Megaliths, Shamen & the City Builders – the hidden connections (cont.)
By Lucy Wyatt
Figure: Machu Picchu, Peru
Another factor which is suspicious is where this change takes place. In South America, for example, one such place is Machu Picchu high up on the altiplano in the Andes; in the Golden Crescent – often referred to as the cradle of humanity because so many ‘firsts’ happened here. The first fully morphologically domesticated cereals occur at Halula in the northern Euphrates valley in about 7000 BC. As this map shows, the Golden Crescent the mountain ranges from the Taurus mountains in the West, in Turkey, to the Zagros in the East, in Iran, with both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers coming from a mountainous area in the middle of the Crescent.
Figure: Map of Golden Crescent
If farming really were the stimulus for the creation of civilisation, why were the earliest examples of it located in such agriculturally difficult places? Jacquetta Hawkes is one of the few to draw attention to this curious situation in her comment that civilisation ‘was not inevitable, for on the one hand men have lived on well-watered and fertile land without creating civilisation, and on the other hand they have created civilisations in apparently poor environments’.ii
Jacquetta Hawkes is not alone in her comments. Diana Kirkbride, a one-time director of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq, commented about one site dating to 7500 BC that she excavated in the 1970s in Mosul-Sinjar region in North Eastern Iraq (a place called Umm Dabaghiyah) that it was ‘singularly uniniviting’ - even allowing for change over time and degradation of habitats. Likewise Charles Maisels discusses another site dating to 6000 BC to the east of Mosul at Yarim Tepe on the Upper Zab describing it as a zone of rocky limestone hillocks ‘not really suitable for farming, yet there is plentiful evidence of it here’.iii
It is also in the Golden Crescent that we have the remains of a series of well-built settlements dating to times between the 10th and the 8th Millennia BC – the most famous being the end of the 8th millennium at Catal Huyuk in Anatolia, southern Turkey. Catal Huyuk is something else that is hailed as mankind being on its way to a civilised life.
What is significant about Catal Huyuk is that well-constructed storerooms are the central feature of the settlement - better built than the human dwellings around them. Catal Huyuk is carefully laid out with all the houses having the same floor plan and a proper street pattern, and yet it does not develop into any kind of ‘city’. Their diet is also resolutely Stone Age. It consists of wild animals, aurochs and such like. A contradiction of the idea that farming leads to surplus; leads to markets; leads to towns etc etc. None of this makes sense.
Here in the Golden Crescent we have the earliest evidence not only of farming but of metal work and pottery. Not civilisation as such but the fingerprints of the civilisers. So what were they doing in the mountains? I will return to this question later…