Monday, July 9, 2012

Turkey 1: Why go there?

The short answer is that we wanted to see an extremely ancient archeological site called Gobekli Tepe.

What follows is a much condensed, and hopefully concise, background about why the discovery of Gobekli Tepe has such profound implications to the history of our cultural development.

It all started with the great Sphinx that sits on the Giza plateau, just outside of Cairo, in Egypt.  In the mid 30's, I believe, a French scholar, Schwaller de Lubicz, noted that erosion patterns on the side of the Sphinx and on sides of the Sphinx enclosure looked like they were created from water weathering. Unfortunately, de Lubicz published his work in French, and so for many years his observation went unnoticed by mainstream Egyptologists.

John Anthony West, 2009

In the mid 80's, an independent Egyptologist, John Anthony West, came across the obscure French reference and decided to see if the de Lubitcz observation could be verified using scientific methods.  In 1990, he and a young Boston University geology professor, Robert Schoch, traveled to Egypt and began an investigation.

After extensive study, Schoch determined that de Lubicz was right: water weathering was indeed the cause of the erosion in question.

Here you can see a long view of the Sphinx sitting inside its enclosure.  Look closely at the retaining wall of the enclosure immediately behind the rear of the Sphinx.

Notice, in this closer view, the vertical notches worn into the limestone of the rear enclosure wall.  Those vertical notches were created by large amounts of water flowing over the back wall.  Large amounts of water flowing over the enclosure walls and over the back of the Sphinx raises serious issues for classical Egyptologists.

Robert Schoch, 2012

Classical Egyptology dates the creation of the Sphinx to approximately 2500 BCE, a date which fits nicely into their theory that civilization as we know it didn't begin until roughly 3500 BCE.  However, if Schoch is right, and geologic evidence suggests that he is, then classical Egyptology has a huge problem.

They have a huge problem because there hasn't been enough water on the Giza plateau to create limestone weathering that deep since the end of the last ice age, around 10,000 BCE.  Why is this a problem?  It's a problem because the acceptance of water weathering means the entire theory regarding the dawning of modern civilization will need to be re-written.

Predictably, classical Egyptologists were outraged by Schoch's evidence.  They claim weathering on the Sphinx and its enclosure walls was created by blowing wind and sand.  However, wind erosion looks very different from water erosion.  Look at the pockmarks on the neck of the Sphinx in the two photos above.  That is classic wind and sand erosion.  Contrast that with water weathering previously shown.

If the Sphinx was indeed built 12,000 years or so ago, at the end of the last ice age, the classical Egyptologists demanded, then where is the evidence of a sophisticated civilization that was capable of building such a monument that far back in time?  Schoch replied that finding the evidence was their issue.  He was merely a geologist reporting his findings.

Twenty some odd years later, evidence of an advanced civilization existing 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, has indeed been uncovered in Southeastern Turkey.  The site is called Gobekle Tepe, partially shown above.

When Robert Schoch announced at a conference last fall that he was leading a trip to this site in June, 2012, Melony and I signed up on the spot.  And are we glad we did.  This close up shows of some of the sophisticated carvings found on the large standing blocks.  I'll have more on this site in later posts. 

We were glad we joined Schoch's trip because Turkey is indeed the "cradle" of civilization.  Nearly every great empire of ancient history spent time there.  We visited ancient Troy, for example, a city thought to have only existed in mythology until Heinrich Schliemann discovered it in the mid 1860's.

We walked the streets of Ephesus, a very important site in biblical history.  We saw many other historical sites as well. In the following posts I will share with you a small slice of what we were privileged to see.

Unlike this one, I promise to keep the rest of my posts long on pictures and much shorter on text.  Still, for those of you who are interested mainly in seeing pictures, I invite you to simply ignore the text.

So, moving on...

Continue on to Post 2: Istanbul - Topkapi Palace, by clicking here.


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