As if discovering the lost city of Etzanoa were not enough exciting archaeological news, scientists have never been certain about what caused the last Ice Age. Starting around 13,000 years ago, temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere plummeted and stayed cold for 1,300 years. Recent research has indicated that this period, also known as the Younger Dryas, could have been caused by a heavenly cataclysm of sorts. The evidence they cite is in the form of a layer of tiny diamonds, nano-diamonds, and platinum which are found in sediment layers from that time. The only way to account for this evidence is in the form of a large impact event, most likely a comet. Now, scientists believe they have found a visual record of this event written on the walls of the oldest temple on earth, Göbekli Tepe, in what is now Turkey.
World’s Oldest City and Temple Compound
Göbekli Tepe is very, very old. When it was found, it was at least twice as old as the previous oldest settlement ever discovered. To put it in perspective, it is 6,000 years older than Stonehenge and about 6,500 years older than the pyramids. The city is so ancient that it predates agriculture. In fact, we are not even certain it was a city. Archaeologists refer to the site as a tell, which means that it is a mound which formed from millenia of use or habitation. The primary use of the site appears to have been ritualistic. The center of the temple is enclosed by giant T-shaped megaliths which are by far the oldest megaliths known to archaeologists. On those megaliths are a number of fascinating carvings.
Prior to cremation and burial ceremonies as we know then, some ancient peoples practiced sky burials, which is less glamorous than it sounds. They would place the deceased individual out in the elements and vultures would pick apart their bodies and fly away with their remains. We do not know exactly why this practice was popular but there is evidence that the practice was fairly widespread. This process is depicted on one of Göbekli Tepe’s most famous megaliths, the Vulture Stone.
The Vulture Stone
The design of the vulture stone has perplexed archaeologists since it was discovered. The position of the animals seems almost random. However, like many very ancient sites such as the pyramids or Stonehenge, there now seems to be a correlation with the night sky. By analyzing the position of certain constellations and how they would have appeared 11,000 years ago, scientists were able to determine that the animals on the vulture stone correlated almost perfectly with where these constellations would have been at that time.
The stone depicts the sky burial and shows a vulture carrying away the head of a man whose body lies on the ground. What is remarkable is that the stone appears to depict the event as having happened 2,000 years previously and only a people with an advanced knowledge of astronomical movements would have been able to imagine what constellations would have looked like at a previous time. According to lead researcher Martin Sweatman:
It appears Göbekli Tepe was, among other things, an observatory for monitoring the night sky . . . One of its pillars seems to have served as a memorial to this devastating event – probably the worst day in history since the end of the Ice Age.
As research continues at Göbekli Tepe, who knows what else remains to be discovered. In the meantime, archaeologists on the other side of the world have found evidence of human activity in the Americas 130,000 years ago, 50,000 years before modern humans even left Africa.