Gobekli Tepe: What Mean These Ancient Stones?
Imagine stone carvings and monuments whose age make the pyramids and Stonehenge look like artifacts of modern history. Such monuments exist on a hill in Turkey at a site called Gobekli Tepe (see brief mention in the 10/31/2006, bullet 1). Squared-off limestone blocks stacked like the letter T, arranged in circles, with ornate animal carvings on them, have been baffling archaeologists for the last decade. They are reported to date from 10,000 BC – six millennia earlier than the earliest known writing, and some 7500 years earlier than Stonehenge or the Great Pyramid. One archaeologist remarked, “There’s more time between Gobekli Tepe and the Sumerian clay tablets [etched in 3300 B.C.] than from Sumer to today.”
The site was known in the 1960s but dismissed as a medieval cemetery. Klaus Schmidt, a German archaeologist, began excavating the hill in 1994 after a local Kurdish shepherd reported seeing stone rectangles emerging from the sands. The neat arrangement of the blocks and the exquisite carvings of animals look artistically quite advanced for the assumed population of pre-agricultural hunters and gatherers that lived at the time. Smithsonian Magazine printed an article on the find last November that generated dozens of comments from readers. More recently, the UK Mail printed a sensationalized account claiming this was evidence for the Garden of Eden. The pictures alone, though, may provide the best food for thought.
The two recent articles don’t seem to add much to the FirstPost article we referenced in October 2006, but Todd Bolen, on the Bible Places Blog remarked on the Mail post, “Take away the wild and foolish speculation and it’s an interesting article.” Archaeologists believe there is much, much more under the surface. This could be a major site that could occupy researchers for decades. There don’t seem to be any dwellings on the mound. The leading speculation is that this was some kind of early temple, but archaeologists often joke among themselves that anything they don’t understand must be related to ritual. Maybe it was an early art gallery.
On a related subject, news media like National Geographic News and the BBC News have been reporting a recent finding that people were domesticating horses a thousand years earlier than thought. Evidence from Kazakhstan shows people were riding and milking horses 5,500 years ago. The authors of the paper in Science,1 surprisingly, attributed this to a kind of anthropological convergent evolution: “The fact that horse milking existed in a region remote from the locus of ruminant domestication in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ and in an area seemingly devoid of domestic ruminants indicates that the evolution of strategies for exploiting animals for their milk was not contingent on the adoption of the conventional ‘agricultural package,’ as it appears to have developed independently in the Botai region.” One anthropologist told National Geographic, “If you’re milking horses, they are not wild!”
1. Outram et al, “The Earliest Horse Harnessing and Milking,” Science, 6 March 2009: Vol. 323. no. 5919, pp. 1332-1335, DOI: 10.1126/science.1168594.
Very interesting, indeed. Two things should be kept in mind when evaluating evidences like these. First, the dating methods are not cast in stone, so to speak. The older the radiocarbon dates, the more the uncertainty. Scientists claim to have calibrated radiocarbon to multiple tens of thousands of years, but one would have to know the history of the atmosphere in great detail to know exactly how old these monuments are. A surge in cosmic rays or some other factor could have altered the ratios of carbon isotopes, giving misleading results. The second thing to notice is that wherever we find human artifacts, they reveal human nature: intelligence, creativity, and culture.
Assume, for the time being, the dates as given. Look at the pictures of these monuments. They are profound. This is not the work of primitive hunter-gatherers, but of artists with a clear sense of proportion, geometry and communication. Read the articles in this light. It’s clearly possible, though we can’t be sure, that the marks on the stones are representations of their language. Remember how the Egyptian hieroglyphics were poorly understood till the Rosetta Stone? Secular scholars, usually evolutionists, are trying to fit the data into their view that the earlier the humans, the more primitive they were. That doesn’t make any sense.
Archaeologists are claiming that this wonderful artwork was made by primitive people using flint tools. If so, they had remarkable skill. The Stonehenge slabs are larger but not as well-worked as these, and these are said to be 7,000 years older! What was going on in the human race all that time? Is it plausible that more time than recorded history passed with almost no trace of even greater monuments, indeed whole cities, leading up to the Sumer and Egypt? Maybe the 7000-year time interval is fiction. Evolutionists make reckless drafts on the bank of time. Recall that the earliest cave paintings in Chauvet Cave surprised archaeologists when claimed to be 10,000 years “older” than the famous ones at Lascaux, yet are artistically superior (08/16/2008.) This is sufficient reason to doubt their entire dating scheme of pre-Sumerian history. And as we have stated many times, the idea that anatomically modern humans walked this planet for nearly 100,000 years before learning how to ride a horse is absurd. Evolutionary anthropologists have no explanation for the sudden, dramatic appearance of civilization after 100,000 years of hunting and gathering by human beings essentially the same as us. What happened? A mutation? Come on.
There could be many more artifacts of human culture awaiting discovery. The hints available reveal abrupt manifestations of intelligent, capable men and women on this planet. That fits the Biblical record. It describes Noah’s descendents spreading out from Babel (which was located in this Fertile Crescent region), and migrating in all directions based on their language groups. They carried with them distant and corrupted memories of the true God. Having recently fallen for Nimrod’s paganism, they were ripe for originating all kinds of false religions. Wherever they went, they already possessed language, conscience and the tarnished image of God written in their fallen souls. Some groups undoubtedly fell on hardship and were reduced to living in caves, hunting and gathering. (It appears from the Gobekli Tepe site that game was much more plentiful at that time.) Where migrating tribes succeeded in organizing, they built cities and monuments, and developed ways to represent their vocal languages on stone tablets. No biological evolution was involved. Whether in China, the Americas, Polynesia, Europe or Africa, the marks of human nature are present: the positive marks of intelligence, and the negative propensity for evil and violence. (The reason God sent the Flood was that the whole world was filled with violence, Genesis 6.)
Pay no attention to the “Garden of Eden” tie-in the articles speculate on. All the secularists are trying to do is cast doubt on the historicity of the Bible by suggesting that primitive hunter-gatherers invented an Eden myth out of their glory-days of hunting, as agriculture changed their lifestyles. This is only unbelief masquerading as scholarship. It ignores all their problems explaining complex artwork so early in their timeline. According to the Biblical record, the Garden of Eden had been buried in thousands of feet of Flood sediments by then. Memories of a paradise, however, could well have survived; in fact, most worldwide people groups include legends of a Creator God, an original paradise, and a global flood in their traditions. This all fits the remarkable Table of Nations describing of the dispersal of mankind from Babel recorded in Genesis 10. The conservative timeline of Dr. John Whitcomb allows at least 500 years from the Flood to Babel, and up to two millennia till the narrative continues in Genesis 12. A lot of migration and civilization can happen with intelligent people in time spans that long.
At a time of God’s choosing, about 2100 BC, He called a man out from the paganism of Ur of the Chaldees to carry out the next step of fulfillment for the promise He had made to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15), to establish a seed of the woman that would crush sin and bring salvation: Messiah. Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness (Gen. 15). How much more should we, with the advantage of hindsight, believe God? He kept His promises then; He keeps them now (Isaiah 55, Galatians 3). God doesn’t want your self-righteousness. He wants your trust; He wants you to believe His word – then He will declare that faith to be the righteousness He demands. The world could sure use some righteousness right now. Do your part; become a child of Abraham by faith (Romans 4).