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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Germany's Stone Age Cannibalism

"It is impossible to establish direct proof of cannibalism. But here
we have systematic, repetitive gestures, which suggest that the bodies
were eaten," says Boulestin. The marks of breaking, cutting, scraping
and crushing indicate that the bodies were dismembered, the tendons
and ligaments severed, the flesh torn off, the bones smashed. The
vertebra were cut up to remove the ribs, just as butchers do today
with loin chops. The tops of skulls were opened to extract the brains.
Another telling clue is that there are proportionately fewer bones
containing marrow, particularly vertebrae and short bones, suggesting
they were set aside."

Germany's Stone Age Cannibalism

Wednesday March 25th 2009

Tens of thousands of ancient human bones found in Germany suggest that
victims were not killed just to satisfy hunger, writes Pierre Le Hir
in Le Monde

Wednesday March 25th 2009

Lead article photo

Some skeletons show signs of cannibalism. Photograph: Nikolay

The German city of Speyer, in Rheinland-Palatinate, well known for its
­Romanesque cathedral, also boasts some much more macabre relics. A
collection of skulls, shin bones and vertebrae might not seem unusual
in an archaeology museum, but these particular remains are special.
They all show signs of having been cut, scraped or broken, indicating
that their owners were cannibalised.

"Look at these grooves, running from the base of the nose to the back
of the neck, or here on the temples," says Andrea Zeeb-Lanz, the
regional head of archaeology, holding up a skull. "The grooves show,
beyond all possible doubt, that the flesh was torn off." It takes good
eyesight to catch the fine parallel incisions made by the cutting edge
of the flint stone. She then shows me a piece of thigh-bone the end of
which has been crushed. Judging by the state of the bone tissue, it
was smashed shortly after the victim was killed.

All these human remains were found at the stone-age site at Herxheim,
near Speyer. About 7,000 years ago farmers, who grew wheat and barley,
raised pigs, sheep and cattle, settled here, building a village of
four to 12 houses, the post holes of which have survived. At the time
the first farmer-stockherders were moving into Europe, supplanting
their hunter-gatherer predecessors. The Herxheim settlers came from
the north (between 5,400 and 4,950BC) and belonged to the Linear
Pottery culture.

Two lines of ditches were dug around the settlement. They can't have
been defensive because they weren't continuous. Nor were they intended
for use as an ossuary, as the Linear Pottery people generally buried
or burned their dead. However, during a rescue dig just before the
area was developed as an industrial estate, in some of the ditches
archaeologists uncovered tens of thousands of ­human bones.

During the first series of excavations, at the end of the 1990s, the
numerous injuries visible on the skeletons were taken as evidence that
the victims had been massacred. But in 2008 Bruno Boulestin, an
anthropologist at Bordeaux University, examined the fragments
recovered from one of the trenches, pointing out that nearly 2,000
samples belonged to fewer than 10 individuals.

"It is impossible to establish direct proof of cannibalism. But here
we have systematic, repetitive gestures, which suggest that the bodies
were eaten," says Boulestin. The marks of breaking, cutting, scraping
and crushing indicate that the bodies were dismembered, the tendons
and ligaments severed, the flesh torn off, the bones smashed. The
vertebra were cut up to remove the ribs, just as butchers do today
with loin chops. The tops of skulls were opened to extract the brains.
Another telling clue is that there are proportionately fewer bones
containing marrow, particularly vertebrae and short bones, suggesting
they were set aside.

A quick investigation of the bones in neighbouring ditches showed that
they had suffered the same fate. Extrapolating to the whole site, only
half of which was excavated, about 1,000 people must have been
butchered. There is no other example in prehistory of a mass grave of
this size. "We are dealing with an exceptional event," says Zeeb-Lanz.
Other cases of neolithic cannibalism have certainly been identified,
in particular in France, at the caves at Fontbrégoua and Adaouste,
near the south coast, or at Les Perrats, further west, but never on
this scale.

What can this bloodbath mean? The potsherds found among the human
remains suggest it must have occurred over a period of no longer than
50 years. There is nothing to imply the victims were killed for food.
Only under extreme conditions would 100 or so farmers have been able
to overcome about 10 times their number. The archaeologists have
therefore concluded that this was some form of ritual killing. In some
cases the tops of skulls were arranged to form a nest, scattered with
pottery fragments, broken adzes, jewellery made of shells, the paws
and jawbones of dogs.

There are two main types of ritual cannibalism, as the historian Jean
Guilaine and palaeopathologist Jean Zammit explain in The Origins of
War: Violence in Prehistory. Exocannibalism targets people outside the
community: by eating a conquered enemy the aim was not so much to feed
on their body as to make them disappear for ever, appropriating their
strength, energy and valour.

Endocannibalism, within a community, was a token of affection, the
recognition of a bond that needed to be maintained. The scientists
have also excluded this possibility, given the small size of the
village. But wartime exocannibalism also seems unlikely, as it would
have involved raids on remote communities to bring back hordes of
prisoners and their pottery.

The team that discovered the site have come up with another
hypothesis. Members of the Linear Pottery culture deliberately
gathered here, with their prisoners and pottery, to take part in
sacrificial cere­monies.

"At this time, the Linear Pottery culture was undergoing a crisis,
which led to its disappearance," says Zeeb-Lanz. "Perhaps they hoped
to prevent the end of their world through some ceremony, of which
cannibalism was just a part."
See the Article and Picture

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Thousands of 6,000-year old cave paintings found in Peru’s Amazon

Thousands of 6,000-year old cave paintings found in Peru’s Amazon

Archaeology, Exploration, Travel/Tourism - Posted on March, 16 at
10:36 pm

More than 10,000 cave paintings — dating back to more than 6,000 years
— were discovered by Peruvian archaeologist Quirino Olivera in the
Andean country’s jungle department of Amazonas, daily El Comercio

Hidden by the region’s lush vegetation for centuries, the paintings
were discovered in caves located near the village of Tambolic, in the
district of Jamalca, province of Utcubamba.

“Over the past two years,” said Olivera, “we have found 6,000-year old
cave paintings, especially in the Cuaco and Yamón mountains, located
in the Lonya Grande district. These are in addition to those recently
found in Shupcha, Tambolic, were many of these ancient images are

According to Olivera, most of the Tambolic paintings depict hunting
scenes and are similar to those found in Toquepala. The artists used
mainly red, brown, yellow and black pigments.

The Toquepala caves are located in the western Andes, at an altitude
of 2,700 meters above sea level. They are noted for cave paintings
depicting scenes of hunters corralling and killing a group of
guanacos, a camelid animal native to South America. Known as “chaco”
in the Peruvian Andes, this hunting technique consists of forming
human circles, to corral the animals and either capture or kill them.


Hood not so good? Ancient Brits questioned outlaw

Hood not so good? Ancient Brits questioned outlaw
By DAVID STRINGER – 3 days ago

LONDON (AP) — A British academic says he's found proof that Britain's legendary outlaw Robin Hood wasn't as popular with the poor as folklore suggests.

Julian Luxford says a newly found note in the margins of an ancient history book contains rare criticism of the supposedly benevolent bandit.

According to legend, Hood roamed 13th-century Britain from a base in central England's Sherwood Forest, plundering from the rich to give to the poor.

But Luxford, an art history lecturer at the University of St. Andrews, in Fife, Scotland, says a 23-word inscription in a history book, written in Latin by a medieval monk around 1460, casts the outlaw as a persistent thief.

"Around this time, according to popular opinion, a certain outlaw named Robin Hood, with his accomplices, infested Sherwood and other law-abiding areas of England with continuous robberies," the note read when translated into English, Luxford said.

Luxford said he found the entry while searching through the library of England's prestigious Eton College, which was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI.

"The new find contains a uniquely negative assessment of the outlaw, and provides rare evidence for monastic attitudes towards him," Luxford said in a statement about his find issued on Friday.

He said the note about Hood — uncovered in the margin of the "Polychronicon," a history book which dates from the late 1340s — may be the earliest written reference to the outlaw.

First mentions of Hood, depicted in Hollywood movies by both Kevin Costner and Errol Flynn, are commonly believed to have been in late 13th-century ballads. Some academics claim the stories refer to several different medieval outlaws, while others believe the tales are pure fantasy.

Luxford said his discovery may put to rest debates in England about exactly where Hood may have lived.

The northern England county of Yorkshire has long claimed Hood was based there, rather than neighboring Nottinghamshire — even naming a local transport hub Robin Hood Airport in tribute.

But folklore has most commonly placed Hood in Sherwood Forest — where he is reputed to hidden from his nemesis, the Sheriff of Nottingham. The forest once spanned 100,000 acres (40,500 hectares) across Nottinghamshire, but has shrunk in modern time to about 450 acres (180 hectares).

"By mentioning Sherwood, it buttresses the hitherto rather thin evidence for a medieval connection between Robin and the Nottinghamshire forest with which he has become so closely associated," Luxford said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ancient 'Peking Man' Way Older Than Thought

Ancient 'Peking Man' Way Older Than Thought

By Andrea Thompson, Senior Writer

posted: 11 March 2009 02:02 pm ET

Pics at cite
1/Homo erectus skull
Homo erectus fossil from Zhoukoudian caves. Credit: Copyright Russell
L. Ciochon, Univ. of Iowa

2/Western Wall of the Zhoukoudian cave sites
The Western Wall of the Zhoukoudian cave sites where the Homo
erectus fossils were found. Credit: Guanjun Shen, Nanjing Normal

3/Map of Homo erectus fossils
This map show the sites of Homo erectus fossils and artifacts in
northern China and Java. Credit Russell L. Ciochon, University of Iowa

The famous fossils of an early relative of modern humans commonly
called Peking Man may be 200,000 years older than previously thought,
a new study finds.

The revised date could change the timeline and number of migrations of
the Homo erectus species out of Africa and into Asia. It also suggests
that Peking Man endured glacial climates.

Previous studies estimated that H. erectus fossils found nearly a
century ago in China were from about 500,000 years ago. The authors of
the new study sought to re-date the fossils using a relatively new
method that looks at the radioactive decay of aluminum and beryllium
in quartz exposed to cosmic radiation. With this method, they pinned
the date closer to 780,000 years ago.

Understanding the history of H. erectus is of interest to scientists
because the populations of the species that lived in Africa are
"implicated in the ancestry of modern humans," said
paleoanthropologist Russell L. Ciochon of the University of Iowa in
Iowa City, who was not involved in the new study.

Fossils found

H. erectus was a type of hominin, the group to which early and modern
humans belong. H. erectus walked upright, had a thick skull with a
brain a little smaller than our own and used stone tools.

The first fossils of the species were found on Java, Indonesia, in
1892 by Eugène Dubois.

Nearly 30 years later, more H. erectus fossils were found thousands of
miles away during excavations of the Zhoukoudian cave system just
outside of Beijing.

These caves turned out to be "one of the most important Paleolithic
sites in the world," the authors of the new study wrote. After the
first fossil was found, anthropologists eventually turned up skulls
and bones representing at least 40 H. erectus individuals, other
mammal fossils and tens of thousands of stone artifacts.

The latest research on the fossils, funded by the National Natural
Science Foundation of China and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, is
detailed in the March 12 issue of the journal Nature. Guanjun Shen at
Nanjing Normal University, China, headed up the study.

Glacial dwellers

Pushing back the date of the Zhoukoudian fossils puts them in closer
range to fossils found in open basins and plains around the cave
system that were originally dated to be much older than the
Zhoukoudian fossils. It also shows that H. erectus lived in the area
during glacial periods as well as during interglacial periods.

Many scientists thought that the species moved north with the
interglacials and south with the glacials, Ciochon said. However, this
new date shows they hung around during colder periods.

These glacial cycles didn't involve mounds of snow and ice as one
might think, rather it was "just a colder, drier period," Ciochon told

The new date also sheds some light on how and when H. erectus got to
the area in the first place.

Two migrations

The Homo genus, which includes modern humans, originated in Africa
with Homo habilis about 2.5 million years ago. H. erectus likely
derived from some early version of H. habilis around 2 million years
ago, anthropologists think.

Some portion of the H. erectus population later left Africa and spread
out across the Old World (the population left behind in Africa likely
led to Homo heidelbergensis, from which the first early Homo sapiens
likely derived, Ciochon said). Other sites of H. erectus bones show
that the migration had reached Dmanisi, Georgia (in Asia), by about
1.75 million years ago and Java by about 1.6 million years ago.

"It's a species that had legs," Ciochon said, referring to the
distances traveled. "Aside from Homo sapiens, it's the most widespread
hominin species."

Some scientists had proposed that the Java population later migrated
up to present-day China, but Ciochon said that the new date for the
Zhoukoudian fossils lends credence to the idea that there could have
been more than one migration route.

"Maybe there could have been two dispersals," he said. One route could
have extended along the coast of Asia to Java, and another through the
interior of Eurasia to Zhoukoudian and the surrounding areas.

Also supporting the double-migration idea is the fact that the
Himalayas and a huge swath of primal forest unfriendly to hominin
habitation lie in the way of a direct migration from Java to China.

Cinching this argument would likely require finding more sites with H.
erectus fossils along the migration route, Ciochon said.

Mesolithic-Neolithic interaction Lower Rhine Area Options

Bart Vanmontfort (2008). A southern view on north-south
interaction during the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition
in the Lower Rhine Area

In: H. Fokkens et al (2008). Between foraging and farming.
Analecta Praehistorica Leidensia 40. pp 85-97

Free download

(18 pp, 5.5. Mb)

During the past few decades, the neolithisation process
in Europe has been recognised not to be a single and
large scale process, but rather a mosaic of multiple
regional processes. In the wetlands of the Lower Rhine
Area, recent data has yielded new insights in the nature
of the process.

It has become clear that the successors of the local
Late Mesolithic gradually adopted typically Neolithic
elements, and the entire process of extending the broad
spectrum economy, first with pottery, and only later
with domestic stock and cereals, spanned a period of at
least a millennium.

Still within the Lower Rhine Area (LRA), the loess
region presents a different case to the wetlands. Here,
after its first appearance the Neolithic displays
several hiatuses, one of which occurs at around the mid
5th millennium cal BC. This hiatus has been claimed to
be merely one in knowledge, rather than corresponding to
an actual lack of occupation, but whichever it was, the
processes at work during this phase seem to have been
crucial for the neolithisation of the region. Until more
evidence is uncovered, the gap can only be filled by
indirect arguments, such as the one to be developed in
this paper.

The indirect way taken here to approach the problem, and
to confirm continuity in human activity in the southern
LRA, is through the exploration of interregional
exchange. First, I will outline the geographical and
chronological context, followed by an introduction to
the evidence for exchange, before a more detailed
consideration of the changing patterns from before the
arrival of farmers, through their arrival and the
hiatus, to the time when neolithisation can be said to
have occurred. In this way, the particular local
character of the neolithisation process will, it is
hoped, be revealed.

In this paper, the possibilities of interregional
exchange have been explored in order to fill a gap in
our knowledge of the Neolithic of the southern LRA.
While acknowledging the problems related to
characterising exchange processes on the basis of
limited artefacts, some conclusions can be drawn based
on an evaluation of diachronic changes in the nature of
the exchanged items.

The data confirm the existence of interregional and
cross-cultural exchange networks during the entire
period under study. Contact between Swifterbant
communities and the early farming communities of the
south is confirmed, but in addition to this, older
‘Mesolithic’ exchange networks with this region seem to
have persisted during and after the arrival of the LBK.

Some raw materials, for instance, cannot have been
obtained by exchange with Neolithic communities of
neighbouring regions and do not seem to have been the
result of direct procurement either. This confirms the
continuation of human activity and raw material
exploitation in the southern loess regions of the LRA,
apparently independently of the Neolithic processes of
that time.

From the late 5th millennium onwards, however, the
southern exchange networks of the Swifterbant
communities do seem to be restricted to interaction with
the Chasséen/Michelsberg culture. This fits with a
previously developed model in which the latter culture
developed on top of a native, Mesolithic rooted

In order to further develop this topic, and to verify
this hypothesis, future research should focus on the
discovery and investigation of sites that illustrate the
development of the local substrate. In particular sites
located in the riverine wetlands of the southern LRA,
such as the Scheldt valley, are expected to yield
valuable remains to feed the discussion.

Such data should also allow us to identify the extension
of the Swifterbant phenomenon, and to identify the
impact of northern developments on the neolithisation
process in the southern LRA. It would shed a light on
the nature of the interaction of the local substrate
with the earliest farming communities of the LBK and on
the role of the BQY in that process.

Marc Washington explains The Emergence of Caucasians with Albinism

COMMENT: Row A: 1-3 shows isolated, single-generational albinism as
does column 4 and does not carry into a 2nd generation. Row C shows
massive melanin loss so great the body is unable to be evenly
pigmented; pigment exists in such small quantities, only “islands” of
melanin can exist - freckles. The hair becomes blond or reddish and
the eyes often blue (see row C). Egmond Cogfried has coined the term
“fixed albinism” which speaks to it becoming not isolated but
intergenerational or hereditary. Such a transformation as seen in row
D with contiguous generations being without pigment shows the event, I
believe, which gave rise to the white race. I
would say this event occurred in the Lower Dryas (10,000 BC). At this
time, earth was hit by a meteor stike so great it killed-off much of
life in the North Atlantic, rose clouds of dust so great darkness
covered the earth for a millennium. Here in the sun-less glacier-grown
world the white race may have emerged. If so, this would be supported
by the archeological findings of Marija Gimbutas.

Marc Washington


Archaeology office lets 7,000-year-old boats rot away

Archaeology office lets 7,000-year-old boats rot away

Published: 12 Mar 09 11:54 CET

A pair of stone-age boats, thought to be the oldest in Europe, have
been allowed to rot in a partially collapsed shed while the northern
German regional archaeology authorities stood by broke and helpless,
it emerged this week.

The two 7,000-year-old wooden boats and a third one thought to be
around 6,000 years old, were hailed as a sensation when they were
found during construction work on the Baltic coast near Stralsund in
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern seven years ago.

But now they are effectively ruined, after a lack of funds resulted in
them being stored inappropriately. “It is a loss for Germany if not
for the whole world,” said Andreas Grüger, director of the Stralsund
historical museum.

The boats had been entrusted to the Authorities for Culture and
Preservation of Ancient Monuments in Schwerin for restoration and
conservation. But Michael Bednorz, head of the State Office admitted
that financial difficulties meant that they were kept in a shed
instead of an appropriate space.

“The log boats are only an example for our problems,” he said.

“They are a drastic illustration of what happens when the regional
authorities cannot fulfil their obligations.”

Although much damage was inflicted during the first two years of
storage, they were then further damaged when the shed they were stored
in partially collapsed in 2004. Yet still they were not moved to

The state office’s storage facilities have less than a good reputation
– mice have chewed up ancient documents in the main archive mice while
a water leakage destroyed precious artefacts in another depot.

The remains of the boats have now been sent to the University of
Applied Sciences in Berlin where students are planning to investigate
the extent of the damage and draw up a plan to save at least


Sunday, March 1, 2009

'Wolf Brother' has just been published

As reported on the Portal almost a year ago, the 'Chronicles of Ancient Darkness', set 6,000 years ago is tipped to be the next best selling childrens book series. The first volume 'Wolf Brother' has just been published. John Ezard, arts correspondent to The Guardian explains:

Friday September 3, 2004
The Guardian

When the UK rights for Michelle Paver's children's book and its as yet unwritten follow-up novels sold for "a significant seven-figure sum" at the Frankfurt book fair, she said: "I'm over the moon."

Yesterday she was flying still higher. As her prehistoric adventure tale, Wolf Brother, reached the bookstands, it emerged that her total international advances were worth close to £2m - "and that even allows for the dreadful dollar rate", said her rights director and publisher Fiona Kennedy.

In the era of Harry Potter, this is not a world record. No author, children's or adult's, in the near future is likely to manage to compete with the level of advances that JK Rowling receives.

But Paver's £2m may well be a record for a first children's novel. Her agent, Peter Cox, is spreading word that a film deal is in the offing.

Her earlier adult novel, A Place in the Hills, one of four previous books, was shortlisted for the £10,000 Parker Pen romantic fiction award. But children's fiction is increasingly being seen as where the money lies.

"JK Rowling has opened the door," said Fiona Kennedy, whose company, Orion Children's Books, is publishing Wolf Brother. "A lot more big advances are being paid on children's books than ever before."

Wolf Brother is the first of six stories set in the Stone Age forests of 4,000BC. The series is called Chronicles of Ancient Darkness. Ms Kennedy bought it at Frankfurt last year on the strength of the first seven chapters of Wolf Brother, plus an outline of the remaining five titles.
The Guardia

Do these mysterious stones mark the site of the Garden of Eden?

Do these mysterious stones mark the site of the Garden of Eden?By Tom Cox
Last updated at 9:10 PM on 28th February 2009
Comments (20) Add to My Stories
For the old Kurdish shepherd, it was just another burning hot day in the rolling plains of eastern Turkey. Following his flock over the arid hillsides, he passed the single mulberry tree, which the locals regarded as 'sacred'. The bells on his sheep tinkled in the stillness. Then he spotted something. Crouching down, he brushed away the dust, and exposed a strange, large, oblong stone.
The man looked left and right: there were similar stone rectangles, peeping from the sands. Calling his dog to heel, the shepherd resolved to inform someone of his finds when he got back to the village. Maybe the stones were important.
They certainly were important. The solitary Kurdish man, on that summer's day in 1994, had made the greatest archaeological discovery in 50 years. Others would say he'd made the greatest archaeological discovery ever: a site that has revolutionised the way we look at human history, the origin of religion - and perhaps even the truth behind the Garden of Eden.

The site has been described as 'extraordinary' and 'the most important' site in the world

A few weeks after his discovery, news of the shepherd's find reached museum curators in the ancient city of Sanliurfa, ten miles south-west of the stones.
They got in touch with the German Archaeological Institute in Istanbul. And so, in late 1994, archaeologist Klaus Schmidt came to the site of Gobekli Tepe (pronounced Go-beckly Tepp-ay) to begin his excavations.
As he puts it: 'As soon as I got there and saw the stones, I knew that if I didn't walk away immediately I would be here for the rest of my life.'
Remarkable find: A frieze from Gobekli Tepe
Schmidt stayed. And what he has uncovered is astonishing. Archaeologists worldwide are in rare agreement on the site's importance. 'Gobekli Tepe changes everything,' says Ian Hodder, at Stanford University.
David Lewis-Williams, professor of archaeology at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, says: 'Gobekli Tepe is the most important archaeological site in the world.'
Some go even further and say the site and its implications are incredible. As Reading University professor Steve Mithen says: 'Gobekli Tepe is too extraordinary for my mind to understand.'
So what is it that has energised and astounded the sober world of academia?
The site of Gobekli Tepe is simple enough to describe. The oblong stones, unearthed by the shepherd, turned out to be the flat tops of awesome, T-shaped megaliths. Imagine carved and slender versions of the stones of Avebury or Stonehenge.
Most of these standing stones are inscribed with bizarre and delicate images - mainly of boars and ducks, of hunting and game. Sinuous serpents are another common motif. Some of the megaliths show crayfish or lions.
The stones seem to represent human forms - some have stylised 'arms', which angle down the sides. Functionally, the site appears to be a temple, or ritual site, like the stone circles of Western Europe.
To date, 45 of these stones have been dug out - they are arranged in circles from five to ten yards across - but there are indications that much more is to come. Geomagnetic surveys imply that there are hundreds more standing stones, just waiting to be excavated.
So far, so remarkable. If Gobekli Tepe was simply this, it would already be a dazzling site - a Turkish Stonehenge. But several unique factors lift Gobekli Tepe into the archaeological stratosphere - and the realms of the fantastical.
The Garden of Eden come to life: Is Gobekli Tepe where the story began?

The first is its staggering age. Carbon-dating shows that the complex is at least 12,000 years old, maybe even 13,000 years old.
That means it was built around 10,000BC. By comparison, Stonehenge was built in 3,000 BC and the pyramids of Giza in 2,500 BC.
Gobekli is thus the oldest such site in the world, by a mind-numbing margin. It is so old that it predates settled human life. It is pre-pottery, pre-writing, pre-everything. Gobekli hails from a part of human history that is unimaginably distant, right back in our hunter-gatherer past.
How did cavemen build something so ambitious? Schmidt speculates that bands of hunters would have gathered sporadically at the site, through the decades of construction, living in animal-skin tents, slaughtering local game for food.
The many flint arrowheads found around Gobekli support this thesis; they also support the dating of the site.
This revelation, that Stone Age hunter-gatherers could have built something like Gobekli, is worldchanging, for it shows that the old hunter-gatherer life, in this region of Turkey, was far more advanced than we ever conceived - almost unbelievably sophisticated.
The shepherd who discovered Gobekli Tepe has 'changed everything', said one academic

It's as if the gods came down from heaven and built Gobekli for themselves.
This is where we come to the biblical connection, and my own involvement in the Gobekli Tepe story.
About three years ago, intrigued by the first scant details of the site, I flew out to Gobekli. It was a long, wearying journey, but more than worth it, not least as it would later provide the backdrop for a new novel I have written.
Back then, on the day I arrived at the dig, the archaeologists were unearthing mind-blowing artworks. As these sculptures were revealed, I realised that I was among the first people to see them since the end of the Ice Age.
And that's when a tantalising possibility arose. Over glasses of black tea, served in tents right next to the megaliths, Klaus Schmidt told me that, in his opinion, this very spot was once the site of the biblical Garden of Eden. More specifically, as he put it: 'Gobekli Tepe is a temple in Eden.'
To understand how a respected academic like Schmidt can make such a dizzying claim, you need to know that many scholars view the Eden story as folk-memory, or allegory.
Seen in this way, the Eden story, in Genesis, tells us of humanity's innocent and leisured hunter-gatherer past, when we could pluck fruit from the trees, scoop fish from the rivers and spend the rest of our days in pleasure.
But then we 'fell' into the harsher life of farming, with its ceaseless toil and daily grind. And we know primitive farming was harsh, compared to the relative indolence of hunting, because of the archaeological evidence.
To date, archaeologists have dug 45 stones out of the ruins at Gobekli

When people make the transition from hunter-gathering to settled agriculture, their skeletons change - they temporarily grow smaller and less healthy as the human body adapts to a diet poorer in protein and a more wearisome lifestyle. Likewise, newly domesticated animals get scrawnier.
This begs the question, why adopt farming at all? Many theories have been suggested - from tribal competition, to population pressures, to the extinction of wild animal species. But Schmidt believes that the temple of Gobekli reveals another possible cause.
'To build such a place as this, the hunters must have joined together in numbers. After they finished building, they probably congregated for worship. But then they found that they couldn't feed so many people with regular hunting and gathering.
'So I think they began cultivating the wild grasses on the hills. Religion motivated people to take up farming.'
The reason such theories have special weight is that the move to farming first happened in this same region. These rolling Anatolian plains were the cradle of agriculture.
The world's first farmyard pigs were domesticated at Cayonu, just 60 miles away. Sheep, cattle and goats were also first domesticated in eastern Turkey. Worldwide wheat species descend from einkorn wheat - first cultivated on the hills near Gobekli. Other domestic cereals - such as rye and oats - also started here.
The stones unearthed by the shepherd turned out to be the flat tops of T-shaped megaliths

But there was a problem for these early farmers, and it wasn't just that they had adopted a tougher, if ultimately more productive, lifestyle. They also experienced an ecological crisis. These days the landscape surrounding the eerie stones of Gobekli is arid and barren, but it was not always thus. As the carvings on the stones show - and as archaeological remains reveal - this was once a richly pastoral region.
There were herds of game, rivers of fish, and flocks of wildfowl; lush green meadows were ringed by woods and wild orchards. About 10,000 years ago, the Kurdish desert was a 'paradisiacal place', as Schmidt puts it. So what destroyed the environment? The answer is Man.
As we began farming, we changed the landscape and the climate. When the trees were chopped down, the soil leached away; all that ploughing and reaping left the land eroded and bare. What was once an agreeable oasis became a land of stress, toil and diminishing returns.
And so, paradise was lost. Adam the hunter was forced out of his glorious Eden, 'to till the earth from whence he was taken' - as the Bible puts it.
Of course, these theories might be dismissed as speculations. Yet there is plenty of historical evidence to show that the writers of the Bible, when talking of Eden, were, indeed, describing this corner of Kurdish Turkey.
Archaeologist Klaus Schmidt poses next to some of the carvings at Gebekli

In the Book of Genesis, it is indicated that Eden is west of Assyria. Sure enough, this is where Gobekli is sited.
Likewise, biblical Eden is by four rivers, including the Tigris and Euphrates. And Gobekli lies between both of these.
In ancient Assyrian texts, there is mention of a 'Beth Eden' - a house of Eden. This minor kingdom was 50 miles from Gobekli Tepe.
Another book in the Old Testament talks of 'the children of Eden which were in Thelasar', a town in northern Syria, near Gobekli.
The very word 'Eden' comes from the Sumerian for 'plain'; Gobekli lies on the plains of Harran.
Thus, when you put it all together, the evidence is persuasive. Gobekli Tepe is, indeed, a 'temple in Eden', built by our leisured and fortunate ancestors - people who had time to cultivate art, architecture and complex ritual, before the traumas of agriculture ruined their lifestyle, and devastated their paradise.
It's a stunning and seductive idea. Yet it has a sinister epilogue. Because the loss of paradise seems to have had a strange and darkening effect on the human mind.
Many of Gobekli's standing stones are inscribed with 'bizarre and delicate' images, like this reptile

A few years ago, archaeologists at nearby Cayonu unearthed a hoard of human skulls. They were found under an altar-like slab, stained with human blood.
No one is sure, but this may be the earliest evidence for human sacrifice: one of the most inexplicable of human behaviours and one that could have evolved only in the face of terrible societal stress.
Experts may argue over the evidence at Cayonu. But what no one denies is that human sacrifice took place in this region, spreading to Palestine, Canaan and Israel.
Archaeological evidence suggests that victims were killed in huge death pits, children were buried alive in jars, others roasted in vast bronze bowls.
These are almost incomprehensible acts, unless you understand that the people had learned to fear their gods, having been cast out of paradise. So they sought to propitiate the angry heavens.
This savagery may, indeed, hold the key to one final, bewildering mystery. The astonishing stones and friezes of Gobekli Tepe are preserved intact for a bizarre reason.
Long ago, the site was deliberately and systematically buried in a feat of labour every bit as remarkable as the stone carvings.
The stones of Gobekli Tepe are trying to speak to us from across the centuries - a warning we should heed

Around 8,000 BC, the creators of Gobekli turned on their achievement and entombed their glorious temple under thousands of tons of earth, creating the artificial hills on which that Kurdish shepherd walked in 1994.
No one knows why Gobekli was buried. Maybe it was interred as a kind of penance: a sacrifice to the angry gods, who had cast the hunters out of paradise. Perhaps it was for shame at the violence and bloodshed that the stone-worship had helped provoke.
Whatever the answer, the parallels with our own era are stark. As we contemplate a new age of ecological turbulence, maybe the silent, sombre, 12,000-year-old stones of Gobekli Tepe are trying to speak to us, to warn us, as they stare across the first Eden we destroyed.