tribe, which might be a practical or spiritual service. With no cable T.V. as you say, a person's life might revolve around their membership in a society. These sites could have been a particular society's traditional meeting place.


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