Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stone Age Intelligence

Gobekli Tepe, the oldest religions temple on Earth. This dates from 10,000 BC and has pushed back the definition of civilization further than anyone ever imagined. Some people believe that the carvings, relics and configuration suggest a close relationship or actual place of the Garden of Eden. It makes you stare in wonder...

A couple of sailors exploring Turkey at Gobekli Tepe.

A closer look at the ruins of the temple at Gobekli Tepe. The wood boxes are covering more pillars to protect them from the elements.

The ruins at Gobekli Tepe are remarkable in their simplicity of arrangement yet complexity of carvings and statues.

The local Kurdish man who explained the findings in the temple at Gobekli Tepe.

The far landscape around Gobekli Tepe is sparsely vegetated today. In 10,000 BC the climate was much different with this area being heavily forested with streams flowing between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

We could not stop taking pictures of Gobekli Tepe!

Ducks carved into a temple T-shaped pillar at Gobekli Tepe.

A grinding bowl lying on the ground at Gobekli Tepe.

A series of snakes on another T-shaped pillar at Gobekli Tepe.

A fox on yet another column at Gobekli Tepe.

There are small ducks at the base of the T-shaped pillar at Gobekli Tepe with a belt above on the column itself.

This is the Gobekli Tepe rock temple, further down the slope. Steve is pointing to where two pillars once stood. There is an underground opening into the burial chambers but the entrances are much too small to crawl through - Maria was happy about that!

An ancient statue excavated from the Gobekli Tepe site. Look at the detail of the carvings!

More actual carvings from Gobekli Tepe.

The biblical city of Harran, south of Gobekli Tepe - the oldest populated city on Earth.

Famous bee-hive houses of Harran. Yes, that is a camel in the foreground!

Our hotel (Manici) in Sanliurfa, Turkey (the biblical Ur). It overlooks the cave where Abraham was born.

This is Maria's favorite picture. It is of the entrance to Abraham's cave where he was born. Women enter on the left and men on the right. No shoes are allowed and the women must cover their heads. In the picture are three people - can you see the third one? She is looking directly at the camera!

The sink on the right contains water that flows from Abraham's cave and the water is considered sacred. The glass protects entry into the cave itself.

This is the inside of Abraham's cave. There is a plexiglass covering on the cave floor and a green light reflects from it (or maybe that shaft of light is not an illusion?).

The city of Sanliurfa sprawls in the distance behind us as we stand atop the citadel high above Abraham's cave.

Another picture of our hotel in Sanliurfa, Turkey. I think I see a slight resemblance between Maria and the mural?

Speaking of resemblances, Maria thought this looked like someone she knows? It actually is the Baliklig statue in the Sanliurfa museum and it is the oldest statue ever discovered. It represents the God of Reproduction and it dates at 10,000 BC. It was found at the mountain top temple across from our hotel in Sanliurfa.

Captain Steve navigating the streets of Sanliurfa using his trusty iPhone GPS.

Captain Steve working with the local TurkCell (internet) people. Everyone is so friendly!

A tea vendor on the streets of Sanliurfa, Turkey. His backpack is pretty amazing!

Descending from the mountain top fortress at Sanliurfa, Turkey. We wondered how they ever climbed inside the fortress walls.

The pillow sales woman. She is happy to make a sale and Maria is happy to drink the Cay (Tea) afterward.

The Syrian flag waves in the breeze across the railroad tracks that separate Turkey from Syria.

Our Current Wanderings:

In the far southeastern part of Turkey, 6 miles from the Syrian border, is something so unique that is it has only recently been discovered. The ruins of the world's oldest known religious temple, called Gobekli Tepe, is being uncovered and preserved by scientists. We made a special effort to visit this magical place.

Gobekli Tepe is beyond ancient. Famous Stonehenge is dated at 3,000 - 2,000 BC, the pyramids of Egypt are young at only 3,100 BC and the walls of Jerico are dated at 8,000 BC. Welcome to Gobekli Tepe, dated at a staggering 10,000 BC!

This is a neolithic structure that experts previously said could not exist. They believed that any people who were that ancient did not have the capabilities to build anything like this. The experts were wrong of course! Don't you love it?

Stone age people lived in what is called the paleolithic. Following that, the neolithic period is still characterized by stone age people, only slightly more advanced. These neolithic people should have been living in caves and wandering the countryside, not building a temple like Gobekli Tepe. But build they did. And it is spectacular!

There are huge stone columns adorned with intricately carved animals. These so-called primitive people actually built a temple to worship spiritual beings and probably for sacrifices as well. The first occurrence of civilization has forever been pushed far back in time with this discovery and Maria and I were able to walk upon this ultimate sacred ground.

We arrived at Gobekli Tepe early in the morning and freely wandered about the empty landscape. The archaeological season has not yet begun so we had the place to ourselves, along with a local Kurdish man who in very limited English described the artifacts that we saw. Pieces of chert used for arrowheads and carving instruments are everywhere around the site. There is a wooden walkway that circles around and through the excavated part of the site and we traversed the entire place three times, we couldn't get enough of the place. There is just so much to see and ponder.

Snakes, foxes, ducks, boars, scorpions, predators, birds, lions, leopards, cranes, and even a form of ancient writing adorn the many columns that have been uncovered so far. The surrounding countryside is barren with only some olive and date trees dotting the landscape. It seems that the climate has changed quite a bit since 10,000 BC. In fact the last ice age ended around 10,000 years ago so there is the evidence for the different climate we see at Gobekli Tepe today. That is also why some researchers are making a case for Gobekli Tepe as the place of the Garden of Eden. I guess all of the snake carvings on the columns tends to give them some evidence as well? We didn't see any apple trees though.

Biblical Journey

After visiting Gobekli Tepe we decided to visit Harran, the oldest inhabited place on Earth and described in the bible in the chapter of Genesis. It seems that we were getting quite a workout visiting the oldest of everything! It kind of dawned on us when we drove across the Euphrates River - we thought immediately Tigris-Euphrates? We had no idea that these two rivers, referred to as the cradle of civilization, were also in Turkey.

Anyway, Harran has bee-hive houses, a 4 km long wall and a mound that is where Abraham (from the bible) lived for 15 years. Speaking of Abraham, we visited the cave where Abraham was born in Sanliurfa (also known as the biblical Ur), where we stayed in a hotel. It seems that Abraham is important to not only the Christians but also to the Jewish people and the Islamic world.

Our hotel in Sanliurfa was right across from the park that encompasses Abraham's cave and it is full of Islamic's from throughout the Arab world on pilgrimages. Maria and Steve are viewed like aliens from everyone who passes us on the streets. They usually stare in amazement and some are bold enough to ask us where we are from, in very broken English. They never understand when we answer them but they just seem curious at how we look and talk.

As you know, Admiral Maria is Catholic but Captain Steve is, well, not really devout (Maria says heathen) but went to Sunday school as a little boy. At least he remembers a lot of the people and places that he heard about way back then and can relate to some of the things we are seeing now. Maria can usually fill in the gaps.

It also seems that Job, of the bible, was born here in Sanliurfa. So we have now been able to see where Job was born and where his tomb was (Salalah, Oman). It is a small world in a biblical sense it seems!

After our biblical sojourns, Captain Steve made a turn south from Harran and headed to Syria - luckily Maria was geographically challenged at the moment and didn't notice the course change. Captain Steve consulted his faithful iPhone GPS and it didn't take long before a Syrian flag appeared. We managed to stop on the railroad tracks that separate Turkey from Syria. We took several pictures before spinning our rental car around and getting out of there!

Safely back in Sanliurfa, Maria shopped for pillows for the boat. The attached picture shows the sales girl making the sale by serving us tea after the sale was complete. It was quite a process but at least we have new pillows for Aspen.

Next we will travel to Mt. Ararat, home to Noah's Ark of course! We will be far away from the Syrian border then but only 20 miles from the Iranian border. Stay tuned.

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…

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