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News & Notes from the Göbekli Tepe Research Staff

New Publication: “History Making” at Göbekli Tepe

With “Religion, History, and Place in the Origin of Settled Life” (Boulder, Colorado 2018) [external link] recently a new volume edited by Ian Hodder, Dunlevie Family Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University and best known for his groundbreaking research at Neolithic Çatalhöyük in Turkey, has been published by University Press of Colorado on the role of religion and ritual in the Middle East, focusing on the repetitive construction of houses and cult buildings.

Göbekli Tepe research staff gladly provided some new insights into ongoing research on the site and its interpretation to this volume with a contribution on “Establishing Identities in the Proto-Neolithic: ‘History Making’ at Göbekli Tepe from the Late Tenth Millennium cal BCE” by Lee Clare, Oliver Dietrich, Jens Notroff, and Devrim Sönmez (pp. 115-136):

“Göbekli Tepe in southeast Turkey is a long recognized key site for the study of socio-ritual components of transitional Neolithic communities living in Upper Mesopotamia, a core zone of Neolithization, in the late tenth millennium cal bce. In addition to the construction of the large monumental buildings with their T-shaped monoliths, these groups can be credited with early domestication activities involving wild plant and animal species, which from the mid-ninth millennium cal BCE began to show characteristic morphological changes associated with the emergence of identifiable domesticated forms. Ritual practices and belief systems identified at Göbekli Tepe provide unprecedented insights into the worldview of these ‘proto-Neolithic’ communities at this important juncture in world history. Not only this, the site offers explanations as to how these groups could have overcome various challenges presented by ‘Neolithization’ processes, including demographic growth, increasing competition over biotic and abiotic resources, and a more pronounced vertical social differentiation, with division of labor and craft specialization. In this contribution, it is posited that ‘history making’ at Göbekli Tepe, as reflected, for example, through repititive building activities at the site, could have been used to encourage group identity and to promote a sense of belonging to a common ‘cultic community’, so important in the face of these challenges. Furthermore, it is proposed that these same ‘history making events’ might also have been harnessed by individuals and sub-groups in an attempt to legitimize social status and local, perhaps even regional political influence.”

Book Details

Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-60732-736-3
Hardcover Price: $75.00
EISBN: 978-1-60732-737-0
Ebook Price: $60.00
Publication Month: July
Publication Year: 2018
Pages: 306
Illustrations: 63 figures

(Detailed table of contents and introduction capter available on publishers website.)

7 Comments

  1. Edit Petronella Katona

    25. August 2018 at 14:28

    Many thanks for the blog and the book!

    Amazing new for me and for many other ordinary people! Interesting books are in my collection, like Alieni, or Martin Palmer. I had no books from ancient America…
    Best Regards,
    Edit Petronella Katona

  2. I agree with you, almost entirely. Small corrections I wish to make, though.
    First, the site was not unprecedented. There are 7 more such sites in the vicinity, and Göbekli Tepe was not first to be found. Prof. Schmidt found it because he already knew from his past excavation experience at Nevalı Çori that nice T-pillars can be found at 8-9 ka old Neolithic sites in Turkey (Hancock, interviewing Schmidt in Magicians of the Gods, 2015, p 30).
    Second, the fame of Göbekli Tepe and their history making was global, not regional. But the influence was cultural, not political. The world of small hunter-gatherer family groups was the world of the free, totally independent people. They only exchanged women, hard rocks, and legends. People of Göbekli Tepe were legendary by themselves, due to their outstanding deeds, and that made them special and well known.

    • Of course we are aware of the site of Nevali Cori as well as a number of other related sites which have produced T-pillars (as obviously becomes clear from our constant references to these throughout earlier contributions here). Nevali Cori, however, is the only of these sites excavated yet (except Göbekli Tepe of course), and chronologically it is rather contemporary with Göbekli Tepe’s later (9th millennium BC) phase (as seem to be the other sites mentioned, judging by the so far only visible smaller T-pillar specimen). Thus, at current state of research, chronologically Göbekli Tepe remains unprecedented.

    • “Free and totally independent” in what sense? They were constrained by the vagaries of climate and the environment and clearly felt the need to gather, periodically at least, into larger groups for purposes of ritual and feasting. Their lives must have been led within a nexus of social links that helped them survive and the politics of the tribe would still have influenced their lives. Were they legendary at the time? Who knows. Their giant structures must have been heard of far and wide.

  3. Chronologically, in absolute sense, Göbekli Tepe is indeed the oldest one of the surrounding tepes with T-pillars in Turkey. I agree with that. I actually meant that it was the second one of them to be excavated in the XX century, Nevali Cori being the first, and in that regard (chronological order of excavations), it was not without precedent for Schmidt to find neolithic T-pillars. This is important, because if he didn’t knew already about the unusual T-pillars on Nevali Cori, he would have missed the Göbekli Tepe too, like all the others before him.

  4. Casual Visitor

    7. October 2018 at 22:19

    ‘Free’ means ‘nomads, hunter-gatherers’ and ‘totally independent’ means that a sufficiently large family group was able to survive on its own on short time periods, if they wished to do so, by hunting, gathering, and tool and equipment making, fairly independently on other family groups. On longer time spans, they still needed to gather and exchange women, to socialize, and trade.

    The giant structures that they made were a copy of an older cultural center, one that was destroyed by the YD strike. The whereabouts of that center are depicted on the Vulture Stone. At the moment I don’t yet have enough data about it, except that it housed the wisdom of ‘calendar’. Whether it was an observatory, a library, a gathering place, or perhaps conveniently all of that combined is still unresolved.

    Considering that a ranging territory of a single family group was up to 300 km in diameter, the potential for story spreading over the time span of decades is continental in scope. By ‘continental’ it is meant Old and New Worlds combined, for they were still a single landmass at that time.
    Several scenes on the pillars on Göbekli Tepe contain clear evidence for the presence of such, practically global in scale, cultural mingling.

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