History and Prehistory
By: Jim Virkler
In 10,000 BC many changes occurred in the condition of our planet and the humanity calling Earth their home. The Ice Age had locked up millions of cubic miles of earth’s water in ice and had provided a rather harsh planetary environment for Earth residents. Agriculturalists could not thrive in the cold temperatures. Fully human hunter/gatherers, however, formed surprising cultures. Hunter/gatherers existed for tens of thousands of years prior to the onset of human agriculture. Ironically, the hunter/gatherer diet may have been somewhat more healthful than the grain-based agricultural diet which developed about 10,000 BC. The hunter/gatherer culture, however, could not produce the human population increase enabled by the development of agriculture during the so-called Rise of Civilization.
Our posts have described the agricultural revolution and its correspondence to the so-called Rise of Civilization in the 12,000 years following the close of the Wisconsin glacial events. Fascinating preludes to the revolution predate the usual “Rise of Civilization” enthusiasm generated by our teachers of human history. With respect to this complex topic, we state civilization as it is commonly perceived, arose about 3,000 to 4,000 BC. The Mesopotamian civilization continued a definite trend toward agriculture which had begun several thousand years earlier after the demise of the Ice Age. Before the recognized termination of the Ice Age, some humans, early Kebarans and Natufians, were protoagrarians experimenting with primitive agriculture.
Human history became easier to report after the invention of writing. Our modern culture is fueled by our ability to write and read. Writing did not develop until late in the history of the human race, approximately 5,000-6,000 years ago. This fact is astonishing. Perhaps our introductory high school and college history courses entitled, for example, “Development of Western Civilization” would have a very different scope had humans implemented writing and developed supporting technologies many millennia before.
A deeper question relates to the abilities and experiences of humanity before the Rise of Civilization in the several millennia before Christ. What about the hunter/gatherer cultures which persisted before and during the early transition to agriculture? Do we look upon those early men with scorn because they had primitive lifestyles? Do we ignore or minimize the human experience of ten, twenty, or fifty thousand years ago? It is certain that human pre-history holds fascination if we could only access it more effectively. We must rely on discoveries and inferences of professional archaeologists to instruct us concerning the events of pre-history. We are grateful for their scientific skill sets.
We illustrate the value of archaeology in revealing the discovery of an early Neolithic site. Klaus Schmidt (1953-2014), a German pre-historian and archaeologist, worked at the site from 1996 until his death. It is located in modern Turkey and dates from 10,000 BC. It is called Gobeckli Tepe. Schmidt stated the site is less than 5% excavated. Gobeckli Tepe was an early Neolithic sanctuary. We quote from Wikipedia’s article on Gobeckli Tepe, an article we enthusiastically recommend to our readers:
“Up to now no traces of domesticated plants or animals have been found. The inhabitants are assumed to have been hunters and gatherers…..It is believed that the elevated location may have functioned as a spiritual center by 11,000 BCE or even earlier…..The surviving structures, then, not only predate pottery, metallurgy, and the invention of writing or the wheel, they were built before the so-called Neolithic Revolution, i. e., the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry around 9,000 BCE…..Archaeologists estimate that up to 500 persons were required to extract the heavy pillars from local quarries and move them 100-500 meters to the site. The pillars weigh 10-20 metric tons…..”
“Schmidt considered Gobeckli Tepe a central location for a cult of the dead and that the carved animals are there to protect the dead…..Gobeckli Tepe is regarded as an archaeological discovery of the greatest importance…..It shows that the erection of monumental complexes was within the capacities of hunter-gatherers…..”
Old Testament scripture deals mainly with the written history of Israel and the Chosen People and the New Testament relates the revelation of God in Christ. The Bible is not a detailed record of human history and natural science since the creation of man in God’s image. The Father has enabled us to discover plentiful historical information concerning human and natural events. After we accept the brief scriptural account of God’s acts of creation, we are content to supplement our knowledge of human and natural history by studying findings of skilled scientists, including archaeologists.
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Jim Virkler, a retired New Jersey public school science educator, now devotes his time investigating the harmony of scientific discoveries and Christian faith. He and his wife, Eleanor, now reside in the mid-west near their children and grandchildren.