I received, with the last post, a copy of Klaus Schmidt’s book on Golbeki Tepe, containing more images of the site than I had seen before. This days painting used a photograph from the image on the cover of the book, of a group of birds.
It is characteristic of a lot of the carvings. Low relief, stylisation, simplicity, the world of a hunter gatherer.
The little reference to this decorated pillar is hung in a structure made from the arbitrary passing particles through the picture plane.
The ’tile’ is hung in a part of the knee along with other blank tiles, which I will endeavour to fill.
In an attempt to create a compendium of all that is known (by me at this time) within the structure of this painting.
At the same time I am trying to introduce the elements of the sleeping figure as figments of a dream, the mythic dream.
As I look at the photographs of the pillars, I have noticed that many of them have strange pits carved into the tops of them. It appears to me that these depressions may have contained ritual oils, burning offerings etc. These outer stones were embedded into a surrounding wall which helped to give access to the top of the stones, from the outside of the inner shrine. Each stone could have been an alter stone, served from outside, perhaps forming a ‘chapel’, to whatever particular deity the stone represented (for each was a figure identified by particular animals and symbols).
The two great inner stones and the surrounding others (often 12 in number) suggest a pantheism to me. Clan cults connected with animals may be in the mix.
When I wandered around Turkey looking at the ancient sites outlined in Mellart’s book ‘the Neolithic of the Middle East’ I visited Chatal Huyuk and Hacilar and saw the major collection in the Ankara museum, and was very struck by the way the story of our beginnings had once again been pushed unbelievable far back, to 7000 BC. It was from studying Mellart’s beautiful book (now in tatters) that I learned the term ‘epi-palaeolithic’ and the possibility of neolithic communities approaching the size of a city.
Now it is evident that complex religious societies had existed during the ice age (we knew that from Lascaux and the magdelanean culture) and when they emerge into our consciousness at Gobekli Tepe they are a complex people with a sophisticated mythology, a mythology we can tantalizingly glimpse as the great stones are unearthed in their virtually pristine state. These people, 5000 years earlier than Chatal Huyuk, were not farmers but hunters, finding themselves living in a time of overflowing resources as the climate of the earth changed from ice to fecundity and forest. Abundant wildlife and wild plants (it is the fertile crescent) may have made living easier, as it did for some neolithic Indian communities in North America who lived beside a fertile sea. Whatever is the truth, these extraordinary ancestors were able to spare time to reflect on the universe, on the great questions of human existence. They formed a world-view, they had a comprehensive way of understanding a capricious universe, and a quasi system for modifying it, probably controlled by a priesthood. The priesthood may have worn a topknot (symbolizing a snake), as many Indian monks do to this day.