IF YOU’RE DEBATING WHETHER OR NOT TO ACTUALLY READ THIS POST,
Taking a break from my summary of Kurzweil’s book, I’d like to discuss this INCREDIBLY interesting article, with myself (or anyone who feels compelled to comment), about Göbekli Tepe. My uncle mentioned this article to me while he was visiting, and sent it to me earlier this month (Thanks Uncle Jim!). The article was published in The New Yorker issue December 19 & 26, 2011, titled The Sanctuary written by Elif Batuman. To read it online, you may need to subscribe to The New Yorker. But I’d say it’s worth it, at least just for this article.
Göbekli Tepe is comprised of “more than sixty multi-ton T-shaped limestone pillars, most of them engraved with basreliefs of dangerous animals”. This site was discovered back in the sixties by someone who could not have predicted what they *may* have stumbled upon. Now, archaeologists who have dedicated their lives to these monuments are starting to understand new, brilliant ancient possibilities.
This article discusses the belief/evidence that agriculture changed the human species most extraordinarily and forever.
The perspectives in this article imply that the invention of agriculture might have been the most destructive evolutionary advance that homo sapiens ever made. It’s hard to see it that way, standing in the shoes of 2012, but take your head (or feet) out of this era to fully appreciate the arguments presented. You might start to wonder.
The big question, what kind of (human) world was Göbekli Tepe created in?
…because the archaeologists interviewed in this article suggest Göbekli Tepe could have been created within the Garden of Eden.
“WHOA WHOA WHOA. WAIT. WHAT? THE GARDEN OF EDEN? I THOUGHT THAT PLACE WAS MADE UP! RABBLE RABBLE RELIGIOUS FANATICS RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE GOD DOES NOT—“
Hold your horses people. This article does not imply the existence of *a Judeo-Christian God*, or any god, in any way.
Here is an opinion of the Old Testament that you should like to be acquainted with: the stories of the Old Testamant (or the “first half” of the Christian bible) are metaphors. Allegorical tales to express lessons learned, or to be learned, concerning the human condition. Does this article suggest Adam and Eve were real people? No. It does not. Is this clear? Great.
Göbekli Tepe was built during the time of hunter-gatherers, approximately 11,000 years old, or about “six and a half thousand years older than the Great Pyramid”.
So what made that switch happen? How and why did we evolve past being hunter-gatherers? What made agriculture so important?
You might begin to say, agriculture permitted surplus and supported the growth of technology, all because people were no longer roaming around like a bunch of…gypsies. Goddamn gypsies. YOU HEARD ME!
If this has been your former consensus on the nature of agriculture, don’t stop reading!
As it has stood for decades among archaeologists and anthropologists, the chain of events goes hunter-gatherers -> agriculture -> religious practice. Now some believe we have understood it all wrong, and Göbekli Tepe is the key to proving it.
“The idea of a religious monument built by hunter-gatherers contradicts most of what we thought we knew about religious monuments and about hunter-gatherers. Hunter-gatherers are traditionally believed to have lacked complex symbolic systems, social hierarchies, and the division of labor, three things you probably need before you can build a twenty-two-acre megalithic temple. Formal religion, meanwhile, is supposed to have appeared only after agriculture produced such hierarchical social relations as required a cosmic backstory to keep them going…The findings at Göbekli Tepe suggest that we have the story backward — that it was actually the need to build a sacred site that first obliged hunter-gatherers to organize themselves as a workforce, to spend long periods of time in once place, to secure a stable food supply, and eventually to invent agriculture.“
Boom. Smack. Crack. Dazzle. Isn’t that a fascinating concept!??!!
Alright, some people may feel that proposing that the described “need to build a sacred site” implies that the proposer believes in a powerful godlike force that had to have prompted the “need”. Do yourself a favor and don’t jump to conclusions. Remember, you are taking yourselves out of the shoes of 2012, and diving into a world of unbiased human curiosity where you can use your *IMAGINATION*, just as a kind yellow sponge once suggested.
A “need to build a sacred site” can, and I believe should be considered an evolved psychology, practically coded into us. Why else do you think religion started? And by religion I mean my definition of religion, which is a structural organization of beliefs and rituals. Broader term than a lot of people think.
“Mysteriously, the pillars appear to have been buried, deliberately and all at once, around 8200 B.C., some thirteen hundred years after their construction.”
So after congregating at these same pillars for 1300 YEARS, there was a mass effort to quickly bury them and leave those 1300 years in the past behind forever. It don’t take no genius to figure out there was a large-scale, rapid shift in lifestyle and belief that occurred during the time of the burial. Wouldn’t you agree?
So what happened?
WHY AGRICULTURE MAY HAVE BEEN “THE BIGGEST MISTAKE”
Many assume that agriculture was NOT a mistake because of all of the incredible benefits and advances it prompted… but here’s the sad news. Life did not necessarily improve after the dawn of agriculture, at all. Across the board “compared with hunter-gatherers, early farmers had more anemia and vitamin deficiencies, died younger, had worse teeth, were more prone to spinal deformity, and caught more infectious diseases, as a result of living close to other humans and to livestock.” Bummmmmmmer. Hunter-gatherers even worked less than us, “typically spending less than twenty hours a week obtaining food”. Ask any farmer, that ain’t happening to a farmer and ain’t never happened to no farmer.
The farming model is also incredibly risky considering the different environments and climates around the globe. When ancient people settled down to start farming, each person became dependent on the crop turnout. Brutal storms and pests are the deciders of a community’s fate.
Before farming, the earth was (more or less) in balance with all earthlings (teeheehee). Farmers were the first people to “take power” of the world. Man said “screw you God, or whatever you are!” and manipulated the earth to reap benefits for man and man alone. But once man met Abundance and Increase, there was no turning back.
“By then they were locked in – they had to farm more and more land just to keep everyone alive. Deriving strength from their large, poorly nourished numbers, the farmers gradually killed off most of the hunter-gatherers and drove the rest from their land.”
Agriculture is described as “the origin of the ‘gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence.’ “
Before, I mentioned that archaeologists believe this may be what was considered the Garden of Eden. This is why:
- It is right near the city of Urfa, which is acknowledged as the prophet Abraham’s birthplace
- An abundance of snake imagery…to say the least…
- This area between the Tigris and the Euphrates has been rightfully characterized as “a paradise for hunter-gatherers”
“In Eden, man and woman lived as companions, unashamed of their nakedness, surrounded by friendly animals…The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, like the first fruits of cultivation, brought on an immediate, irrevocable curse. Many now had to work the earth, to eat of it all the days of his life…God’s terrible words to Eve – ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; in pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you’ – may refer to a decline in women’s health and status produced, in early agricultural societies, by the economic need to have children who would till and inherit the land…The institution of private property, meanwhile, made paternal certainty a vital concern, and monogamy, particularly for women, was strictly enforced.”