View Full Version : Gobekli Tepe or Stone Temples Before Farms

10-27-2018, 02:19 AM
The Significance of Gobekli Tepe

Most of us learned in school that the history of oldest civilization ran something as follows. Early human started as hunter gatherers eking out a tenuous existence. Then, sometime around 10,000 B.C., agriculture was discovered by happy accident. This made possible first villages, then cities. Along the way labor became specialized; hierarchies arose. Finally to legitimize these latter changes, religion became organized, the populace manipulated by priests.

So far so good. The narrative could have been lifted from “Marxism For Dummies,” or “Classical Economics For the Learning Impaired.” The underlying assumption is the same regardless of one’s school of thought: human civilization is unavoidably materialistic. It takes only a little tweaking of this glib assumption to arrive at the present day dogma that the nature and destiny of man is to serve as consumer.

Recent archaeology however suggests something quite other. In 1994 Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute began excavation at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey’s southeast Anatolia. What he found was, to put it plainly, striking. A site of about three hundred meters’ diameter featuring over 200 stone pillars. These average about six meters in height; in weight over ten tons.

Not exciting? The Near East teems with such sites. But, Gobekli Tepe dates back to around 10,000 B.C.E. This makes it the oldest religious site anywhere found. This also means it was constructed before agriculture came into vogue and long before there were cities. That is correct: hunter gatherers were building stone temples long before they got around to the rest of civilization. As Schmidt put it, “First came the temple. Then the city.”

Nor is his interpretation idiosyncratic. Ian Hodder of Stanford has said, “This changes everything.” Of peculiar note is the fact that the site indicates little or no evidence of human settlement. Clearly people did come there. But it was not to live. Hence, in addition to expenditure of labor, use of the facility would have called for further investment of time spent travelling, something neither hunters nor farmers are known to have much inclination to do. In fact, all indications are that every few decades existing pillars were buried and replaced by new ones. Moreover, the new ring of pillars was inside the one previous. This indicates 1) that the initial construction at the site was the most laborious; 2) that the site remained labor-intensive throughout its period of use. And this all performed by people whose lifestyle, clearly, afforded little of what we call leisure.

Why is any of this important to we who are not archaeologists? In 1934, Julius Evola published his too little known, “The Revolt Against the Modern World.” Taking bitter exception to modernity’s materialism and democratizing tendencies, he posited there had been the “world of tradition.” A period mostly prehistorical when confusion was not a “normal” function of life; when man’s place in the cosmos and the individual’s place among his people, had both been matters of course. Two aspects of his treatment here deserve mention.

The one is that the world of tradition displayed a vertical orientation. Human institutions and practices were justified not by evident material benefit or convenience, but by the degree to which they dovetailed into the order of the cosmos. Second, human life was not seen as end in itself. Humans, or at least the fortunate among them, enjoyed a cosmic vocation. Were, indeed, kin to the gods. In fact, in Evola’s account, the sole uralt justification for social hierarchy lay in the fact that men could be found pre-eminently fit to perform ritual. And early history bears him out here: before kings were ever warriors, they were first of all priests.

Evola has been mostly ignored. His dalliance with both Italian Fascism and the Third Reich were enough to establish his credentials as intellectual non grata. Likewise, writing when he did, there was little evidence that Neolithic man had been much other than a tool-making primate. One concerned with his next meal, the new skins he could sport, and finding a mate. The sort of man who would one day read Playboy, albeit a reader with rough edges. It is in this light that Gobekli Tepe (and other unexcavated sites in the region) takes on especial importance.

For the discoveries there strongly suggest that Evola might have been onto something. That early man might have been preoccupied with something more than getting a square meal out of the world. A creature cosmically-inclined enough to spend some considerable pains setting those insights and concerns into stone. Literally. If so, this counts as another strike against our own sybarite selves. Individual who will not exert themselves to come up to the level of their ancestors are less than no men at all.