Saturday, February 8, 2014

Gobekli Tepe's T-Shaped Pillars

Alice C. Linsley

Pre-Pottery Neolithic Site

Göbekli Tepe predates the oldest temple known to have been built by Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors in Sudan at Nekhen by about 3000 years.

It predates the Great Pyramids of Giza by about 7000 years. It is the oldest known temple or shrine, and it remains shrouded in mystery.

Göbekli Tepe is classified as a Pre-Pottery Neolithic site (PPN). It is designated PPNA (ca 10,500 to 9,500 BC) which puts it in the same class as Jericho, Netiv Hagdud, Nahul Oren, Gesher, Dhar', Jerf al Ahmar, Chogha Golan and Abu Hureyra.

This site is located in what is today Turkey. The "land between the rivers" was an ancient crossroads for peoples migrating between the Nile Valley and the Near East.

Göbekli figures
Credit: National Geographic

Nate Ramsayer has made an excellent case for his view that the monolithic stone pillars are totems of individual people. As he states, "This interpretation fits well with the emerging concept of social stratification that can be seen in Anatolia during the PPN at sites like Çayönü and Neval Çori."

Nilotic craftsmen moved into the Tigris-Euphrates region and then into Anatolia. They were called the Nes and their animal totem was the serpent. The word Nes is associated with the rulers of the Nile. In ancient Egypt Nesu biti referred to the ruler of a united Upper and Lower Nile.

It is thought that the Hittites introduced iron work to Anatolia, but the term "Hittite" is an anachronism. They called themselves Nes, or Nus (Nuzi), and their language was called Nesli. They were Afro-Asiatic metal workers and the root of their original name is NS, a symbol for the serpent.

Abraham interacted with the Hittite clans of Het who are listed in Genesis 10. HT is the Hebrew and Arabic root for copper - nahas-het. Nahash means serpent. As an adjective it means shining bright, like burnished copper. The clans of HeT were Bronze Age copper smiths who ranged from Timnah to Anatolia. The serpent image was sacred for them, just as it was for Moses and the people of Israel in the wilderness.

T-shaped Pillars

One of the mysteries that archaeologists and anthropologist hope to unravel surrounds the T-shaped monoliths that stand at the perimeter of the sacred mounds at Göbekli Tepe, of which there are about 20. The pattern resembles Stone Hedge with rings of pillars. At the center are twin pillars. The twin pillars and most of the pillars at the periphery are carved to form bas-reliefs of various animals, anthropomorphic figures, and human-animal creatures.

The vulture, scorpion, horse and lion are found on the stone pillars and they appear to correspond to constellations at a time when Thuban was the pole star. These creatures are commonly found on African images, which suggests that the structure at Gobekli Tepe may have been influenced by priests whose origins were in Africa. The vulture is an important totem among the ancient Nubians.

T-shaped pillar 

The earliest pillars are the biggest and most sophisticated in construction and artistry. The later pillars are smaller, less intricate in design and mounted with less precision.

The T-shaped pillars represent human beings, probably rulers, high ranked priests, or the heads of clans. It may be that clan leaders intended to have stone pillars with the clan's animal totem as a display of wealth or power. Or it may be that the 16-ton limestone pillars represent deified rulers who were venerated as ancestors. Each pillar served as the ruler's presence by which he also represented his clan, before the deity.

The T is a very ancient lexeme that represented a complex of ideas including man and blood. Another ancient expression of the lexeme is the Tyet, a T or ankh with a human form (shown right).

Mystery surrounds how the huge pillars were transported from the quarry. Were  hundreds of beasts of burden used? If so, why do these animals not appear on the carvings? The animals carved on the pillars include bulls, cranes, ostriches, vultures, lions, serpents and crocodiles, all animals sacred to Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors.

Another mystery surrounds the twin pillars at the center of the shrine. They are superior in quality to the perimeter stones. Tatiana V. Kornienko (Cult Buildings of Northern Mesopotamia) sees the placement of pairs of stones as an important aspect of early cosmology:

The worship of pairs of central objects in ancient sanctuaries or temples is a characteristic feature of a number of early Near Eastern cultures. Such symbolism represents the binary basis and dualism of people’s mythological perception of natural phenomena.

(Note that Kornienko fails to make a distinction between the binary and dualistic worldviews, a distinction that needs to be clarified to correctly trace origins and antecedents.)

Related reading: The Ostrich in Biblical Symbolism; Megalithic Totemism of the Individual: A new Analysis of Gobekli Tepe's Monumental Pillars; Ethics and Religious Practices of the Afro-Asiatics


  1. I'm not aware of *any* T-shaped pillar rings in Africa, though they are abundant in Anatolia and Stone HeNge. They were probably pylons (cf Babylon/Ba-Bet(h)el-on) to support grain coops (aka temple stores), just as in Indonesia they use stilts to keep rice above flood stage and herbivores/vermin. (Round rings preceded squared forms, just as in boats, moats, huts, shields, etc. 8ka Catal Huyuk had squared bins of grain.)
    When do you date the arrival of the Nes to Euph./Tigris & Anatolia? (I think they were already there about 40ka.)

  2. I agree with the earlier date.

    The T shape is simply a pillar and all the temples of the Nile had many pillars. The shape is another form of the solar imagery that pertained to "deified" rulers. The Y represents the Creator's appointed or overshadowed ruler: Yishmael, Yitzak, Yacob, Yisrael, Yaqtan, Yosef, Yeshua, etc. Likewise the T (Tau) and the X (Ox head). This is evident in the Old North Arabian scripts such as Thamudic. Here is an excellent paper on this subject:

  3. Here is an interesting conversation with an African friend that relates to this:

  4. I think the animals pictured were local to the region (ostrichs, etc. in Greece, vultures featured in Persian zoroasterian faith). In later Greece pillars were discs/buttons/pills piled atop another into socketed columns, like a segmented caterpillar (cf babel/babylon/papillon(French)=papalotl(Aztec)=kupukupu(Malay) = butterfly). African obelisks/oba-lechem were single stone columns I think.


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