The Comet That Gave Rise to Civilization
Newly discovered ancient tablets depict a massive comet slammed into earth around 10,000 BC, giving rise to civilization in its aftermath.
This comet strike was not like the movies
You can be forgiven for wondering why a catastrophic event like a comet strike didn’t wreak more damage on Earth, perhaps wiping us off the planet instead of triggering changes that made us take it over. After all, we’ve all seen what happens in the movies. But this comet strike was not like the movies.
Mysterious carvings depict a massive growth in human civilization
Today’s life on Earth owes a debt of gratitude to the massive comet from 11,000 BCE. Researchers recently determined carvings in stone pillars found in Turkey depict a comet falling from the sky, wiping out large predators and making room for human civilizations to arise.
Civilization as we know it
The researchers, at the University of Edinburgh, believe the carvings support the theory that the comet’s impact created a mini-ice age, sending debris into the atmosphere. The epoch, known as the “Younger Dryas,” is when humans first started experimenting with agriculture. With farming came villages, towns and, after a few millennia, Walmart. Thanks, comet!
The world's first temple
Our story begins in southern Turkey, at a site that may be the world’s first temple. At least, it’s the oldest one we’ve found, and we only just found it recently. Originally discovered by a survey in 1963, nobody looked at it very closely until 1994, and what they found then was nothing short of astonishing. An archaeological site to rival Stonehenge, though perhaps even more mysterious.
Nestled away in the Anatolian mountains
Called Göbekli Tepe, the temple/ancient observatory dates back to before 10,000 BCE. That is more than 6,000 years older than Stonehenge, and 7,000 years before the Great Pyramid in Egypt. That makes Göbekli Tepe the oldest monumental architecture we’ve found.
Put another way, it’s the first structure human beings put together that was bigger and more complicated than a hut. And that’s not even the coolest thing about the place.
Physically, Göbekli Tepe is a series of structures on a ridge in the Anatolian Mountains.
How did they build it?
Göbekli Tepe, Like many of these ancient sites, archaeologists are largely clueless about how early civilizations could have erected it. It is not made from roughly hewn blocks like other early structures, but from cleanly carved limestone pillars that are covered with bas-relief images. These images are what have triggered the whole comet creating civilization idea.
What tools did they use?
Going back almost 12,000 years to when it was made, at that time humans lived in small nomadic bands that spent pretty much all their time foraging around looking for something to eat. They had no writing. They had no metal. They didn’t even have pottery. This makes construction of the site all the more amazing, because it would have required more people coming together than had ever congregated in one place before.
Why the sudden change?
There are a lot of puzzles here. We are at a loss to figure out how they managed to cut, shape, and transport 16-ton stones without wheels or beasts of burden to help. But more than that, we don’t even know what inspired them to break from tens of thousands of years of habit to come together and create something that was previously unimagined.
The dawn of agriculture
Archaeologists love to debate the meaning of things, and Göbekli Tepe is no exception. It seems the common belief is that it is important. However, it’s the degree of that importance that is up for debate. It is possible that it could be the most important site in the world in terms of the growth of human civilization. It all has to do with what’s known as the Neolithic Revolution.
The Neolithic Revolution is the modern name for a pivotal time when human beings went from scattered groups of hunter-gatherers to people who farmed together in villages.
Society, religion and politics, oh my!
It was the first step towards developing technologically sophisticated societies with religion and politics and government, temples and towers and kings, as well as priests and scribes started recording their exploits in various written forms. Scholars have mostly believed that the Neolithic Revolution was triggered by agriculture, and up until about 20 years ago most researchers believed they knew the time, place, and rough sequence of events that lead to civilization. It is believed that it happened all of a sudden, maybe in a flash of brilliance, and that it happened in one place first: Mesopotamia, to be specific, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now southern Iraq.
Was it the better weather?
From there it would have spread to Africa, India, Europe, and beyond. The common theory is that civilization came about due to changes in the environment, as the Ice Age ended and things slowly warmed up enough for people to growing herding on a large scale.
Everything we know could be wrong
But this could all be wrong.
Discoveries like have opened up new possibilities for how things may have happened. The Neolithic Revolution may not have been a single event in one place. This “revolution” may have been slowly realized in many places over the course of many — perhaps thousands — of years. And the environment may not have had anything to do with it.
Beginnings of architecture
Going back to Göbekli Tepe finds us looking at a site comprised of 20 or more circles of stones, all following a common design. The circles are made up of limestone pillars shaped like capital T’s. They are big, with the tallest measuring 18 feet and 16 tons. They are thin, about five times as wide as they are deep. They stand close together, a body length or so apart from each other, and are interconnected by low stone walls. In the middle of each ring are two taller pillars standing in shallow grooves cut into the floor.
For whatever reason they were first built, they kept rebuilding them. Excavation revealed that every few decades the standing stones were buried, and new ones raised. This is how we end up with 20 or more circles. Each time a new cicle was raised, they sometimes put a smaller one inside, and occasionally even a third one inside that. Fast forward a few years, and it all got filled again, and some new circles were raised. It appears to have happened this way for centuries.
You would think that over time, the circles would get better. You know, as they learned better building and carving techniques the stones would become more elaborate, the carvings more descriptive. But no. If anything, they got worse at doing it. The earliest rings are the biggest and most sophisticated, technically and artistically. Over time, they got smaller, simpler, and more hastily built. Then somewhere around 8200 BCE, they gave up altogether.
Mysterious. Yet compelling. Why were the stone circles built in the first place?
Animals in the sky
What inspired these ancient people to come together like never before and erect a structure unlike anything else ever made before? Why did they keep doing it, but with steadily less skill and effort?
The answer may lie in the bas-relief carvings found on the stones. There are several large stone steles which depict various animals. Most of the animals correspond to well-known constellations like a bull (Taurus), a scorpion (Scorpius), and a dog (Canis Major and Minor).
Using a computer simulation of astronomical data showed that the animal carvings represent constellations seen in the sky above southern Turkey as it was 13,000 years ago. The year 10,950 BE, to be exact. Clue number one.
It suddenly got colder
Clue number two is revealed by other symbols found on the stele. They suggest something that scientists have speculated about for some time, that a cataclysmic comet strike may have been the cause of a sharp drop in world temperature and a period known as the Younger Dryas.
Not the wooly mammoths!
The symbols appear to depict such an event. Evidence from the carvings, made on a pillar known as the Vulture Stone, suggests that a swarm of comet fragments hit the Earth in 10,950 BC. One image of a headless man is thought to symbolise human disaster and extensive loss of life.
Clue number three ties these together. The timing of the constellations’ positions, the comet strike, and the start of the Younger Dyras all coincide with another crucial moment: the beginnings of agriculture and the first Neolithic civilisations. In other words, the Neolithic Revolution. All of which means that the devastating event of a comet reaching Earth, breaking apart in its atmosphere, and raining down fragments which wiped out creatures such as woolly mammoths, also helped spark the rise of civilisation.
A comet makes sense
It’s a bold claim, but if the Younger Dryas was caused by a comet, then its makes sense. The Younger Dryas was a key Period in human development. It was a kind of inexplicable blip in the warming trend that took place as Earth transitioned from the ice age. The reversal in the overall warming trend was short, about 1,200 years, and doesn’t make much sense.
That is, unless you consider the possibility of a comet strike causing the cooling.
We used to spend our days hunting and gathering
Before things started to get cold around 11,000 BC, most humans were nomadic. Ever since we first appeared on the scene about 200,000 years before, that’s how we lived. We formed small bands of wandering foragers who moved with the animals we hunted, and harvested wild grains along the way without establishing permanent habitations or creating stable farms.
Time to get resourceful
When things got cold, that way of life didn’t work as well. People banded together and found new ways to grow crops. They developed watering and selective breeding to help their crops last against the harsh climate, forming modern farming practices.
The advent of farming triggered other changes. In addition to forming permanent villages, people invented new tools including pottery. An early proponent of the Neolithic Revolution theory called this “the greatest [event] in human history after the mastery of fire.”
We became farmers
Agriculture was the biggest change, making the greatest impact on civilization. Before farming, people still used plants for food. They still baked bread. But they did it with wild grains that they chopped off with stone implements. It’s possible they may have tended wild grain patches and looked after them, after a fashion, but the plants were still wild.
Domesticating and harvesting
Wild wheat and barley shatter when they are ripe, the kernels easily break off the plant and fall to the ground. It is not possible to harvest them when fully ripe. Selective planting of strains that didn’t do this was transformative, allowing for fields of domesticated wheat and barley that could fully ripen and be harvested en masse. Farming, in a word.
Now people could grow as much as they needed, more even, and store some away for the proverbial rainy day. They could live together in larger groups, and enjoy leisure time during which they could invent new tools and come up with new ideas. The population grew dramatically.
It was easier to settle down
But which came first, agriculture or settlement? Early theorists said it was agriculture that made the rest possible. But the discoveries at Göbekli Tepe and other sites have a lot of people thinking that settlement came first and that farming arose later, as a product of crisis. A crisis like a drying, cooling environment and growing populations. Now there was competition over resources. If a nomadic group moved, someone else would come in and take their resources. The best way to survive would be to settle down in one area and use what’s there. That would lead to agriculture, after settlement.
Göbekli Tepe supports this idea with more than just its enigmatic carvings suggesting the origin of the great cooling event was a comet strike. Its very existence suggests there was more going on with our neolithic ancestors than they have been given credit for. Spiritually speaking.
Then came religion
Anthropologists have assumed that organized religion came about after people settled down, likely as a way of helping people get along better when they started living in permanent settlements. But this does not help to explain how a bunch of foragers came together to build a massive temple that has all the hallmarks of organized religion. So perhaps organized religion arose as a desire to gather for sacred rituals as people moved away from seeing themselves as just part of the natural world and moved towards seeing themselves as having dominion over it. All before they settled down, started farming, and became civilized.
These shiny rocks come from somewhere else
One of the main problems with this is the lack of physical evidence of a massive comet strike. Or at least, the shortage of it. Some point to a widespread platinum anomaly across the North American continent as a sure sign that the Younger Dryas was caused by an extraterrestrial object depositing the element when it struck.
The worst day in history since the ice age
Researchers who looked at the carvings at Göbekli Tepe and saw the comet story written there say that the site was, among other things, an observatory for monitoring the night sky. They saw the Vulture Stone pillar as a memorial to the devastating comet strike, calling it “probably the worst day in history since the end of the ice age.”
There is still much that we do not know about Göbekli Tepe, Neolithic humans, and the mysterious comet, still so much to discover.
Unlocking the events that led to the Younger Dryas would provide further understanding of the rise of civilization. But we have learned so much already, a tremendous amount considering that the site has only been excavated for a very short period of time, less than 30 years. Today less than a tenth of the 22-acre site is open to the sky. Who knows what’s left to discover under the sand?
Just the facts, ma’am:
- The key to the new theory are 13,o00 year-old inscriptions carved in stone.
- The inscriptions include an image of a headless man, thought to symbolize death and disaster.
- The tablet or pillar where the carvings were found is known as the “Vulture Stone.”
- The carvings were found inside the Göbekli Tepe, a mysterious archeological site in Turkey.
- Göbekli Tepe, in the Anatolian Mountains, is itself believed to be a worship site for a lost religion.
- The animal carvings were first believed to correspond to constellations.
- Researchers are still confused about some carvings, like a fox and belt buckle.
- Scientists determined the carvings were done around the time of a comet strike.
- The strike launched a mini-ice age, killing off large predatory animals.
- Skeptics question this theory as no impact site has been found.
- Shortly thereafter, humans started playing with agriculture and creating villages.
- The questions remain, which came first: settlement or agriculture, and did religion predate them all?
- Ancient stone carvings confirm how comet struck Earth in 10,950BC, sparking the rise of civilisations
- Stone carvings confirm comet hit Earth 13,000 years ago
- Mysterious Ancient Stones Confirm Comet Gave Rise to Civilizations
- Ancient Stone Tablet Found: Reveals Comet Impact Sparking The Rise Of Civilization