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Göbekli Tepe (wikipedia.org)
139 points by areoform 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 59 comments

It took a bit to get used to the narrative style, but After the Ice was a good tour of early humanity.


Agreed, I highly recommend it. It's a thick book, but covers a lot of ground.

It looks like that book is from 2006, predating widespread recognition of Göbekli Tepe's significance. At the time, from my recollection, the mainstream view as that human culture at 10k BPE was nowhere near being able to produce the kind of social organisation that a complex like Göbekli Tepe would require. Was the book ahead of its time in recognising the potential for something like Göbekli Tepe? Or does it need a new edition, in light of what's been discovered?

Well, here are some quotes from it: "When standing on that hilltop late on an October afternoon in AD 2002 I truly felt that it had been at Göbekli and not Jericho that the history of the world had turned.", "Çatalhöyük turned out to be quite simply the most remarkable Neolithic settlement ever discovered – although that status must now be shared with, or perhaps even surrendered to, Göbekli Tepe."

The book certainly makes its significance clear, and explains the unexpected early social organisation required.

There is quite a lot about Göbekli Tepe and Jerf el Ahmar in chapter "Pictograms and Pillars". About the people who did it and how they made it. Not sure if something new was found since then.

EDIT: Ok, there are definitely some new ideas https://astronomy.com/news/2020/09/gobekli-tepe-the-worlds-f...

There's been several huge discoveries since 2006, especially in Turkey. I'm also interested if there's an up to date (or revised) book covering this topic.

Cesare Emiliani and Kurzegesagt make the case that we think of world civilization as much newer than it is, because our year count is now only to 2021. They argue for instead bumping our year by 10,000 to more truly reflect the age of our civilization, to 12,021, and (arbitrarily) commemorating Göbleki Tepe as its foundation


https://youtu.be/czgOWmtGVGs (2016 or 12016)

There are beautiful ruins all throughout Turkey, completely out in the open. You can walk through a park and find yourself stepping over ancient mosaics and columns, the kinds you'd find behind velvet ropes and glass partitions in Italy or Greece.

One of my dreams is to walk the Lycean Way [0] where I’ve read that the remote trails have you camping among ruins. It seems amazing that there’s still so many ancient ruins just laying about and accessible to humans.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lycian_Way

That's a terrific trek. I've only done one small segment, Faralya to Fethiye, and enjoyed it so much I want to return to do the entire length... Some day.

Termessos is one. An ancient Greek city up a mountain. Imagine an amphitheatre with a view in every direction. The burial site is open for you to climb around and over. It's near Antalya. Check it out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Termessos

Great Turkish drama about it called The Gift is on Netflix.

Excellent drama series.

Graham Hancock talks about this on several of his Joe Rogan episodes.

Graham Hancock always gave me a strong pseudoscience vibe, do you think he should be taken seriously?

Absolutely not. He's not Von Daniken crazy, but potentially more insidious. He's extremely careful to caveat and disguise his crazy under a legitimate looking veneer. His books are extensively annotated and referenced, he talks like a legitimate archaeologist and makes sure that the more outlandish and conspiracy theory ideas are there by implication rather than overt claims. He works very hard to make it difficult to dismiss him out of hand and to keep a seat at the legitimate debate table.

However he does make sure that the more out there crazy does get referenced and carefully avoids saying anything, or referencing any counter-evidence that would discredit them. So he avoids being categorised with the more extreme crazies, while assiduously making it clear he is their friend. After all, he needs to sell his books.

Having said that, his stuff as with Von Daniken really is a lot of fun. I occasionally check it out just to keep current on state of the art crazy. Just bear in mind there's a lot of flim-flam in there and he will avoid referencing any evidence that debunks his claims, no matter how much of it there is. You will not get the whole story from him. For example he will write a book on a topic from the point of view of say 20 years before the book's development and publication, and ignore any inconvenient research later than that, and probably also ignore some relevant research and counter-arguments from before that as well.

I don't have any skin in the game, but I like listening to Graham Hancock's theories. They're entertaining, just like Time Team[0] which is genuine archaeology.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvmEISc6e4tLwn8TyS14ncw (possibly UK only)

Ignoring conflict evidence, ie, confirmation bias, sounds like just about every human I've ever seen. Especially scientists with their pet theories. I suppose it comes down to how people weight the evidence, they're definitely biased toward weightings that support their favorite theory.

Just as I'm sure you are with your Hancock's BS theory.

Is it really true that he's only been peddling unsubstantiated stuff tho?

Didn't he propose that the younger dryas ice age was caused by an impact, a claim later supported by more evidence, including nanodiamonds? I know the cause remains unsettled, but even if you read Wikipedia, which starts out saying the evidence for that is misinterpreted, it goes on to detail a bunch of solid sounding evidence. That's there's contention and ambiguity is not unusual for science, particularly such a speculative science as archaeology. But his proposal, at least, sounds neither crazy, nor appears to be unsubstantiated, as you claim.

He definitely does engage in legitimate debate about reasonable theories and weighing plausible evidence. On issues like that he can be a reasonable contributor to the public debate. That's fine. The question is to what extent is that cover to get himself a seat at the public debate table, to lend credibility to the woo woo stuff which is what sells his books?

He doesn't make money from suggesting there might have been an asteroid impact that affected the climate at a given point in history. He gets paid for writing books about "Meetings with the ancient teachers of mankind".

Just because someone has some highly imaginative hopes and theories that you may personally find distasteful, does not a crank make, nor does it tarnish other stuff they've done, of course.

Unless you're comfortable with Newton being a crank for his alchemy, Oppenheimer being a crank for his mysticism, Turing being a crank for his desires, Galileo for his solar centrism, Harvard's Avi Loeb for his derelict alien ship, Chinese being cranks for TCM, and so many others.

It's funny how rational skepticism and "crank calling" (shaming?) rubs shoulders so closely with bigotry they're almost indistinguishable. But i suppose our beloved skeptics are apt to ignore that inconvenient interpretation. I just think that the propensity to think outside the box, and courageously push against the boundaries of (sometimes merely culturally normative, as in the case of TCM) orthodoxy, while also keeping connected to truth, is possibly one of the foundations of scientific genius, and seems to be something to be encouraged. At the very least, it's benign. I'm not quite sure why people seem to be so terrified of scientists who dare stand outside the herd, and propose new ideas.

Don't we have enough groupthink everywhere else (politics, think tanks, political science, education, religion), can't we have one place to celebrate dangerous ideas? Why wouldn't science be the perfect place for that?

I think it's possible your Hancockyness is a little overblown. Perhaps he's not quite the crank you think, tho he may be the crank you need.

Newton was a crank w/r/t to his alchemy. Likewise, Pauling with his Vitamin C. Doesn't invalidate any of their other work, but it does mean we shouldn't just take their authority as relevant in areas outside their core competencies.

W/r/t Turing, a person's sexual preferences aren't even in the same universe as someone's unsubstantiated personal beliefs about how the world works. Perhaps you would want to retract that piece? While I don't agree with you overall, I think your argument would be stronger if you excluded his example.

I think you're looking at the "crank / non-crank" evaluation as an attribute of a person. I'm suggesting it's more relevant to use a person/field-of-study grain to apply the label. (It probably also makes sense to break it down further, but at some point, the complexity outweighs the benefit.)

no. I think the turing thing is very important. Because just like Galileo it's a culturally normative thing to hate on gay sex back then just like hating on solar centrism was. And I think a lot of the other prejudices against far out ideas are going to be these bullshit culturally normative bigoted biases that turn out to be incorrect. Just like the blanket Western cultural bias against tcm. almost just like the marijuana thing...you know "marijuana turns you into the devil and makes you crazy"... "gay sex is morally wrong." All of this bullshit kind of was eventually overturned in the tide of public opinion but at the time people were so certain (just like witchcraft) you know that there was a reality to their demonization.

So no, won't rewrite nor retract. Is important to keep it in to reinforce how relative alot of this is.

I think you probably got upset by assuming I was associating gay sex with some sort of absolute measurable moral position. Hopefully what I said has reassed you that's not the case and let you feel better about it.

Btw good point about crank aspects not tainting the whole. Maybe sometimes what we think of as crank is simply undiscovered science. Maybe Newton would have had a better theory if he knew something more about nuclear transmutation.

I think there's a spectrum of these crank things though some stuff like flat Earth come on that has to be false.

But i think we should be giving more due, and less crank, to people like Hancock.. i know it's a personal thing tho, how your feel about a particular person. I just don't like to see a groupthink pile on, from any group.

Please let me reassure you that I was not upset by your statement - merely providing feedback for how to strengthen your point and avoid a distracting and loaded sidebar.

I'm still not clear what the broader point is. That sometimes norms change, and have non-linear impact?

Most of the time, a crank is just a crank. That's why we know about the outliers.

how can you provide feedback on how to make the point clearer if you don't understand what the point is? So I think you probably do understand it. There's no need to pretend you don't just because you disagree and you're not sure how to state your ddisagreements.

Sorry, (very) freudian slip there (i guess), i meant ressaured not re-assed haha

is that really true though that a crank is just a crank most of the time? I don't think that's true. I think the skill is looking for the sincerity and the truth in what they're saying aside from any noise that might be there as well. Just like you're trying to make the point of reducing distractions. And just like I think it's important in data analysis you know you want to increase the signal reduce the noise and that's something you as a reader can do. So I don't think it's true that a crank is just a crank it's too much of an easy dismissal. it's important to have these alternative hypothesis generators and to listen and not get distracted by the other stuff. If everyone was obsessed that Newton or Turing or Galileo had culturally normative crank ideas they would have missed the good stuff. And maybe there is good stuff in some of those culturally normative crank ideas. And maybe we did as a society miss out on some of the good stuff because we wanted to say oh cranks are just cranks. so I don't think we should do that and I think you should probably stop doing that if you want to support this idea of you know scientific inquiry and the expansion of knowledge. Just a pointer ;) :p

So, I see you making your points there and I've already made my points so I don't see anything more to add. I'm comfortable that we have different views on it.

Too many people who have genuine major contributions to fields make the mistake of thinking that because they’re an expert in one then they’re automatically qualified in others, or that because they nailed one thing their beliefs about something else must also be true (ie Pauling and vitamin C).

I see this all the time in medicine. One of the best neurosurgeons in my country and someone I consider a friend still tells me that I need to keep the microwave door shut for 3 seconds after it’s done or else the waves will escape and give me cancer. That defies the laws of electromagnetism on several levels.

We absolutely need alternative hypothesis generators, but the widespread acceptance of every crank idea that comes along even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is not only infuriating but actually serves to damage the scientific method, when the lady down at the mothers group claims that the vaccine gave her son autism and there is a global conspiracy led by bill gates to implant microchips in everyone.

At the end of the day, in my belief, it boils down to a sad lack of trust in experts - some of it warranted from the abuses and oversteps of the past, and some of it actively facilitated by people who have ideological reasons to oppose what the scientific truths are presenting (ie climate science denial).

Hard to disagree with that. Where does that term crank even come from?

I think science theories wrt to public belief have both high false positive and negative rates. A lot of people believe stuff to be true that isn't (that climate changes are only due to us, are terrible, and that there's something we can do about it that will help), and don't believe true stuff that is (flat earthers... I'm pretty open minded but also quite sure we live on a fucking ball).

The obvious caveat is nobody fucking knows anything we're all just fumbling around in the dark but consensus and a sense of certainty certainly does help. It's surprising how shit a lot of the data that we have (even in this scientific age) is. And how easily manipulated the narratives can be.

So i think we should be giving more due, and less crank, to people like Hancock.. i know it's a personal thing tho, how your feel about a particular person. I just don't like to see a groupthink pile on, from any group.

Wanted to add another comment after learning what TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) meant. This is a really interesting grey area. There appears to be validity to some of it, some of it is supernatural fluff. Out of the evidence-led examples, it's possible some of the effect is placebo.

There are many layers, some full of cranks and some not. Maybe this is a field where generalization just isn't useful? I dunno, but wanted to think out loud and thank you for making me think a bit more than planned today :).

Your attacks on him shows how biased you are - for instance, you called or used the word 'crazy/crazy' 5 times, without mentioning a single actual concrete instance of what makes his assertions crazy.

There are various videos of him online engaging in straightforward, evidence-based debates with others, and where some of the things he's said has been subsequently proven by more recent discoveries.

Your opinion of him seems entirely prejudiced. You have no substance in your description of him at all.


> Hancock's ideas have helped fuel the surge of interest in Gobekli Tepe as an ancient observatory. But he has an even more fantastical claim about the vulture and other carvings on Pillar 43. He believes, again without evidence, that it's an ancient constellation diagram that shows the winter solstice against a backdrop of today’s modern sky.

A team from the University of Edinburgh School of Engineering doesn't think it's too crazy.


You might want to read the article from astronomy.com, part of it is based on this paper. ("In 2017, a pair of chemical engineers made global headlines [...]")

There are two episodes dedicated to him on the our fake history podcast. He thoroughly demolishes pretty much everything about his theories.

He’s a great populariser of bullshit. Interesting theories but nothing over 30 years of building unsubstantiated theories out of thin threads of evidence that aren’t connected

> He’s a great populariser of bullshit. Interesting theories but nothing over 30 years of building unsubstantiated theories out of thin threads of evidence that aren’t connected

What about his work that led to the acceptance of the Younger Dryas period being a result of the asteroid impact, that was refuted in academia for so long that is now been proven with time?

That revelation alone is worth more PhDs than most entire departments create in a decade!

What work? Doesn't look like he did much https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Younger_Dryas_impact_hypothesi... and it doesn't look like there is consensus about it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Younger_Dryas#Causes

That page is "curated" by a retired historian with a grudge.

Take a look at the revision history of the page, where you see him routinely reversing revisions that would improve the page -- particularly, reversing deletions of irrelevant but prejudicial content.

There is no reason to mention Graham Hancock on the page at all, or any century-old stories. They are there just to muddy the water, and to give the ex-professor a soapbox for name-calling.

The evidence is presented in a deliberately confused order, and very selectively. New evidence is not permitted. Wikipedia is ruled by people like that, now. We have to wait for them to die before we can have pages not somebody's hobby-horse.

Hancock didn't originate the theory an impact contributed to the Younger Dryas event, nor has he originated any evidence or research towards substantiating it. So other than mentioning it in some books and talk shows, what was his contribution that merits a PhD?

> Hancock didn't originate the theory an impact contributed to the Younger Dryas event, nor has he originated any evidence or research towards substantiating it. So other than mentioning it in some books and talk shows, what was his contribution that merits a PhD?

I didn't say he was the only one to do so, but he put in the work to get observational data and brought to the mainstream archeaologists and historians who wrote countless works and based their dissertations on their 'irrefutable fact' of how the Ice Age ended which never included an asteroid impact and he staunchly challenged academia as a JOURNALIST and did the legwork with his colleagues who were actually trained archeologists and documented his observations.

And just so it's clear: I'm not parroting academia's indoctrination it forced me to bend to, but Wikipedia is not a valid source for citation for a reason, and if I had submitted a paper referencing it was dismissed entirely.

But here is an essay from the Man himself if you are so inclined to read it [0].

I think his work is notable and his contributions worthy and have merit, which is honestly much more than what many people based their PhDs on when they make arguments about things like the extinction of wooly mammoths and other mega fauna as result of Human over hunting. When NOTHING could explain these massive dead zones, but were none the less awarded degrees for their findings.

0: https://grahamhancock.com/hancockg17/

No reputable scientist deals in 'irrefutable facts' like that, only evidence. If you're going to put quotes on something like that, I think it's reasonable to ask for a reference.

I'm just wondering, can you give examples of the research papers for these PhDs or degrees where you evaluated them and found them insufficiently rigorous. It sounds like this has happened a lot, so are there any resources on this I can read?

Hancock's pop sci summary of other people's work you linked to is entertaining, but are we really surprised that geologists 100 years ago had a limited understanding of the history of the earth? That controversy was 40 years before we even came up with plate tectonics. It's hardly cutting edge stuff.

I’m not hugely familiar with his contributions to this, but if you throw 10,000 darts at a board, you get one bullseye. It doesn’t make you a genius.

As another poster said, his theories are interesting (I spent several days as a teenager running through all sorts of measurements trying to work out the megalithic yard and see if door measurements/side measurements in other monuments could be related, and found it fascinating when in the sign and the seal/hiriam’s key the original of the megalithic yard was discovered), but the benal/fascinating realities of the unit of measurement are a long way from the phantasmagorical claims made in heaven’s mirror and fingerprints of the gods

> You throw 10,000 darts at a board, you get one bullseye. It doesn’t make you a genius

That's not a very good dismissal of the man's work, like I said that revelation alone is as solid as an entire University's department of post doc and grad students combined. It's overturned so many people's dissertations and the narrative of how the Ice Age ended, specifically to the migration of People into the Americas from Eurasia that has so many implications in other departments like biology.

Also, his observations of water erosion on Egyptian pyramids is very compelling, and places it way before the modern Egyptian narrative if its true as nothing provided by modern Egyptologists really explains how deep it is. Wind/sand erosion cannot carve that deeply, especially since so much of the pyramids was under sand until maybe only modern times when it became a large part of the Egyptian economy via tourism, thus preserving it from further erosion.

I had a reply here but on further thought I decided I would do some reading on Hancock’s contribution to the Younger Dryas hypothesis. Wiki not only suggests that he wasn’t the first but that his contributions to theories largely amount to other claims which are just as hard to substantiate (ie cyclical nature of impacts) [0].

So really it seems that he hasn’t contributed a huge amount to this field at all apart from being another voice amongst many, when the claim has still not been fully substantiated by the geological record. An area worthy of more study, but it’s hardly ‘his’ contribution

To say that this guy has thrown 10,000 darts and come up with hardly anything is absolutely an accurate way to characterise Hancock’s work.

I also think it’s quite disingenuous to claim that modern Egyptologists are unable to claim ‘how’ ‘water’ erosion exists there (or even if it is water erosion) - there’s not only a decent chunk of carbon dating from ie. The camps next to the pyramids used by the builders but on an Occam’s razor perspective the consensus is the one most substantiated by existing evidence.

And don’t go into an argument about how groupthink dictates too much of consensus, as a doctor and scientist I understand the need for alternative hyptheses and I’ve found Hancock’s theories to be very interesting, but he makes a literal living out of pareidolia - he sees faces in every group of shadows, and vociferously denies they were just shadows when the lights are turned on.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Younger_Dryas_impact_hypothe...

I visited this place when I was in Turkey. You can ask me anything through first person observer (FPO)

> I visited this place when I was in Turkey.

I follow the work of Graham Hancock quite closely but how did the artwork appear to you? The need for the specialized tools to bore the holes or mae those 3d outward busts on stone are incredibly advanced and the accuracy of these depictions of animals and peoples seen on stone predates what most archaeologists place Agriculture at ~10,000 years ago, which coincidentally is also in this part of Turkey. Most tools from nomadic people before the advent of Agriculture were likely for hunting, and cutting meat or building fires and clothes, not precision based specialized tools so this site opens the door to the notion that very specialized tools being used prior to this period for ornamental or sacred purposes in Human History was already common practice.

Personally speaking, after having done agriculture myself, I think agriculture its closer to 20-30,000 years old and sites like this and the one in Indonesia re-enforce my hypothesis as you cannot make these monoliths without several generations of a very well refined work force that requires specialization and surpluses of food and water only possible due to a systematic application of horticulture and domestication of livestock.

What were your biggest takeaways, and how much would you say is still left to unearth?

It is my understanding most of it is still underground and other sites have yet to be even approved or greenlit for excavation due to political and warfare issues, was that still the case when you were there?

Everybody agrees that there is overwhelmingly more left underground there, and in nearby hills, than has been dug up. Nobody knows if any of it is older. The other stuff they dug up so far has turned out not to be.

The thing to know about Graham Hancock is that he is full of wacky ideas, but he is very careful to keep reports of his observations separate from his speculations. He is better at this than many scientists.

He is absolutely not a scientist, not trained as one, not acting like one. But he also absolutely never pretends to be one, so is no kind of pseudo-scientist. You can trust his observations implicitly, his speculations not at all. Very unlike archaeologists, he is happy to take note of what has no plausible explanation yet, and not pretend that the professionals have everything wrapped up. That, more than anything, is what infuriates the archaeologists who label him a pseudo-scientist. You are not supposed to talk about things they haven't a clue about, and especially things they have been, or are, obviously and aggresively wrong about.

The other thing about him is that he really goes places, and reports accurately what he finds, and takes excellent photographs, even of things archaeologists are still unsure and embarrassed about.

Could the bas relief carvings there represent constellations, as he guesses? Absolutely! The ones he thinks? Very probably not. Does Earth's rotational precession have anything at all to do with the timing of orbital/impact events? Absolutely not. Is the existence of Göbekli Tepe consistent with any narrative of pre-history promoted before it was found? Absolutely not. Has it been integrated into current narratives? No. Can it be? Yes, but with substantial pain; and the new narrative will end up needing to be revised again soon, which they hate.

Archaeological distaste for further work there can probably be explained, in some degree, by the expectation that further revelations will show that the pros have been even more wrong about our immediate pre-history than we now know. It will mainly yield further embarrassment.

At the time it was built, the Persian Gulf was largely dry land. Did people live there? Very probably; we would need to know why not, if not. Did they have to abandon settlements as the sea level rose? They would. Would there be legends about that? If not, that would be surprising. Did it happen suddenly? No.

Thing is, archaeology is not science. They do fieldwork, apply for grants, order lab work, and publish papers in journals, but are not allowed to make hypotheses that could be overturned. Their role is to tell stories about facts already unearthed.

Graham Hancock is happy to speculate about it all, and be wrong. For archaeologists, obvious speculation is forbidden, and being found to have speculated wrongly embarrassing. The easiest reaction to what he does is to label him a bad scientist so his observations can be safely ignored.

does it look normal sized? I ask because I know from pictures and the internet that (for instance) Petra is not human sized

It doesn't look particularly outsized.


But then how many cathedrals or major monuments are built to human scale? One of my favourite examples is from a temple to Ishtar in Syria:


Those footprints are about a metre long.

The last picture is now a useless "image hosted by tripod" placeholder. There is a picture here: https://www.alamy.com/ain-dara-iron-age-syrohittite-temple-f...

(There is a huge amount of conspiracy nonsense coming up when I search for this stuff.)

Very obviously not actual footprints.

But they do tell us something concrete about how the builders who carved them imagined their gods.

Just saw someone mentioned Göbekli Tepe on Reddit in the same hour, lol. What a coincidence.

You have not noticed yet that a good fraction of posts on HN are just things someone saw in another HN or Reddit discussion, that they then reposted as a separate submission?

me too ! Probably not a coincidence :)

Is it true it is only partially excavated and the Turks refuse to remove any more soil?

Edit: This is a claim by Graham Hancock which I was just reminded of

Graham Hancock is brilliant at muddying the waters (saying this as someone who used to read everything he put out - i was enthralled at the mystery of an ancient civilisation that gave birth to all the rest, but nothing over the last 30 years has been substantiated and he loves working the underdog/anti-consensus angle so in my opinion that’s his entire bent, he revels in casting aspersions on well established archeological convention) so I’m not too sure about that, this post suggests it’s still being excavated [0]

Interestingly, there have been some recent excavations that suggest there are some sites that may be even older [1]

[0] https://www.thetravel.com/gobekli-tepe-still-being-excavated... [1] https://www.aa.com.tr/en/culture/ancient-site-older-than-gob...

>>"and the Turks refuse to remove any more soil?"

I have no connection to this, but if I was in charge of a site like Gobekli Tepe I would absolutely shut down all work until I was absolutely sure that the people who were going to work on it were a) funded out of the kazzzoo, b) the best people in the world to do it, c) using methods that would not do damage and stop subsequent generations from squeezing more knoweldge than I could imagine from the site. I would want to know exactly what was being looked for and why before I allowed the smallest trowel to scoop the smallest bit of earth off it.

Why? Because if in three years someone popped up and told me that there were a slew of important questions that were now off the agenda because I permitted a world heritage site to be trashed I'd be quite upset frankly.

This is a good and interesting point. It's not like it's decaying while buried - where is the urgency coming from?

Then why ever dig anywhere?

We know there is a great deal buried that will be surprising. That is what real scientists want unearthed. Archaeologists, less so.

The criteria suggested by GP seem like a reasonable starting point.

What do you mean by "real scientists" versus archaeologists?

been there. Amazing

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