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It’s assumed that they were slave drivers, that this is the only way that they could have done it, and that the whole complex was a primitive temple of some kind.
Yes, it’s definitely a ceremonial site. Schoch and I believe that, in all likelihood, the animals and birds and figures that are carved there have an astronomical significance. This notion is based on that seminal book written in the late ‘60s by the two MIT historians of science, Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, called Hamlet’s Mill. Their main contention is that ancient myth and legend from around the world contains exact and extensive astronomical references. In other words, those much-maligned myths are not colorful attempts by primitives to account for the mysterious universe around them; rather, they are ingenious means of transmitting exact science through stories.
So what’s at stake here is an extraordinarily advanced civilization. They didn’t have pottery, as far as we know. They didn’t have a written language, as far as we know. But they could carve hard stone, in their own way, quite as well as Michelangelo or Rodin. These things are brilliant.
What do the carvings mean?
One of the lessons derived from Hamlet’s Mill is that when ancient legends refer to “gods,” those are planets, and when they talk about or refer to “animals,” they mean stars and constellations.
Schoch and I think that the astronomical context, if we can figure out what that is, may tell us why which animal is on which pillar and so on. It’s complicated. But as soon as you have astronomy involved, you know that even if people are hunting and gathering their food, they’re not primitives. They’re busy encoding astronomical information into a fairly sizable stone structure. It may be that before too long, somebody is going to start getting a sense of what their cosmology is like.
I’ve been studying and writing about symbolist Egypt for—what?—35, 40 years now. I developed the theory that the Great Sphinx was much, much older than it’s supposed to be, based upon a single observation made by the genius with the unpronounceable name R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz. He noted in one of his books that you can actually calculate the date that the ancient Egyptians ascribed to the beginnings of their own civilization. It’s somewhere around 34,000 or 36,000 BCE, which is unthinkable to an academic Egyptologist.
When Egyptologists read that, they think they’re just exaggerating?
They think they’re just nuts and that they’re inventing things, as if modern-day archaeologists or Egyptologists know more about ancient Egyptian history than the ancient Egyptians, which is typical of “quackademic” arrogance.
How does Goebekli Tepe support your view?
The main point of Goebekli Tepe, from our point of view, is the dating, because our work—backtracking, going back to Schwaller—is the observation that the Great Sphinx of Giza has been very severely weathered by rainwater, not by wind and sand. We presented our evidence at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting back in ’91. It was unanimously accepted by the dozens of geologists attending our presentation but was met by fury from the Egyptologists and the archaeologists.
The controversy’s lurched on over all of these years without, let’s say, the smoking gun that we needed to establish the theory once and for all. But now Goebekli Tepe—that’s our smoking gun. One of the arguments always raised against us, was that it’s all hunter-gatherers back then, so how could the Sphinx be that much older than anything else we regard as sophisticated civilization? We had no major answer to that, certainly nothing visually exciting. Now we have it, since nobody is arguing about the dating of Goebekli Tepe.
What it means for civilization in general, this is a big question. It’s not just a quibble about dating or about chronology. Who really cares if it’s 10,000 BC E or 3,000 BCE? How does that affect our daily lives? What’s at stake actually is the story of civilization itself and what civilization actually entails. Because now, every time you turn on the television, or every time you read the front page of the newspaper, it’s clear that we’re living at the end of a civilization— certainly the end of something.