Saturday, December 28, 2013

Civilization or Religion: Which Came First?

Did civilization arise before religion or did religion arise before civilization?

History books teach us that civilization arose with the Neolithic Revolution when hunter gatherers first settled down because of the discovery of agriculture.  Settled life then led to cities, writing, and religion.

The discovery of Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey several years ago may change that story. Göbekli Tepe contains a series of circles with limestone pillars carved with bas-reliefs of animals like gazelles, foxes and wild boar. The tallest pillars are 18 feet high and weigh 16 tons.  It looks like a temple "reminiscent of Stonehenge," according to the National Geographic.

But Göbekli Tepe is much older than Stonehenge and over seven thousand years older than the Pyramid at Giza. It was built before the Neolithic Revolution, 11,600 years ago. As the New Yorker Magazine noted, most historians believe that hunter gatherers did not have the "complex symbolic systems, social hierarchies, and the division of labor, three things you probably need before you can build a twenty-two-acre megalithic temple."

According to the online magazine, Archaeology, Klaus Schmidt, of the German Archaeological Institute and the chief archaeologist at Göbekli Tepe, believes that the animals on the pillars "probably illustrate stories of hunter-gatherer religion and beliefs, though we don't know at the moment.  The sculptors of Göbekli Tepe may have simply wanted to depict the animals they saw, or perhaps create symbolic representations of the animals to use in rituals to ensure hunting success."

Does Göbekli Tepe mean that the need for religion or for a scared site led hunter gatherers to organize themselves into a workforce, settle down for a long period of time, and eventually discover agriculture?

Here's a clip from National Geographic about building Göbekli Tepe  and below that a longer documentary from National Geographic about the discovery.

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