Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Decoding Göbekli Tepe with Archaeoastronomy (2017) [pdf] (maajournal.com)
61 points by diodorus 20 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments

It's important to note that this is a rather controversial paper. For one, the authors aren't actually neolithic experts, they're (presumably otherwise excellent) engineers. They also don't get the dating right and fail to cite a wide range of literature relating the iconography at Gobekli Tepe to a wide variety of sites in the region like Jerf el Ahmar and Tell al-'Abr where it appears in more pedestrian contexts. Moreover, their argument relies on the extremely controversial and as-yet unsettled Younger Dryas Impact hypothesis. After assuming this (fine), they leap straight into assuming they understand both what the original authors were intending (completely unsubstantiated) and that these intentions were shared by disparate cultures across multiple continents and tens of thousands of years (mostly covered in a followup paper). This was egregious enough that many of the archaeologists working on Gobekli Tepe wrote a group paper [1] pointing out some of the methodological issues and problems with how their conclusions failed to follow from them.

As a disclaimer, I'm a big proponent of outsiders contributing to unrelated fields and do so myself as an archaeologist in tech. The way to do it is not by ignoring prior work done in the field, but instead by engaging with it constructively. These authors haven't really done that and it shows in the quality of this paper.

[1] http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.581724

>extremely controversial and as-yet unsettled Younger Dryas Impact hypothesis.

While the 'impact' hypothesis is certainly unsettled, there isn't much controversy in the hard sciences. The great majority of over 200 papers published in the last dozen years certainly establishes the presence and dating of fallout from major (probably multiple) extra-terrestrial sources in that era. That evidence is in accordance with multiple Greenland ice-cores.

Whatever the purpose of Gobekli, it's only one data point in a long and growing list of recent discoveries and observations. Human history in the early Holocene will be re-written as a result.

You're right that this could have been stated better. The impacts themselves are something for geologists and other scientists to discuss. Linking the YDB (quaternary extinctions, demographic bottlenecks, and possible conflagrations) to those impacts remains a combination of under-discussed and controversial in the archaeological community.

IMO archeologists who pay attention to this stuff now (like those who've embraced lidar and radio-dating) will leave their competition in the dust.

Just want to say thanks for this excellent comment. Out of curiosity, would you be up for sharing more about your own research? I always wanted to be an archaeologist as a kid; wound up becoming an historian almost by accident instead.

I mostly did work around nomadism and the early neolithic in the Northern hemisphere, but I also worked privately in the southwest for awhile. It's a fun gig, but they don't tell you how much paperwork is involved in finding anything until you're 10hrs from the nearest civilization and ankle deep in mud. I miss fieldwork a bit :)

They also don’t tell you quite how bad it is on your knees. I did most of my fieldwork in the Midwest with a some additional work on North American migration following the younger dryas in Alaska. My knees are safe now, thanks to a career in software. I miss fieldwork every summer, though.

Off-topic: Flood myths are in so many religions. Large-scale or global flooding. Mass devastation.

If there is so much smoke there's gotta be fire.

If you look at last glacial maximum, sea-levels were 110-120m below where they are today. They rose from below 100m to 0m in a matter of only about 8000 years (13000 BC to 5000 BC) [0]. Persian gulf region was fertile land, got flooded and turned into a gulf. The sea-level rise was observed/experienced all over the world.

At one point the sea-level rise was so fast it was 2-3m in one lifetime. This much vertical change in coastal regions can change the landscape by 100s of meters horizontally. So you could be living in that time and hearing stories from your grandfather about the vast amount of land that got flooded over his lifetime.

Word-of-mouth "history became legend. Legend became myth" (to quote LOTR).

Written history did not start until much later (Gilgamesh ~2100BC, Herodotus ~450BC, neither considered serious/rigorous historical works. I guess Gilgamesh is considered fiction.).

I think it's a highly valid theory that sea-level rise led to flood myths in so many regions and so many religions all over the world.

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

There were several sea rise pulses during that period where the sea level role by about 1 metre per 20 years for well over a century. Given that it wasn’t unknown for adult Neolithic people to live into their 60s or even 70s, the elders in a group would likely have seen around 3 metres of sea level rise on their lifetimes. Also sudden catastrophic flood events must have occurred during a period of such massive change, especially given human populations generally are concentrated near rivers and the coast.

It answers the questions, "Where could the water for a worldwide flood come from? And, where could it go, afterward?". A: The water came from melting glaciers, and it's all still there, drowning the ancestral homelands.

Australian oral traditions record social upheavals when people moving out of the flooded Sahul region (between present Australia and New Guinea) had to negotiate shared use of the high ground that had already been populated for at least 40,000 y. It seems a safe guess that it would be traumatic to have to leave an area your people have lived in for tens of millennia.

I'd love to read more about this. Do you know of a good reference?

Sorry for the delay...

Aboriginal Memories of Inundation of the Australian Coast Dating from More than 7000 Years Ago

Patrick D. Nunn & Nicholas J. Reid, 2015


There’s also a growing body of research that indicates a comet impact is what triggered the end of the last ice age, which would very well have caused massive floods. Randall Carlson has a lot of fascinating theories in this area.

This is also a good point, but it would have mostly affected North America which was sparsely populated.

We don't really know much of anything about the pre-historical population of the Americas. E.g., only one unambiguous Clovis skeleton is known.

We have certain knowledge that the Amazon region was heavily cultivated ~10,000ya, which would have required substantial population. A lot can happen in a millennium or three.

Also, there is evidence of multiple extinctions in South America and South Africa at the same time, and of a strike in Syria. I don't think we have evidence yet to determine a bound on the range of effects.

We know North America was mostly filled with hunter gatherer tribes. So the population would have been low compared to even South America, but especially Europe and Asia.

We don't know all that much about the supposed impact, as you say. Just that more large mammals in North America went extinct than anywhere else, so it was likely the worst affected.

If Hiawatha Crater is the result of a cometary impact during the Younger Dryas it would have had global effects.

Also many river systems would have seen crazy flooding as the glaciers melted. Especially when ice dams formed and burst. Look to the American West to see floods that make Niagara falls look like a rain gutter.


During the last deglaciation that followed the end of the Last Glacial Maximum, geologists estimate that a cycle of flooding and reformation of the lake lasted an average of 55 years and that the floods occurred several times over the 2,000-year period between 15,000 and 13,000 years ago. U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Jim O'Connor and Spanish Center of Environmental Studies scientist Gerard Benito have found evidence of at least twenty-five massive floods, the largest discharging about 10 cubic kilometers per hour (2.7 million m³/s, 13 times the Amazon River).

You may enjoy reading about the flood event that turned the Black Sea from fresh water lake (smack in the middle of emergent civilization) to a salt sea.


> At one point the sea-level rise was so fast it was 2-3m in one lifetime

While fast in a geological sense, I do not think it is fast enough to inspire all those myths of catastrophic and sudden floods.

The impact would be very non-linear though. A few metres rise isn’t a big deal for coastal cliffs but for a coastal plain, river delta or flood plain a few metres rise can translate into many dozens of kilometres of horizontal encroachment by the sea. This effect was everywhere so people in that time would constantly be getting news of flood events in other regions. Many people were nomadic too. If the sea has been rising constantly for all known and even mythic history that’s going to have a huge impact on culture. Then there’s periodic catastrophic events like glacial lake outflows, temporary dams formed from moraines and landslides collapsing, etc.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tigosmIryU a lecture on youtube by Martin Sweatman that explains the result of the paper. Is it possible that the Bible in Genesis is mentioning the same story? Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities destroyed in divine retribution for the sins of its citizens; sounds familiar. Also interesting that they have a similar astronomical line of reasoning in this story (was on hn some two weeks ago) https://singularityhub.com/2021/01/10/the-worlds-oldest-stor...

Applications are open for YC Summer 2021

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact