Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Archaeology: Göbekli Tepe

I started developing an interest in archaeology a couple years ago when I first began thinking about the timing of Noah's flood and how biblical descriptions of the culture during Noah's time fit with archaeological data. So, I'm always on the lookout for discoveries that shed light on the transition from the paleolithic (hunter-gatherer culture) to neolithic era (farming culture) - roughly around 10,000-8,000 B.C. (also known as pre-pottery neolithic A) - through the time of the Sumerian ziggarats - around 2,500 B.C. This is largely because I believe Noah's flood falls somewhere in this time frame.

So I was intrigued when I saw this article posted on one of my favorite blogs (free plug - Todd Bolen's Bible Places).

Do these mysterious stones mark the site of the Garden of Eden?"

Ok, now I will admit that this article is framed in somewhat of a sensationalistic sort of way. But the actual data it presents is intriguing. Here is a more scholarly treatment of the subject:

Sandra Shram, "The World's First Temple," Archaeology Volume 61 Number 6, (November/December 2008).

This site also has some great photos of the Göbekli Tepe site. Click on them to enlarge.
The information from both of these articles together provides enough of a synopsis to get the gist of what's going on here and its significance.

In my opinion, this data provides another potential challenge to Reasons To Believe's flood model. Although RTB believes Noah's flood was geographically local, they also believe it was anthropologically universal (in other words, it wiped out all of humanity). How would this be possible? They say it's because humanity hadn't migrated out of Mesopotamia yet. Given the mounting evidence that humanity had already began filling the earth by 50,000 years ago, possibly earlier, from an archaeological standpoint, this scenario seems highly unlikely.

The world that Noah lived in, as described in the pages of Scripture, was an agrarian society. Up until around 10,000 B.C. humans lived in a hunter-gatherer society. They didn't have the tools or technology to build an ark like the one described in Scripture. Most archaeologists, even those who don't really believe in the Bible for religious reasons, date Noah's flood to around 3,000 B.C.

I think the discovery of Göbekli Tepe is interesting because it is consistent with a host of other data from this key transitional period. Namely, it is in the same location from which scientists have already pinpointed the genesis of agrarian culture, which is the culture that is described in the early pages of Scripture. Cain and Abel were men of the land, not hunter-gatherers. Even Adam is told to "work the ground" and after the curse, banished from Eden, he must toil with the land even harder. (For now, I am going to by-pass some of the challenges this data presents for the biblical timing and description of Adam and Eve [who I do believe were actual historical people, by the way]).

This "Turkish Stonehenge" is being called by archaeologists "the
oldest man-made place of worship yet discovered." And it fits with much of the biblical data from the early pages of Genesis and ties together much of the archaeological data, possibly even providing a motivation for the transition these early hunter-gatherers made to a new way of living.

It will be interesting to see what happens as Göbekli Tepe is studied further in years to come and what hypotheses are revised or sharpened.

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