Post #1 started with a review of the cyclicality of freezing and melting about every 100,000 years for the past 500,000 years. Whilst some of us agonize over anthropogenic Global Warming (now rephrased to Climate Change which allows infinitely variable wiggle room in the data and hypotheses), we showed that this has been going on for so long that it is fair to say “forever” in view of the short time horizon of modern man.
Subsequent posts have dealt with the melting trend which began some 20,000 years ago and ended about 8,000 years ago at the Holocene Climatic Optimum. Temperature has declined ever since, and might fairly be termed icing—if it doesn’t cause another unscientific panic.
Clarification of archaeological dating and its underlying science.
I’ll take a moment to clarify the way archaeology measures time. “BP” means Before Present, and is pegged to Carbon 14 dates, which are measured by the known rate of decay of Carbon 14 and then calibrated to Dendrochronology. We now have a complete tree ring database of sample rings back to about 10,000 years ago. A date followed by “BC” means Before Christ (BCE is a name change meaning Before the Common Era for politically correct non-Christians). “Calibrated BC (BCE)” means that the raw Carbon 14 date is calibrated by Dendrochronology to the Carbon 14 emission from a tree ring dating to that specific year.
Dolni Vestonice: living in the depths of the last ice age. 26,000 BP.
So that we don’t believe that there was a complete discontinuity in man’s culture as it was before the last Glacial Maximum and afterwards in the Holocene (which we’ve been studying), I offer you the case of the Dolni Vestonice excavation in Moravia (Czech Republic), which dates to 26,000 BP. These were hunter-gatherers living only a few miles from the southern edge of the world-circling northern ice cap, fairly typical humans for whom we have remains from that time. After reading the linked website, examine its first reference. The two will give you a good overview. Keep in mind that these folks lived in the depth of an ice age and farming was out of the question. They weren’t physically or mentally less capable than you and I. But they were a lot tougher.
Global Warming shrinks the northern ice cap. 20,000-11,700 BP.
Epipaleolithic is the name of the period spanning from the Last Glacial Maximum (when glacier growth ended and warming began about 20,000 BP) until the warming peaked at the beginning of the Holocene around 11,700 BP, which takes us back to last week’s Gobekli Tepe.
Mesolithic Towns and Cities Contemporaneous with Gobekli Tepe. Blog: Cradle of Civilization.
Gobekli Tepe: Epipaleolithic temples. 12,000-10,000 BP portion excavated. But the oldest still buried.
We examined Gobekli Tepe last week, and concluded that something very important happened there around the beginning of the Holocene. Hunter-gatherers on the north edge of what would become the Fertile Crescent had diverged from the small-group dynamics of the Paleolithic Age (see Dolni Vestonice above) and banded together to build a succession of impressive sanctuaries or worship centers. Only a few have been excavated out of 20 identified through geophysical surveys. Those not yet excavated are expected to go back to 15-14,000 BP.
Given the huge work involved in building and then burying 20 successive temples there, and the absence of local living quarters or villages, it is hypothesized that those hunter-gatherers lived within “commuting distance” so they could periodically assemble for work projects and worship. I have gathered “contemporary” villages within a few hundred miles, and offer them as examples of those in the process of converting from hunting-gathering into proto-Neolithic (Mesolithic) villages involved in the beginnings of agriculture, while hunting-gathering as a back-up to cover the risk of bad harvests. Within trekking distance of Gobekli-Tepe and these experimental settlements is Mount Karaca Dag, where the genetic ancestor of 68 modern cereals still grows in the wild.
Hunter-Gatherers Form Experimental Villages with Mix of Hunter-Gathering and Proto-Agriculture.
Mureybet. 12,200 BP. Now flooded by dam on Euphrates.
Jericho. 12,000 BP. Began with Natufian Hunter-Gatherers.
Dja’de el Mughara. 11,000 BP. Now flooded by dam.
Hallan Cemi. 11,000 BP. Agriculture without grains. Early domestication of pigs.
Nevali Cori. 10,500 BP. Now flooded by dam on Euphrates.
Catalhoyuk. World Heritage Site. 9,500-7700 BP Population 5-10,000. Huge for a “proto-city.” Excavations: a must read. There are clear cultural links from this city as far south as ain-Ghazal and Jericho.
Ain-Ghazal (Central Jordan). 9,250 BP. Similar culture to Jericho.
Cayonu. 9,200 BP. Close to Mt. Karaca Dag and wild grain. Cultivated emmer and einkorn wheat.
The above fills in an important gap in Middle Eastern prehistory, which is, by the way, the most ancient prehistory–because literacy came to the Middle East first, and at later dates to the rest of the world. Some remote tribes in today’s world are still preliterate.
Thanks for visiting.