The Sacred Science of the Ancients: A Conversation With John Anthony West (cont.)
The Great Sphinx of Giza, near Cairo, Egypt.
How big is the site?
The inner circle is maybe 50 feet; the outer circle, maybe 60, something like that. The circles are placed very near to each other where they don’t quite interlock, but they’re very closely packed. It’s known that there are at least 22 subsites. Whether or not they’re all circles yet, nobody knows. But the most spectacular part of it, from our point of view, is the dating, which is done in part through carbon dating of material around these circles, which were completely, and deliberately, covered over around 8,000 BC.
How do we know that they were deliberately covered over?
Because the material that’s packed around them has to have been put there. It couldn’t have accumulated there. This is an archaeological conclusion backed up from a number of different points of view. The dating is done, some of it by carbon dating organic material within this fill, and some of it by geologists and geophysicists analyzing what are called microstalactites forming on the stone pillars themselves. When they get covered over, they get moist, and they form tiny crystals, and those can be dated; they contain organic material. This is the clincher: Schmidt dates those pillars to at least 10,000 BCE.
What’s the significance of the dating?
These dates, from an archaeological point of view, are absolutely shattering. They completely destroy the reigning paradigm of when and how sophisticated civilization began, because normally it’s thought that real civilization in our sense, sophisticated architecture—carving, painting, et cetera—dates from around 3,000 or 3,500 BCE; that it developed coevally in Egypt and Sumeria and China and probably in Mesoamerica. Before that, there were simple Neolithic settlements that produced rough pottery, combs, fish hooks, spears—little things like that. Before that, it’s all hunter-gatherers. This paradigm has been chipped away at over the last 15, 20 years or so, but there’s been nothing like a sophisticated site discovered.
But Goebekli Tepe is such a site?
Putting up a 10- or 15-ton block of stone, and carefully orienting it, is not the work of hunter-gatherers; or rather, these are very smart hunter-gatherers who can wrestle around 15-ton blocks of stone. And the carvings on them are spectacular. They’re reminiscent a bit of the Maya and also of much later but early Dynastic Egypt. They’re really elegant. But at 10,000 BCE! This means the current theories have got it all wrong. It was already highly developed at 10,000 BCE. Subsequently, for reasons that we absolutely don’t understand, civilization degenerated until it again rose with the onset of these major civilizations that we’re all familiar with—Sumeria, Egypt, China, et cetera.
In my reading about Goebekli Tepe, the assumptions were that these were hunter-gatherers, but they happened to build a nice temple.
[Laughs] Yeah, well…10- to 15-ton blocks of stone that they were bringing from a half mile away, up the hill.
It’s assumed that they were slave drivers, that this is the only way that they could have done it, and that the whole complex was a primitive temple of some kind.
Yes, it’s definitely a ceremonial site. Schoch and I believe that, in all likelihood, the animals and birds and figures that are carved there have an astronomical significance. This notion is based on that seminal book written in the late ‘60s by the two MIT historians of science, Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, called Hamlet’s Mill. Their main contention is that ancient myth and legend from around the world contains exact and extensive astronomical references. In other words, those much-maligned myths are not colorful attempts by primitives to account for the mysterious universe around them; rather, they are ingenious means of transmitting exact science through stories.
So what’s at stake here is an extraordinarily advanced civilization. They didn’t have pottery, as far as we know. They didn’t have a written language, as far as we know. But they could carve hard stone, in their own way, quite as well as Michelangelo or Rodin. These things are brilliant.