Apr 3, 2017

Göbekli Tepe: Tracing Probable Links In The Mythology Of Göbekli Tepe To The Native Americans

Background: Tracing The Sources Of Our Culture To The Paleolithic Age... With Art & Music Being Well Over 40,000 Years Old! 

Cultures tend to come into being and spread depending on how popular an innovation, in technology or mythological outlook on life (idea/religion) and idea is. This can happen by a land bridge, such as that which existed between North America and Asia, or by boat over water. Best of all, when a person/tribe travels to a new place they bring their mythology (beliefs) with them and then restructure how they view their new home to fit their already established mythological outlook on life. This is called "land naming" or "land taking".

"Through land-nama, "land naming" or "land taking," the features of a newly entered land are assimilated by an immigrant people to its imported heritage of myth." i.e. "The new land, and all the features of the new land, are linked back as securely as possible to the archetypes - the spiritually, psychologically, and sociologically significant archetypes - of whatever mythological system the people carry in their hearts. And through this process the land is spiritually validated, sanctified, and assimilated to the image of destiny that is the fashioning dynamism of the people's lives." - Joseph Campbell, Primitive Mythology, Page 199

So the following links between Gobekli Tepe, a hunter site and Native Americans (probably still living in a paleolithic lifestyle before the Old World erupted on its shores), shouldn't be very surprising for anyone familiar with mythology.

From The Smithsonian:

Since 1998, he has examined more than 100,000 bone fragments from Gobekli Tepe. Peters has often found cut marks and splintered edges on them—signs that the animals from which they came were butchered and cooked. The bones, stored in dozens of plastic crates stacked in a storeroom at the house, are the best clue to how people who created Gobekli Tepe lived. Peters has identified tens of thousands of gazelle bones, which make up more than 60 percent of the total, plus those of other wild game such as boar, sheep and red deer. He's also found bones of a dozen different bird species, including vultures, cranes, ducks and geese. "The first year, we went through 15,000 pieces of animal bone, all of them wild. It was pretty clear we were dealing with a hunter-gatherer site," Peters says. "It's been the same every year since." The abundant remnants of wild game indicate that the people who lived here had not yet domesticated animals or farmed. 

1. Tracing The Tendency Of Mythology To Remain Constant Over Large Periods Of Time

An extract from the conclusion of the era of the Paleolithic culture from Primitive Mythology
[Pages 347-354]:

In short, then, a prodigious continuum has been identified, deriving in time at least from the period of the Riss-Wurm inter-glacial, about 200,000 B.C. It is represented in its earliest known forms in the high-mountain Neanderthal caves of Germany and Switzerland, but then also, millenniums later, in the caves of Homo sapiens of southern France. Its range in space extends, on the one hand, northeastward throughout the circumpolar sphere of the primitive arctic hunters and collectors, where its ritual of the Master Bear is continued to the present day, and, on the other hand southward into Africa, where the great felines - lion, leopard, panther, etc. - are in the role that is played by the bear in the north. In the survey of the main outlines of the archaeology of our subject, in Part Four, we must ask whether, actually, the African forms of the cult may not go back even further in time than the bear cult of the Neanderthal, so that the shift of role would have been rather from lion to bear then from bear to lion - according to the principle of land-nama, described earlier. For the present, however, our concern can be only: (1) to identify in the broadest terms the cultural zone of the cult of the animal master; (2) to see it in contrast to the younger mythological zone of the maiden sacrifice; and (3) to distinguish both primitive (or relatively primitive) contexts, as far as possible, from the much more securely documented prehistoric assemblages of the basal and high neolithic. from which emerged the great civilizations of the hieratic city state.

Me: The bold part of the above paragraph is why I think Robert Schoch is right about the Sphinx originally being a lion;

But if Sphinx like objects have been found at Gobekli Tepe as written here:

Quote form the Guardian on Gobekli Tepe"Look at this", he said, pointing at a photo of an exquisitely carved sculpture showing an animal, half-human, half-lion. "It's a sphinx, thousands of years before Egypt. South-eastern Turkey, northern Syria - this region saw the wedding night of our civilization." 

Then I would be willing to accept that MAYBE the sphinx was carved from an even earlier sphinx and not a lion as the mythological tradition suggests. 

Campbell: 1a. With an identified center in central Europe dating from the third inter-glacial period and a range extending, on the one hand, eastward to Labrador, and, on the other. southward to Rhodesia, an abundantly documented mythology of the hunt has flourished, of such a consistent character that we may well speak - indeed have to speak - of an area of diffusion. It is impossible to name with certainty the basic traits of this mythology in its earliest phase. In such contemporary manifestations as the Ainu bear sacrifice and burial rite, one has to recognize, besides the earliest paleo-Siberian strain of tradition, the probability of a very much later neolithic, Sino-Mongolian, Japanese, and even recent Russian influences.  Nevertheless, certain patterns of thought and ritual appear in these traditions that can be readily matched in other parts of the great continuum, and these - if we do not press them too far - can be taken to represent in the main general stance of the mind in this domain, which has fundamentally colored the web of whatever culture has come into form within its sphere of force. [Primitive Mythology -Pages 347-354]

I actually found the Bear sacrifice and ritual on youtube... and since this basic myth and it's practice goes back hundreds of thousands of years I thought I should put it here to provide context for the type of rituals and religions that existed more commonly (I think) in the era of Gobekli Tepe;

Read about it here.

EuropediaThe earliest evidence of religion come in the form of totemism or animal worship (like bear cult) practised by Neanderthals, some time between 100,000 and 300,000 years ago.

Campbell: The main idea would seem to be that there is no such thing as death, but simply, as we have said, a passing back and forth of the immortal individual through a veil. The idea was well expressed in the words of the Caribou Eskimo shaman Igjugarjuk: "Life is endless. Only we do not know in what form we shall reappear after death." This idea is apparent also in the Ainu prayers both at the bear sacrific and at teh funeral rite. To the bear: "Precious little divinity... please come again and we shall again do you honor of a sacrifice"; and to the man: "Take hold of [your staff] firmly at the top, and walk securly, minding your feet." The grave gear and sacrificed animals found in the graves in the Dorgone, at La Ferrassie,  Le Moustier, and La Chapelleaux-Saints, surely indicate something of the kind for the period of Neanderthal. And though we do not know whether burials of such a type were unusual or unusual at that time, the fact remains that in these cases, at least, a life beyond death was envisioned. Was the handsome hand ax in the grave at Le Moustier a souvenir to be presented to the god or ancestors in the other world? We do not know. And would the dead return at will, or remain with the ancestors. This we do not know either. But there was another world, there can be no doubt. [Primitive Mythology -Pages 347-354]

Life after death is a theme so old we see it in 300,000 year old burials;

Neanderthals started burying their dead possibly as 300,000 years ago in southern Europe, and indisputably since 130,000 years ago.

As Joseph Campbell writes on page 66; "the idea of the earth as mother and of burial as a re-entry into the womb for rebirth appears to have recommended itself to at least some of the communities of mankind at an extremely early date. The earliest unmistakable evidences of ritual and therewith of mythological thought yet found have been the grave burials of Homo neanderthalensis, a remote predecessor of our species, whose period is perhaps to be dated as early as 200,000 – 75000 B.C. Neanderthal skeletons have been found interred with supplies (suggesting the idea of another life), accompanied by animal sacrifice (wild ox, bison, and wild goat), with attention to an east-west axis (the path of the sun, which is reborn from the same earth in which the dead are placed), in flexed position (as though within the womb), or in a sleeping posture – in one case with pillow of chips of flint. Sleep and death, awakening and resurrection, the grave as a return to the mother for rebirth; but whether Homo neanderthalensis thought the next awakening would be here again or in some world to come (or even both together) we do not know."

2. An Overview Of Some Of The Symbolism At Gobekli Tepe

A pillar with another carving of a fox.


The Fox is an important part of Native American mythology (& in many other primitive/hunting cultures around the world)

The examples continue.

A bull, fox and crane.

A bull is a sacred animal in many cultures to this day and a bull is well known as a sacred animal in past cultures.

Cranes are seen as a symbol of good luck in Native American cultures and is probably the same here (i.e. a good luck symbol for the hunt so one can have the strength of a bull and the cunning of a fox)

A carved image of a fox or wolverine.

Of animals and a headless man. Göbekli Tepe, Pillar 43 

Some images on Göbekli Tepe´s pillars indicate a  narrative meaning. One striking example for this is Pillar 43 in Enclosure D. The whole western broad side of this pillar is covered by a variety of motifs. Dominant is a big vulture. It lifts its left wing, while the right wing points to the front. It is possible that this gesture aims at the sphere or disc that can be seen above the tip of the right wing. To the right of the vulture another bird, maybe a bald (?) ibis, a snake, two H-shaped symbols and wild fowl are depicted. On the pillar´s shaft, a huge scorpion as well as the head and neck of another bird are dominating the scene. 

A few more animals and their symbol in primitive cultures as traced through the Native Americans;

The significance of vultures in the ancient world is traced on this blog.

Thoth has an Ibis head and, thus, can be seen as a bird bestowing mystical qualities.

Scorpions are common in many goddess cults and its a constellation.

3. Overview Of Literature From A Blog About Gobekli Tepe;

Guarded by beasts: a porthole stone from Göbekli Tepe

However, the new porthole stone from the northwestern areas was completely different, and that not only regarding its enormous measurements of c. 3x3m. First, unlike all examples found before, it has two openings. Second, it is richly decorated with three c. 0.5m long sculptures of quadrupeds (bull, ram and a wildcat) and a 1.5 m long snake in high relief, as well as a row of cupholes. Unfortunately, the stone was not in situ, that is, not in its original architectonic context. But the decorations clearly show that it must have been part of an important building whose entrance had to be guarded accordingly.

Bull is a common holy animal. Ram may be the original animal (and set of mythological motifs) from which Pan was derived. The snake was a holy animal in primitive mythology as shedding its skin provided the perfect metaphor for transformation and rebirth. We all know what snake is in the Bible right? A reference to an earlier time when snakes were respected as one of the animals of the hunt ... from an era of agriculture, when hunting was not respected as a way of life?

“Dances with Cranes” – Animal masquerade in Pre-Pottery Neolithic ritual.

One of the most intriguing facets in this context is that cranes are famous for their dances. Breeding pairs and whole groups of cranes perform these complex movements. Their dances serve purposes of socialisation and pair bonding, but also to avert aggression. As soon as one of the birds starts, others are joining – yes, they even would do so if a human initiated the dance. Dancing was emphasized as integral social behaviour among PPN hunter groups, stressing communal unity and intensifying group cohesion (Garfinkel 1998). Bipedal and almost human-sized, with a comparable life-span and similar social structure, it is easily imaginable that these hunters somehow could identify with the dancing cranes, maybe even consider them reborn humans or ancestors. Russel and McGowan thus suggest that crane dances may well have been imitated to re-enact myths of origin, maybe of the own clan or humanity as such (Russell & McGowan 2003, 451-453) (Fig. 3). Related ritual dances are indeed not unknown from historic and ethnographic contexts and have been attested from a wide geographical and chronological range. Examples are known among Khanty (Ostiak) shamans from Siberia (Armstrong 1943, 73; Balzer 1996), the indigenous Ainu of Japan (St. John 1873), the Twa of central Africa (Campbell 1914, 79), and the sema dances of the Alevi in Turkey (Erol 2010) to just name a few.

So, since the fascination with cranes and their dances seem to be a thoroughly human phenomenon throughout space and time, the possibility of related Neolithic rituals should not come as a surprise. Cranes seem to have played an important role in the world of PPN hunter-gatherers. Remains of crane bones were reported from PPN B Jericho (Tchernov 1993) and Çatalhöyük (Russel & McGowan 2005) for instance, and they are known in significant numbers from Göbekli Tepe as well (where they form the second largest group in the avifauna right after corvids (cf. Peters et al. 2005, Table 1)). Next to the already introduced crane depiction from Göbekli Tepe’s Pillar 2, similar reliefs were discovered on Pillars 33 and 38 which, too, stand out due to their comparatively thick legs and what seems to be ‘human-like knees’ (Fig. 4 and 5). From PPN B Bouqras in Syria a frieze of about 18 painted and incised cranes is known – the repeated depiction of the same posture maybe indicating a dancing scene (Clason 1989/90; Russell & McGowan 2003, 450). Another little known painting at Çatalhöyük displays two cranes facing each other, their heads raised (Mellaart 1966, 190, Plates LXII-LXIII; Russell & McGowan 2003, 450). Since noticeably often pairs of animals facing each other are depicted, cranes may have been linked to a larger symbolism of pairs or twins which well reminds of Göbekli Tepe’s dualistic central pillars as well.

Notice that the animal costumes I suggested as a source for Egyptian gods being originally Shamans, is suggested in this articles, i.e. what they are seeing is the same culture of dance that primitive cultures have as can be seen in this video;

The Göbekli Tepe ‘Totem Pole’

Every excavation season at Göbekli Tepe reveals new remarkable finds and although the overall spectrum of objects to be exspected is known quite well, there are also surprises. One of these was a large sculpture discovered in 2009 and excavated in 2010 superficially reminescent of the totem poles of North Americas` natives. The sculpture had been set in the north-eastern wall of a rectangular room of Layer II and was not visible originally due to the wall completely covering it. It has the remarkable length of 1,92 metres. The pole features three main motives, one above another. The uppermost motive depicts a predator, probably a bear or a large felid. The frontal part of the head had been obliterated in antiquity; the surface of the break is covered with a thin limestone coating. Below the head, a short neck, arms and hands are visible. Their human like shape is remarkable. Although we might postulate that this depicts a “Mischwesen”, such as the “Löwenmensch” from the Aurignacian site of Hohlestein Stadel in Southwest Germany, we still cannot eliminate the possibility that these features were intended to depict animal arms and legs and not human limbs. The arms (or legs) are holding another head, which again lost its face in antiquity.

See a picture of the stone totem pole HERE

... and compare it to a Native American totem pole...

A tale of snakes and birds: Göbekli Tepe, Pillar 56.

Pillar 56 stands in the eastern circular wall of Enclosure H, located in the nortwestern depression of the tell. The pillar is excavated to a height of 2,15 m, its shaft is 0,94 m wide, the head measures 1,55 m. The southwestern broadside of this pillar is completely covered with reliefs. A total of 55 animals are depicted so closely packed, that the outline of one merges with the contour of the next image. Many depictions are reduced to silhouettes, it is hard to exactly determine which animal species is depicted for every example without fail.

Emblematic signs? On the iconography of animals at Göbekli Tepe

Clay and stone sculptures may thus well form two different functional groups, one connected to domestic space (and cult?) and one to the specialized ‘cult buildings’ – and to another sphere of ritual also evident at Göbekli Tepe. Its iconography is exclusively male, and while evidence for some domestic tasks is missing, there is evidence for flint knapping on a much larger scale than in any contemporary settlement, and shaft straighteners are very frequent, too. Göbekli Tepe could have been a place for just a part of society, for male hunters. At least their ideology is exclusively represented at the site.

But does that mean that all male hunters had access to the site? An answer is again hard to find, but another element of restriction is posed by the enclosures themselves. They are not of a size to accommodate very large groups of people at a time. If we imagine them open to the sky, then a certain public aspect would have to be taken into account, but another possibility is a reconstruction along the lines of largely subterranean buildings accessible through openings in the roof, similar to the kivas of the North-American Southwest, rather unimpressive and hidden from the outside. It is a distinct possibility that only a small group of people or ritual specialists had access to the enclosures. Taking into account the fierce and deadly iconography of Göbekli Tepe´s enclosures, male initiation rites including the hunt of fierce animals and the symbolic decent into an otherworld (especially if the enclosures really were roofed), symbolic death and rebirth as an initiate could have been one purpose of rituals at Göbekli Tepe.

Sounds like a site for initiation rites for males to me as well. In fact, Gobekli Tepe may be a more advanced/evolved form of the cave complex cultures with the cave paintings, or simply a variation on the same theme. (Note: The researcher here does make a connection to the North American cultures from Gobekli Tepe)

Here is short passage about the Lascaux cave by Joseph Campbell which sounds remarkably like Gobekli Tepe: In the vast, multi-chambered hunting-age sanctuary of Lascaux - which has been termed "the Sistine Chapel of hte paleolithic" - an experience of divinity has been made manifest, not as at Chartres or in the Vatican, in human (anthropomorphic) figurations, but in animal (theriomorphic). Overhead, on the domed ceilings, are wondrous leaping bulls, and the rough walls abound in animal scenes that transmute the huge grotto into the vision of a teaming happy hunting ground: a herd of stags, apparently swimming a stream; droves of trotting ponies of a chunky, woolly sort, their females pregnant, full of movement and life; bisons of a kind that has been extinct in Europe for thousands of years. (Page 300)

A Sanctuary … or so fair a House?

Summing up, from our point of view there seems to be ample evidence to interpret Göbekli Tepe as a peculiar place formed of special purpose structures related to cult and ritual with distinct and fixed life-cycles of building, use, deconstruction and burial. All of these stages seem to be marked by specific ritual acts, of which the last, i.e. those related to burial and deposition of symbolic objects are naturally best visible in the archaeological record. What remains is largely a problem of adequate terminology to address these buildings and the site as a whole. If ‘temple’ is understood as a technical term for specialized cult architecture, one could indeed consider this label for Göbekli Tepe. If the term is defined in our western perception as a place where a god is present, maybe ‘sanctuary’’ would be a more neutral description; alternatively the auxiliary construction of ‘special purpose buildings’ (Sondergebäude) may be used to escape any trap of culturally bound denominations. But in any case one thing is sure: the idea that Göbekli Tepe’s buildings are “so fair a house” seems not the most convincing interpretation of the available evidence so far.

This makes me think of the same conclusion from Primitive Mythology (continued from above)

Campbell: It has been suggested that the daily task and serious concern of dealing death, spilling blood, in order to live, created a situation of anxiety that had to be resolved, on the one hand by a system of defenses against revenge, and on the other by a diminishment of the importance of death. Immediately available, furthermore, was that primary, spontaneous notion of the child that death is not an end, nor birth a beginning.
"Mamma, where did you find me?"
"Mamma, where did I come from?"

These may not be "inherited ideas," precisely, but they are certainly general, spontaneous ideas, and the raw materials of myth, as we have seen, furthermore, they have been organized in a distinctive system, which has served primitive hunting societies for a period of some two hundred thousand years, both to alleviate the fear of blood revenge and to carry the mind across the ultimate threshold. And perhaps the best summation of the ultimate import of these myths and rites for the courageous men and women whose very difficult lives they served is expressed in the sentiment, reported by Dr. Rasmussen, of our little old friend Najagnep of North Alaska: Silam or Silam inua, "the inhabitant of soul (inua) of the universe," is never seen; its voice alone is heard. "All we know is that it has a gentle voice like a woman, a voice 'so fine and gentle that even children cannot become afraid.' What it says is: sila ersinarsinivdluge, 'be not afraid of the universe.'" [Primitive Mythology -Pages 347-354]

This is why I think that the successive burying of previous circles as Gobekli Tepe may have been a way of averting "blood revenge" of the animals after a particularly large festival, or, more likely, initiation rites (which may have been a yearly thing for all the tribes in the area), followed by a burial to "avert the evil eye" or something like that since hunting was definitely involved judging by all the bones of wild game found on the site.

National Geographic Article:

Puzzle piled upon puzzle as the excavation continued. For reasons yet unknown, the rings at Göbekli Tepe seem to have regularly lost their power, or at least their charm. Every few decades people buried the pillars and put up new stones—a second, smaller ring, inside the first. Sometimes, later, they installed a third. Then the whole assemblage would be filled in with debris, and an entirely new circle created nearby. The site may have been built, filled in, and built again for centuries. Bewilderingly, the people at Göbekli Tepe got steadily worse at temple building. The earliest rings are the biggest and most sophisticated, technically and artistically. As time went by, the pillars became smaller, simpler, and were mounted with less and less care. Finally the effort seems to have petered out altogether by 8200 B.C. Göbekli Tepe was all fall and no rise.

Also, given that the stone circles decreased in technical ability overtime, and the fact that a monolith was discovered under water, I have no choice but to posit the possibility that the earliest - most direct - connections to the culture of Gobekli Tepe will be found underwater and if we ever develop the technology to look underwater we will probably find multiple sites of interest given how far back culture seems to go. Maybe evn caves long since inundated with maybe no paintings lefts but some other artifacts still there and so on.

During a high-resolution mapping of the seafloor surrounding Sicily, researchers discovered an ancient treasure: a stone monolith spanning 39 feet (12 meters), resting on the bottom of the Mediterranean.

Stunned, the researchers sent down divers with cameras and video recorders to get a closer look at the monolith, which had broken into two parts. They dove 131 feet (40 m) underwater in an area called the Pantelleria Vecchia Bank, located about 37 miles (60 kilometers) south of Sicily.

Several features suggest the monolith was man-made, possibly by people living during the Mesolithic period about 10,000 years ago, Lodolo said. It has a fairly regular shape and contains three holes with similar diameters. One hole, with a diameter of 24 inches (60 centimeters), punched all the way through the stone.

"There are no reasonable known natural processes that may produce these elements," the researchers wrote in the study, referring to the regular shape and similar size of the holes.

Upcoming: “Leaping Foxes, Dancing Cranes – Human-Animal Entanglement in a Hunter’s World”

“Animism is the belief that animals, plants, objects and other beings of nature are animated with ‘souls’. It is a cosmology in which nonhuman creatures and things are believed to have motivations, feelings and agency very similar to or identical with those of human beings. Thus, communications with and relations between the spirits, animals and humans are fundamentally social. Animism is closely associated with shamanistic practices and its inherent idea of shape-changing and of hybrid existences between animals, humans and things. Since the work of Tylor (1871) animism has often been conceptualized as the original form of religion in hunter-gatherer societies hence characterizing the outset of human history. There is in current research, however, a growing awareness of the changing nature of animism, which may take different forms in different societies and thus is not solely tied to a hunter-gatherer way of life. Based on case studies, experimental evidence and cross-cultural comparisons, the seminar papers explore whether there is a transcultural essence and multi-period presence of animism, whilst the perspectives taken represent archaeology as well as psychology and history of religion.”

Losing your head at Göbekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe is a special site in many respects: its location is hostile to settlement, no water sources are in vicinity; domestic building types missing; only selection of material culture is present (very few bone tools, clay figurines absent); and there is a considerable investment of resources and work. This investment was not only made in building Göbekli Tepe. At the end of their uselifes, all buildings of layer III (PPN A, 10th millennium) were intentionally and very rapidly backfilled. The filling consists of limestone rubble from the neolithic quarry areas on the adjacent plateaus, mixed with large quantities of animal bones, flint debitage, artefacts and tools. Before backfilling started, it seems that the buildings were cleaned. If roofs should have existed, they were dismantled at that time, because absolutely no traces of them were found.

The other important category of depictions are more naturalistic sculptures. A total of 143 sculptures was found so far at Göbekli Tepe. Of those, 84 depict animals, 43 humans, 3 phalli and 5 are human-animal composite sculptures. It is striking that most anthropomorphic sculpture at Göbekli Tepe is fragmented. Of the 43 human-shaped depictions, only 9 can be regarded as complete, if we do not take smaller damages into account. What is also striking is that – in spite of large-scale excavations – there is only one case in which fitting fragments were found. If we have a closer look at the fragments preserved, a pattern emerges. The fragments preserved in the highest numbers are heads, not the often bigger torsi. The large number of broken off heads, and the regulated fractures, speak in favor of intentional fragmentation.

LiveScienceTaken together, the research indicates the site was created by hunter-gatherers, rather than farmers, who came from across a large area to build and then visit the site for religious purposes. This research is backed up by the style of some of the obsidian and stone tools which suggest that people were coming from Iraq, Iran, the Middle Euphrates and the eastern Mediterranean.

In other words, there were a large conglomeration (or "Nation") of tribes occupying a large area, for example;

Note 1: Tribes tend to have relatives in other tribes and share natural resources and may come together for war, this sort of development probably occurred in the paleolithic age in Egypt, the middle east and India as well with their cultural developments only becoming visible once they started building in stone. Thus the influence of the shamans can be traced all the way from the beliefs of the paleolithic age to our age.

Note 2: “Seventy percent of all archaeology is done in the library”

I'll put up more insights into archaeological discoveries as I encounter them.

Tracing The Origins Of Culture & Civilization

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