Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The T-Shaped Pillars of Gobekli Tepe

The priests of Çatalhöyük 

Alice C. Linsley

High places such as Göbekli Tepe and Çatalhöyük had temples that would have been built under the direction of the "Mighty Men of Old" (Gen. 6:4) or what I call "The First Lords of the Earth" in my book (available on Amazon). These rulers were served by priests and skilled stone masons.

This image was found at Çatalhöyük (7000 BC). It shows a red skin priest wearing the leopard skin typical of the priests of antiquity who moved out of the Nile Valley well before Noah's time (c.4200 BC).

Göbekli Tepe predates the oldest known temple to have been built by Abraham's Hebrew ancestors in at Nekhen by about 3000 years. It is the oldest known temple, 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. This "land between the rivers" was an ancient crossroads for peoples migrating between Africa and the ancient Near East.

Each of the circular enclosures at Göbekli Tepe consists of 10 to 12 massive stone pillars surrounding two larger monoliths positioned in the middle of the structure.

"The Göbekli Tepe ruins and enclosures—the earliest monumental ritual sites of Neolithic religion and possibly the oldest religion in the world—are causing experts to rethink the origins of religion and human civilization." (Read more here.)
Göbekli Tepe human and animal figures

Credit: National Geographic

Perhaps the animals represent clan totems similar to that of the Horite and Sethite Hebrew clans. This paper explores that interesting theory.

Totems can be used by anthropologists to trace ancestry, clan affiliations, and marriage ties. Most totems of biblical clans are representations of animals. To understand their symbolism we must place these animals in their natural habitats of Africa, Anatolia, and the Arabian Peninsula. Animal totems are evident in the names of the Horite Hebrew listed in Genesis 36. These include Zibeon (hyena), who was the father of Anah (wild donkey), and Aiah (kite); Dishan (gazelle), who was the father of Aran (wild goat); and Akan (roe), who was the son of Ezer. Other Horite Hebrew names are Cheran (lamb) and Shobal (young lion). Such a large number of animal names among the Horite Hebrew suggests a totemic clan organization.

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 Göbekli Tepe may have been influenced by priests whose origins were in Africa. The vulture is an important totem among the ancient Nubians.

It is thought that the Hittites introduced iron work to Anatolia, but the term "Hittite" is an anachronism when we speak of populations as early as 7000 BC. Hittite is derived from the root HT which 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 HT were Bronze Age copper smiths who ranged from Timna to Anatolia. Their totem was the burnished serpent, just as it was for the Hebrew ruler Moses.

Archaeologists and anthropologists hope to unravel the mystery surrounding the T-shaped monoliths that stand at the perimeter of the sacred mounds at Göbekli Tepe. The pattern resembles Stonehedge 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.

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.

Nate Ramsayer has made a case for the view that the stone pillars might represent 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."

If the T-shaped pillars represent humans, they were 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 shape appears to be a very ancient symbol that represented a complex of ideas including heaven, the High God, mankind, and blood. These come together in the Tyet symbol of the Old Kingdom (show above). It consists of a solar orb above a human form (Hathor) and appears to be a variation of the ankh.

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 Hittites of AnatoliaThe 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; The Trapezoid on Ancient Architecture and Technology


  1. I believe the outer ring represents the wheel of time. And all forces within which form a cross in the centre, earth, air,fire and water, as above so below, they become the forces connected, then they look inwards on their spiritual path, that’s how they discover their totem animals, higher up priests/shamans would have more. Their way of discovering these was to enter the other world where time stops and reverses. So I believe. The bridge between two worlds. Is what they believed. But I could be wrong.

  2. You are assuming that the religion practiced there was shamanic. That has not been determined. The worldview and religious practices of priests and shamans are distinct.


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