Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Gobekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods: The Temple of the Watchers and The Discovery of Eden

Book Review: Gobekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods: The Temple of the Watchers and the Discovery of Eden - by Andrew Collins (Bear and Company 2014)

This is a highly speculative yet quite intriguing book that was well-researched and contemplated. Collins’ books can cross-over into the pseudo-science realm a bit but this one is mostly well-informed by valid science and archaeology. Some of the conclusions are ground-breaking yet quite reasonable and plausible while others are more speculative. It was a delight to read though and he makes a noble effort at connecting very early archaeo-astronomy beliefs and other possibilities. In fact, as far as I am aware, this is the most detailed book on Gobekli Tepe available.

The introduction was written by pseudo-science pandering New Age guru Graham Hancock. He notes that Klaus Schmidt, the late German archaeologist in charge of Gobekli Tepe excavations (who figures prominently in this book) thought that the megaliths as gathering places in these areas spurred the development of subsistence agriculture. By Catal Hoyuk time a few thousand years later, the Neolithic agricultural revolution was well under way and being exported. He mentions one of Collins’ speculative and sure to be controversial conclusions: that Gobekli Tepe was built as a form of “catastrophobia” in response to a comet impact and the resulting global cataclysm resulting in a return of Ice Age conditions to parts of the earth. The goal was to prevent further catastrophe, proposes Collins. There is little doubt that Gobekli Tepe was utilized for astronomical observation. Collins also theorizes that shamanic vulture cults involved in excarnation, or offering the dead to vultures (as done much later by Zoroastrians in a possible continuation of archaic practices) and the development of the idea of angels is also involved. He suggests that concepts and ideas from the people that made these megaliths in Anatolia could be the source of ancient mythic traditions among Hebrews and Mesopotamians. The origins of the fabled Garden of Eden and explanations of the Watchers in the Hebrew Book of Enoch are other subjects woven into the account.

Collins states that he has long been obsessed with angels, as the “messengers of God,” and their origins. Nearby here in Anatolia was the ancient astronomical tower of Harran, where the Harranites practiced a type of celestial religion called Sabaenism before the Islamic conquests. They venerated the pole star and the north. They influenced and shared some beliefs with the Ismaili Brethren, the Mandaens of Iraq and Iran, and the Yezidis of Iraq. Harran was also reputed to be a bastion of the most ancient Hermeticism, the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus, thrice-greatest Hermes. Before that Harran was associated with Abraham, the biblical figure who migrated from Mesopotamia, or many say, Harran, to Canaan. He notes that everywhere around Harran there are stories associated with the biblical Book of Genesis. There are local stories of the biblical Garden of Eden being in this region. Collins sees the Book of Enoch as possibly recounting the history of this area with the Watchers, being a highly regarded culture. According to the Hebrew Book of Jubilees (also about the Watchers) the legendary founder of Harran, Cainan, was said to have discovered inscriptions on stone stelae that taught the ancient science of astrology.

Next he goes through Klaus Schmidt’s discovery (through decision to excavate) of the mound that was hiding the wonders of Gobekli Tepe in 1994. The earliest structures there date to 9500 B.C., just after the last Ice Age. He also recounts other Neolithic archaeological discoveries in the area, an area rich in large-seeded cereal grasses and domesticatable animals – part of the Fertile Crescent where agriculture, animal husbandry, and likely ore smelting all began. Large stone slabs with carvings were found in the area. Apparent mortuary structures were also found with human bones of many people. The presence of human blood in some suggests human sacrifice or blood-letting.

One time-scale for the general area delineates the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A between 9500 and 8500 BCE and the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B between 8700 and 6000 BCE. 6000-4500 BCE is the Pottery Neolithic which is also when agriculture spread widely from this central area. The large stone slabs at Gobekli Tepe looked similar to those found at Nevali Cori about 30 miles away and dated 8500-7600 BCE so quite younger than Gobekli Tepe. Both had similar T-shaped stone pillars and carvings in so-called ‘cult buildings.’ Nevali Cori had a statue of a man with a shaved head. The pillars at both places were 6.5-10 feet high and were stylized into human shapes. Klaus Schmidt was involved with the evaluation of Nevali Cori before excavating Gobekli Tepe. Carvings on the stone slabs include serpents, water birds, foxes, wild boars, cranes, lions, wild sheep, lizards, scorpions, spiders, ants, flamingos, vultures, a bear, a hyena, ibises, flightless  birds, wolves, and aurochs. Collins thinks the art at Gobekli Tepe is more like that of pre-Columbian America than of Paleolithic Europe – more frightening than beautiful in aspect. The flightless birds look like dodo birds, perhaps a long-extinct species, with dinosaur-like heads. 

At Gobekli Tepe it was found that 1500 years of various enclosures were piled on top of one another, mounding up the entire area over time. Collins notes that the earliest construction at Gobekli Tepe coincides with the ending of the younger Dryas Mini Ice Age around 9600 BCE. Gobekli Tepe was utilized from 9500-8000 BCE. Prolonged droughts subsided in the Fertile Crescent at the end of the Younger Dryas. There is no evidence of habitation at Gobekli Tepe but there are significant human remains. There is also no known water source within 3 miles, which suggests that the many workers required carried in their own water from nearby. Also found were large vats that are thought to have contained a beer made of local wheat. Exposed bedrock and pillar tops sometimes contained small multiple cup-shaped pits. When asked, Schmidt simply noted that such pitted surfaces were common all over the world. Collins thinks they were used possibly for liquid offerings, maybe blood, beer, milk, or water or offerings to carrion birds such as vultures in excarnation practices. Indeed, there is a long history of excarnation in the area as well as across ancient Eurasia where carrion birds and other birds were thought to carry the souls of the dead to afterlife destinations. Others have suggested that the divets were used for divination. The building of Gobekli Tepe would have required many laborers and suggests people staying in the area for long-periods of time. This new ‘settlement’ of humans would have wrought changes since most previous human groups migrated significantly in order to hunt and forage. But here at the time were many resources. Evidence of quite a variety of hunted game as well as wild almonds and pistachios shows what they ate. Their staying in one place in that particular region, less than 50 miles from the mother area of earliest cultivated wheat (einkorn) suggests that they may have been the ones that spurred human agriculture through selective breeding of the wheat. Only 7 enclosures have been excavated at Gobekli Tepe and Klaus Schmidt, from geomagnetic surveys, thinks there may be 15 more. 

Next, he examines some of the so-called glyphs at Gobekli Tepe. These include the letter H, either upright or on its side, which he thinks could represent mirrored worlds (of earth and heavens) connected. He compares this to the hourglass shape of shamanic pot stands from the Amazon which would look like an H in cross-section and are thought to be connecters of the worlds. There is also the letter C or a crescent shape which strongly suggests the crescent moons. A glyph of two Cs one above and one below the cross bar of an H is somewhat similar to an Australian glyph of two Cs with the open parts facing each other separated by a line. There the two Cs represent two people facing one another. The v-shaped neck emblems on the pillars are likely some sort of necklace as evidenced by similar emblems on the carved human found at Nevali Cori. Other carvings are thought to represent fox pelt loin cloths. 

It is likely that many of the enclosures contained twelve stone pillars arranged loosely in a circle. They are also carved with features that suggest that they were designed to be viewed from a clockwise direction. This suggests that the clockwise motion of the sun and stars, rising in the east and setting in the west was emphasized. Division of the heavens into twelve segments became the Babylonian-Greek zodiac and was found in some versions also in the Indus Valley as far back as 2400 BCE. Could Gobekli Tepe’s orientation have been a precursor? Collins speculates about the name of Gobekli Tepe in several languages as “navel of the hill.” He speculates about the twin pillars as gates to the upper world and/or as sacred twins in the womb (actual twins or child and placenta). Interesting but not at all convincing. 

He then goes on to some recent astronomical deciphering of Paleolithic cave art, specifically the Shaft Scene in Lascaux Cave in southern France dated 16500-15000 BCE, the time of the Solutreans. This has been interpreted as the “summer triangle” of stars that would have been around the pole at the time with Deneb form the Cygnus constellation being the pole star at the time (the pole star changes due to precession which results from the Earth’s 26,000 year wobble on its axis). The scene contains a man lying on his back with an erect phallus as well as a bird on a pole which strongly suggests the cosmic pillar or pole star. Other researchers have noted other asterisms in Paleolithic cave art, one being the bulls representing Taurus and the group of seven dots representing the Pleides in the cave known as the Hall of the Bulls. Collins’ book about Cygnus is also quite interesting. Another is Venus and the Sorcerer from Chauvet Cave in Southern France where the vulva and torso of a woman is entwined with a bull and a feline face from above. He thinks this could represent the Great Rift in the Milky Way, a region where cosmic dust blots out the stars and their brightness. The bull calf being birthed there is echoed in art at Catal Hoyuk of bulls being birthed from leopard-headed females with their limbs spread out. It is also reminiscent of Ancient Egyptian beliefs of the sun being birthed daily as a bull from the same Great Rift region. Both the Lascaux scene and the Venus and the Sorcerer are located at the northern end of their respective caves which is the region of the sky where the asterisms were at the time. Stalagmites from distant caves have been at Catal Hoyuk which led researchers to suggest that Catal Hoyuk was a shrine to chthonic deities. The Venus and the Sorcerer scene was painted on a large stalagmite. 

The central pillars and hole stone of the Gobekli Tepe structures are aligned slightly left of north-south. Astronomical software that calculates the position of stars during time of construction suggests that they were aligned toward the now bright star Sirius which would have reappeared in the south region of the sky around 9500 BCE after being absent for the previous 5500 years due to the effects of precession. Others had suggested the stars of Orion’s belt but that would require the unlikely re-dating of the structures to over a thousand years later. However, others noted that Sirius would have been very dim and only present above the horizon for minutes so orientation specifically to Sirius is unlikely. Collins notes that the Sabaens of Harran, who lived just below the Gobekli Tepe area, celebrated the Mystery of the North, and the Mandaeans of Iraq and the Ismaili Brethren, also venerated the north as the original qibla, or direction of prayer. The Cygnus star Deneb in the north would have begun setting each night in the north-northwest horizon (due to the effects of precession – before that it would not have set) corresponding to the Gobekli Tepe orientations – moving through time in the same direction as the later enclosures. This strongly suggests that Deneb sitting very near the Great Rift was the target. Other Neolithic Anatolian structures seem to corroborate these orientations.

He considers that the holed stones, thought to be astronomical sighting stones, presumably originally for sighting Deneb just before it set on the horizon, were also so-called “soul stones” where the holes are there for souls to pass through, as evidenced by many such stones in many ancient cultures throughout the world. It is quite conceivable that they could be both since the soul’s journey along the Milky Way is recounted in many myths. Apparently, in the Caucuses of Southern Russia there are thousands of dolmens with port holes dating between 2000 and 3000 BCE. Many also include stone gateways and, he says, are uncannily similar to the structures at Gobekli Tepe, built 6500-7500 years earlier.

He goes through some Mayan and other Native American star lore and myths of souls traveling along the Milky Way as corroborating evidence. Of course, Native Americans migrated from Siberia and possibly from further west in Central Asia in different migration waves so the traditions could be loosely linked in that way. He points out that in Babylonian star lore, which reaches to the third millennium BC and likely much earlier traditions sees Deneb as part of an asterism of a panther-like creature with wings, feet, and tail of an eagle, called “storm demon with an open mouth” and was seen as the place of reception of dead souls. The open mouth coincides with the opening of the Great Rift. Collins notes that there was no specific pole star during the building time of Gobekli Tepe and suggests that it was the continuation of a long tradition since the time when Deneb was the pole star between 14,500 and 16,500 BCE. After that Vega became the pole star although Deneb retained its position at the Great Rift while Vega was further away. He suggests that there may have been a split in the cult then with some favoring the new star and others the old star very near the Great Rift and the Milky Way. By about 11000 BCE Vega was no longer the pole star so veneration of Deneb as the entrance to the sky world may have seen a revival. The idea is quite a stretch but interesting. 
The vulture cults of excarnation are next examined. Reconstructed panels at Catal Hoyuk clearly show tall towers where vultures are devouring corpses. This lived on in nearby Persia with the Zoroastrian excarnation towers and may have some relation to the Siberian, Tibetan and Himalayan ‘sky burial’ practices. He notes that birds have long been psychopomps and that Cygnus is seen as a swan in Eurasian star lore. The vulture imagery at Catal Hoyuk was most prominent in the north. Nevali Cori also shows excarnation imagery with vultures and human heads. The so-called ‘vulture stone’ from Gobekli Tepe shows what appears to be a human-vulture hybrid which suggests vulture shamanism. The hybrid may also represent the human soul form like the Egyptian Ba bird. Less than 300 miles away from Gobekli Tepe in northern Iraq was found in a cave the remains of wings of several predatory birds as well as skulls of goats and sheep. These are dated to 9600 BCE and the severed wings are thought to have been garb for vulture shamans. The vulture stone may well also be a star map.  A carving of a scorpion at the base may represent the asterism Scorpius. In Mayan art the scorpion is seen beneath the Great Rift as well as the base of the World Tree. The carving of the vulture on the stone looks like the constellation Cygnus as it would have appeared then with the vulture’s head as Deneb. He gives pictures with overlays of the vulture stone and the position of the stars and Milky Way as would have been seen at that time, when just above the western horizon would be Scorpius and Cygnus would have been near the meridian. There are also a nice series of plates in the book.

Next he delves further into the holed stones, seeing the lines around one as depicting a woman’s legs much like the Paleolithic art of the Venus and the Sorcerer. In a statue found at Kilisik, about 50 miles away there was a hole in the stone depicting a woman’s vulva a small human figure carved above it. The placement of the woman’s legs on the Gobekli Tepe holed stone strongly suggests the Great Rift of the Milky Way and he thinks they considered it the entrance to the sky world. He sees this as well as the 32,000 year-old Venus and the Sorcerer as depictions of cosmic birth from the womb of the sky, the Milky Way’s Great Rift. The bulls being birthed in multiple art also show a resemblance to the female vulva with fallopian tubes. The birth of the sun god in Mayan cosmology is similar. The daily birth of the sun god Re in Egypt from the Great Rift region of the sky goddess Nut seems a related myth as well. She was seen as mother of Osiris and resurrection was seen as ascension into the heavens, presumably back to that region. 

Klaus Schmidt believed 500-1000 people built Gobekli Tepe’s structures at any one time. Collins thinks from the few depictions of human figures from the region that the T-shaped pillars represent hooded human figures, presumably some sort of religious elite. The pillars also have what appear to be belts and fox pelts. Schmidt and archaeo-zoologist Joris Peters concluded that foxes were particularly venerated. Collins notes that the belt buckles often have some of the so-called glyphs and he thinks some of these shapes are depictions of comets. There are horseshoe shapes which seem to depict the head of a comet with the fox-tail pelts depicting the tail of the comet. He sees a three-tailed comet and compares the depictions to actual photos of comets and to Chinese depictions of comets from 200-300 BCE. Fox tails have been rather universally associated with the tails of comets and meteors. Foxtails were also associated with bad omens in some myths, such as those from Japan. He notes an account by a Jesuit priest in northern Mexico in 1607 where a priest was leading a rite to protect from the bad influence of a comet (probably Haley’s comet) and that they associated it with animal tails, fox tails among them. The people there would throw dead animals into a fire so the smoke would rise as an offering to the comet. Collins speculates that some may have been able to recognize the periodic nature of some comets and so predict them. He explores myths of the fox as celestial trickster and as able to destroy the motions of the heavens. Such myths include that of the fox star Alcor, in the handle of the Big Dipper. Alcor was also associated with the Sumerian god Enlil. But the pillars are aligned to Deneb, not Alcor. He notes a peculiar Christianized Romanian sky myth of the “Fountain of the Crossroads,” which he identifies as Cygnus, slaying the devil, identified as Alcor, the fox star, as he travels along the Milky Way, in order to maintain the cosmic order. He notes what he thinks are variations on the myth in different traditions with Alcor as a wolf rather than a fox. He goes through much lore including the bound Fenris wolf in Norse lore. He notes also in the Eddas where a cataclysm causes a “fimbul-winter,” or a mini-Ice Age. 19th century speculative writer Ignatious Donnelly thought the Eddas referred to a comet precipitating the event. It’s a stretch here, that Ragnarok is precipitated by a comet. He goes through much Norse and Slavonic catastrophe-lore about constraining of the wolf to protect the cosmic order. Even later Christian adaptations of such mythic ideas associated them with the notion of judgment. The Zoroastrian text, Bundahishn, has similar lore. Collins utilizes the term of mystery-writer Barbara Hand Clow to make his case for what the builders at Gobekli Tepe and the mythmakers were hinting at - catastrophobia.

He goes through some archaeology of Syrian Natufian sites older than Gobekli Tepe by a few thousand years to show that population had risen before the Younger Dryas and food sources dwindled during the the Younger Dryas, which lasted about 1300 years. He also goes through evidence of possible comet impact as a potential cause for the Younger Dryas. Incidentally there was a recent academic paper about the Vulture Stone at Gobekli Tepe depicting Sagittarius (which seems implausible and Collins disagrees with its conclusions as the evidence that the vulture depicts both Cygnus/Deneb as the door to the celestial world and excarnation is much better) and the actual comet impact around 10,900 BCE. He notes the disappearance of many Ice Age animals around this time which could have been influenced by the comet impact – although there is stronger evidence for overhunting. Of course, both could have contributed. When the question of comet impact and the building of Gobekli Tepe was put to Klaus Schmidt he said he thought there was no connection. 

Collins thinks it was not the local people but people who came from the north into the area during the Ice Age that initiated the building at Gobekli Tepe. Mass migrations during the Younger Dryas were known and correlation of flint points suggests that people moved in from the north. The Swiderians were defined from 11,000 BCE Poland but their points were found as far south as the Near East. He goes through much of this and the Solutreans and their bird cults, art, and star maps as well as their disappearance. Speculative stuff here, but interesting. Obsidian was being traded from Paleolithic times. He thinks the Swiderians controlled obsidian production and trade from a huge source in the Carpathian Mountains. He also notes obsidian cults in Mexico and obsidian as the most lethal spear head and knife as well as the choice as a sacrificial knife in Mexico. Later the first mirrors of obsidian were made in Anatolia. He notes the emergence of Hallan Cemi in the Armenian highlands as a new source of obsidian and a cultural center. He thinks the Swiderians came from the north, perhaps invading and taking over operations – since the Zarzians, the people there at the time seem to disappear then. He cites rock art dated to 9600-9000 BCE of the Gobustan warriors in the Armenian highlands with bows and arrows (likely Zarzians who were known to have bows and arrows) as possible evidence. The notion is that the Swiderians became the new lords of the obsidian trade there. He thinks they and obsidian itself may have been associated with wolves. Zoroastrian lore suggests wolves were considered evil. One might speculate that protection of newly domesticated animals like sheep would be subject to wolf attacks as well. The Swiderians were originally reindeer hunters from northern Eurasia. He cites Sami traditions on Finland of sacrifices to the sky god at the world pole/cosmic pillar in order to keep the sky from falling. There seem to be Finno-Ugric language connections to the Armenian highlands (and in Hungary as well- although the Hungary connection is likely through the migrating Magyars in historical time). He also thinks the wolf and the fox were shared as cosmic tricksters/evil influences as myths of both were combined as peoples mixed. Much speculation here. Even more speculative is his idea that the newly migrated Swiderians had way more Neanderthal DNA and so different appearances with different jaw lines. He suggested that they wore hoods and these hooded figures were immortalized as venerable ancestors, as the T-shaped standing stones of Gobekli Tepe. This is an imaginative stretch. He also thinks they offered their magical services to combat the cosmic trickster and his destructive comets (through the ability to predict short-period comets) as well as to supply obsidian. This is another stretch of the imagination. He also suggests that the walls and tower of Jericho – built before Gobekli Tepe during the Younger Dryas by the Natufians about 420 miles south in modern-day Palestine – shows that monumental architecture may have been a reaction to the massive environmental changes wrought by the Younger Dryas Ice Age and the possible impact events that initiated it. Collins acknowledges that his ideas are controversial. However, even Klaus Schmidt considered it likely that Swiderians coming from Crimea and the other end of the Black Sea may well have migrated then into the area with one line of evidence being similar hunting styles (from reindeer in the north to gazelles here in the south).

As time wore on the structures at Gobekli Tepe became smaller and fewer, suggesting that the power of the beliefs were fading. By 8000 BCE the whole place seems to have been intentionally buried. However, Collins thinks the beliefs lived on in myths from the region, including the myth of the Garden of Eden, which has long been associated with the Armenian highlands. Here we encounter Collins’ quest for Eden and the origins of angels. He notes the Chaldean and Babylonian accounts of Genesis – an idea the Hebrews likely got from the Babylonians when in captivity. Armenian lore has it that Abraham came from was born there at the town of Sanliurfa, near Gobekli Tepe, where there is now also a museum with many artifacts from the region. Sanliurfa has also been called the Ur of the Chaldeas although others say it was in Iraq. Thus there are the legends of Abraham birthplace being there. The Armenians and Armenian Christians have much local Biblical lore as well. This section of the book has less interest for me as it seems to veer from the study of Gobekli Tepe to regional lore. He thinks the four rivers of Paradise flowing from the Garden of Eden are the four rivers that begin near Bingol Mountain, north of Gobekli Tepe. He notes a Kurdish myth of Bingol Mountain as the fountain of life. He associates the Sufi figure the “Green One,” Al-Khidr, the ever-youthful servant of Allah, as derived from the Sumerian Anunnaki god Enki, or Ea in Semitic form. Enki was called Haya by the Perisans and the area near the Armenian highlands was called by them Hayastan. There is even an Armenian culture hero called Hayk who killed Bel, associated with the biblical character Nimrod. Enki was often depicted as having waters coming from his shoulders, the Tigris and Euphrates, and so was associated also with the sources of these rivers – the Armenian highlands and the area near Lake Van. He also notes the Dimli Kurds, Armenian Kurds called Alevi, who are quasi- Zoroastrian and used to practice excarnation on rooftops. They also venerate a spring from Bingol Mountain as a place of the Turkish version of al-Khidr, Hizir. The Anunnaki gods of Sumeria were said to derive from the Duku mound and Klaus Schmidt in his book, published in English in 2012 suggests that the Gobekli Tepe T-shaped stones may have represented ancestors from a shamanic society and that they may have been the source of Anunnaki lore. Incidentally, it was the Anunnaki gods Enki and Enlil that were said to bring agriculture and animal husbandry to the people.  The ‘tells’ or mounds that contained evidence of previous societies could well have been deified as places the gods dwelled in the past. Schmidt surmised that Gobekli Tepe could have been the origin of the Duku mound.

Collins thinks that Watchers from the Book of Enoch were the same as the Nephilim of Genesis and the Anunnaki of the Sumerians. He thinks they may have been the Neanderthalic Swiderians who practiced vulture shamanism and precursors to what eventually became the Judeao-Christian and Zoroastrian angels. He even makes a stretching possibility that the long-faced Swiderians became in lore the “serpent-faced” elites, the “walking serpents” of the Book of Enoch. This refers to an archaeological discovery in northern Iraq of serpentine headed statues along with deformed skulls, dated to 5200-4500 BCE. The idea put forth by some scholars was that cranial deformation delineated the elite. Other lore may attribute these serpent beings as the Peri and Cin (Djinn) of pre-Islamic and Islamic lore. Some locals still suggest that they may have been the ones that built Gobekli Tepe, although such attributions to building ancient ruins by the magical beings of one’s current culture traditions are quite common. Of course, Azazel, one of the leaders of the Djinn, was also called a ‘fallen angel.’ He was also called a leader of the “Rebel Watchers” in the Book of Enoch. He also goes through much Edenic lore of the region with lands of paradise, miracle cures, fountains of youth, etc. There are local traditions about Shem, the son of Noah. There are also legends of Seth, the third son of Adam. Some Gnostics, the Sethites, saw Seth as the first manifestation of the Christ. Seth and Shem have often been conflated in lore. Some Gnostic texts spoke of the Pillars of Seth on a mountain in Siriad, probably a reference to Syria. Some scholars have put this mountain as Bingol Mountain which is close to Gobekli Tepe. Knowledge was said to be “concealed” on the pillars of Seth. It is quite a stretch to bring this legend back to 8000 BCE when the pillars at Gobekli Tepe were buried. Next he goes on to see the “true race of Seth” as a race of angels equated to the proposed Swiderians at Gobekli Tepe. The Sabaeans of Harran who once inhabited the area were said to have had a Book of Seth and their founder Sabius, to be a son of Seth. They were also identified with the quasi-Persian Magi of lore, perhaps moving out of Persia when the empires were formed in 500’s BCE (which would incidentally damage Collins assertions a bit). Thus it is a bit doubtful that the Magi of lore were descendants of the proposed Swiderians of Gobekli Tepe. 

Collins makes one last visit to Turkey, wanting to find an old monastery (many of the ancient ones were abandoned and/or destroyed during the Armenian genocide of 1915). By chance he becomes friends with a taxi driver who shares his fascination with the local lore and the driver asks if he would like to accompany him to a visit with some local Alevi people. There was conflict with the local Kurds, the PKK, at the time but his driver knew how to circumvent any travel difficulties. This gave him an opportunity to drive by Bingol Mountain and note its lion-like look. The Armenians once associated it with the virgin-Persian goddess Anahita, often depicted standing on a lion. She is also the goddess of fertility and the waters of life. He also got to look down at the lush green Valley of Mush which has been equated to the Garden of Eden. The Alevi village was very near the Fountain of Hidir (al Khidr), one of the holiest places of the Alevi. Interestingly, there was also a place (temple) there for dream incubation. He found the Alevi people relaxed and friendly, simple and nature-loving. After this he went on to Gobekli Tepe, staying at nearby Sanliurfa. There he got an impromptu interview with Klaus Schmidt. Schmidt and an archaeologist colleague considered Gobekli Tepe as an astronomical observatory but Schmidt said it wasn’t his favorite theory. They did not favor Collins, “catastrophobia” idea. Seeing a newly excavated pillar with a great carved lion, Collins wondered if it was a representation of Bingol Mountain as ‘cosmocrator,’ keeper of cosmic time and the cosmic order at the world pillar/cosmic mountain as the Zurvan cult had surmised.  

An appendix is included of useful dates. Collins work is indeed fascinating and he does try to align with science in his speculative excursions. A recent paper has him at odds with Graham Hancock, whose work is much further into the kooky New Age-style sensationalism. I think I will check out Klaus Schmidt’s work if I can find it reasonably priced. Update: at 63 bucks I don’t think so at the moment.

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