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Archaeologist argues world's oldest temples were not temples at all
http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-10-arc ... mples.html
October 6th, 2011 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils
Ancient structures uncovered in Turkey and thought to be the world's oldest temples may not have been strictly religious buildings after all, according to an article in the October issue of Current Anthropology. Archaeologist Ted Banning of the University of Toronto argues that the buildings found at Göbekli Tepe may have been houses for people, not the gods.
The buildings at Göbekli, a hilltop just outside of the Turkish city of Urfa, were found in 1995 by Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute and colleagues from the ?anl?urfa Museum in Turkey. The oldest of the structures at the site are immense buildings with large stone pillars, many of which feature carvings of snakes, scorpions, foxes, and other animals.
The presence of art in the buildings, the substantial effort that must have been involved in making and erecting them, and a lack of evidence for any permanent settlement in the area, led Schmidt and others to conclude that Göbekli must have been a sacred place where pilgrims traveled to worship, much like the Greek ruins of Delphi or Olympia. If that interpretation is true it would make the buildings, which date back more than 10,000 years to the early Neolithic, the oldest temples ever found.
However, Banning offers an alternative interpretation that challenges some of Schmidt's claims.
He outlines growing archaeological evidence for daily activities at the site, such as flintknapping and food preparation. "The presence of this evidence suggests that the site was not, after all, devoid of residential occupation, but likely had quite a large population," Banning said.
Banning goes on to argue that the population may have been housed in the purported temples themselves. He disagrees with the idea that the presence of decorative pillars or massive construction efforts means the buildings could not have been residential space.
"The presupposition that 'art,' or even 'monumental' art, should be exclusively associated with specialized shrines or other non-domestic spaces also fails to withstand scrutiny," Banning writes. "There is abundant ethnographic evidence for considerable investment in the decoration of domestic structures and spaces, whether to commemorate the feats of ancestors, advertise a lineage's history or a chief's generosity; or record initiations and other house-based rituals."
Archaeological evidence for domestic art from the Neolithic period exists as well, Banning says, such as the wall paintings at Çatalhöyük, another archaeological site in Turkey.
Banning suggests that the purported temples may instead have been 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."
"If so, they would likely have housed quite large households that might provide an extremely early example of what the French anthropologist, Claude Lévi-Strauss, called 'house societies,'" Banning said. "Such societies often use house structures for competitive display, locations for rituals, and explicit symbols of social units."
Banning hopes that more excavation at the site will ultimately shed more light on how these buildings were used. In the meantime, he hopes that researchers will not automatically assume that the presence of art or decoration in structures at Göbekli and elsewhere denotes an exclusively religious building.
"It is … likely that some of these buildings were the locus for a variety of rituals, probably including feasts, mortuary rites, magic, and initiations," he writes. "Yet there is generally no reason to presume a priori, even when these are as impressive as the buildings at Göbekli Tepe, that they were not also people's houses."
More information: E. B. Banning, "So Fair a House: Göbekli Tepe and the Identification of Temples in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of the Near East." Current Anthropology 52:5 (October 2011).
Provided by University of Chicago
World's oldest temple built to worship the dog star
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg2 ... hC_6JJ4JBw
16 August 2013 by Anil Ananthaswamy
Magazine issue 2930.
THE world's oldest temple, Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey, may have been built to worship the dog star, Sirius.
The 11,000-year-old site consists of a series of at least 20 circular enclosures, although only a few have been uncovered since excavations began in the mid-1990s. Each one is surrounded by a ring of huge, T-shaped stone pillars, some of which are decorated with carvings of fierce animals. Two more megaliths stand parallel to each other at the centre of each ring (see illustration).
Göbekli Tepe put a dent in the idea of the Neolithic revolution, which said that the invention of agriculture spurred humans to build settlements and develop civilisation, art and religion. There is no evidence of agriculture near the temple, hinting that religion came first in this instance.
"We have a lot of contemporaneous sites which are settlements of hunter-gatherers. Göbekli Tepe was a sanctuary site for people living in these settlements," says Klaus Schmidt, chief archaeologist for the project at the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in Berlin.
But it is still anybody's guess what type of religion the temple served. Giulio Magli, an archaeoastronomer at the Polytechnic University of Milan in Italy, looked to the night sky for an answer. After all, the arrangement of the pillars at Stonehenge in the UK suggests it could have been built as an astronomical observatory, maybe even to worship the moon.
Magli simulated what the sky would have looked like from Turkey when Göbekli Tepe was built. Over millennia, the positions of the stars change due to Earth wobbling as it spins on its axis. Stars that are near the horizon will rise and set at different points, and they can even disappear completely, only to reappear thousands of years later.
Today, Sirius can be seen almost worldwide as the brightest star in the sky – excluding the sun – and the fourth brightest night-sky object after the moon, Venus and Jupiter. Sirius is so noticeable that its rising and setting was used as the basis for the ancient Egyptian calendar, says Magli. At the latitude of Göbekli Tepe, Sirius would have been below the horizon until around 9300 BC, when it would have suddenly popped into view.
"I propose that the temple was built to follow the 'birth' of this star," says Magli. "You can imagine that the appearance of a new object in the sky could even have triggered a new religion."
Using existing maps of Göbekli Tepe and satellite images of the region, Magli drew an imaginary line running between and parallel to the two megaliths inside each enclosure. Three of the excavated rings seem to be aligned with the points on the horizon where Sirius would have risen in 9100 BC, 8750 BC and 8300 BC, respectively (arxiv.org/abs/1307.8397).
The results are preliminary, Magli stresses. More accurate calculations will need a full survey using instruments such as a theodolite, a device for measuring horizontal and vertical angles. Also, the sequence in which the structures were built is unclear, so it is hard to say if rings were built to follow Sirius as it rose at different points along the horizon.
Ongoing excavations might rule out any astronomical significance, says Jens Notroff, also at DAI. "We are still discussing whether the monumental enclosures at Göbekli Tepe were open or roofed," he says. "In the latter case, any activity regarding monitoring the sky would, of course, have been rather difficult."
This article appeared in print under the headline "Stone Age temple tracked the dog star"
It's the other way 'round ... Sirius is the brightest star overall, and Vega was the most visible star near the celestial pole circa 12,000 years agoAs I recall, Sirius is important for being the pole star. It's Vega that is the brightest star in the sky. Interestingly, I believe due to the wobble, Vega was actually the pole star 15.000 years ago.
Hi PeteByrdie, Graham Hancock was lecturing as recently as the fall of 2015. I agree whole heartedly there are many frauds and sensationalist out there when it comes to new - unconventional twist on history. Pls spare me the aliens did it.Love the comedy monastic singing parody in the first video. A fascinating place, about which I know too little. I haven't heard much of Graham Hancock in recent years. Nice to see him still at it. He always struck me as genuine, and we need people willing to question the established view. I'm sure some of the world's alternative historians are only interested in selling books.
I think Graham went into writing fiction for a while there. He has just released a follow up to Fingerprints.....I think.I'm sure some of the world's alternative historians are only interested in selling books.
Although it may not have been continuously inhabited I've heard claims for Jericho as well. I believe they are both quite close actually, but it may be Damascus?Jim: Damascus is the oldest continually inhabited city. However I don't believe there are not older ones, which simply aren't inhabited anymore.
Evidence of early settlement for Damascus dating back to 9000 BC exists, although no large-scale settlement was present within Damascus walls until the second millennium BC. Source "Wikepedia"Neolithic perhaps, but we were discussing the age. Catalhuyuk seems to beat Damascus by a few thousand years.
I'd love to but unfortunately it not in the budget any time in the near future. Darn!Hal Tarxien, south of Valetta in Malta has existed as a village for at least 5,000 years. If your ever in Malta, the Tarxian temple complex and nearby Hypogeum are a must-visit.
Unfortunately there's some radical elements in Turkey. It would be a shame because apparently they have funding for a lot more work at Gobekli Tepe.The big problem with Turkey is that it's beginning to come apart politically.
At some point, the government may become hostile towards western archaeologists.
I'm glad they dug up the site when they did.