I’ve had a lot of time to ponder GÃ¶bekli Tepe in the two years since I visited. The photos I took of the place will soon find their way to the History Channel, as it seems as if there is an embargo of sorts on photos from the site currently–or this is what I was told when negotiating the use of my photos–and producers are desperate to get their hands on something before the embargo ends and the results of this years excavations are published.
I offer these two older posts on GÃ¶bekli Tepe (here and here) before submitting this story by Charles C. Mann in National Geographic on the temple complex. The photo essay accompanying the story is here. Do read it, damned interesting. My photos of the site begin here.
What’s most fascinating about this place is how it is upending what we previously thought we knew about the neolithic revolution–or what most of us call the agricultural revolution. What came first? Settlements? Or farming and then permanent settlements? Or maybe as GÃ¶bekli Tepe and other excavations in the Fertile Crescent are telling us is that it was a thin concatenation of events, strategies, ideas all thrown around in the same general vicinity–the mythical Garden of Eden–and that it was ultimately a thousand or so years of trial and error. As Mann sums it up in his story:
It is more as if the occupants of various archaeological sites were all playing with the building blocks of civilization, looking for combinations that worked. In one place agriculture may have been the foundation; in another, art and religion; and over there, population pressures or social organization and hierarchy. Eventually they all ended up in the same place. Perhaps there is no single path to civilization; instead it was arrived at by different means in different places.
That feels about right to me.