What came first, agriculture or religion?

By P.-E. Bouillot

Göbekli Tepe, as archeological remains linked to the origins of agriculture, could also have been the name of Lascaux program …but I admit, Lascaux sounds better than Göbekli Tepe. This historical site of Turkey suggests a new theory of the birth of civilization which contrasts with the common thought that agriculture gave the rise to the modern human being.

Göbekli Tepe is the world’s oldest temple that has been discovered at the moment. It is registered as an archeological site since 1963. The researchers have concluded that it was a Byzantine-era military outpost and was consequently of little interest. However, in the middle of the 90’s Göbekli Tepe has been rediscovered, when Klaus Schmidt, a German archeologist, realized that the temple was much more older.  Since then, German and Turkish archeologist teams follow one another to uncover the hill of South Turkey.

The experts have determined that Göbekli Tepe was built 11.600 years ago (almost 7.000 years before the Pyramid of Giza or Stonehenge). Without wheels and beasts of burden, the builders were capable to quarry, to cut and transport 16-ton stones in order to build this monumental sanctuary. One of the most interesting discovery of this research is that neither did they find any signs of living nor water sources around the temple, although hundreds of people must have been required to build it. These people were probably hunter-gatherers.

Consequently, the archeologist had to review the theory of the origins of the civilization. The lessons of Göbekli Tepe offer another way to understand the birth of civilization. Indeed, after the ice age, the human beings were able to domesticate cereals and animals thanks to the global warming, generating religion and organizing society. On the contrary, Göbekli Tepe put forward the hypothesis that the wonder at environmental changes led to religion, thereafter agriculture and finally, other aspects of civilization appeared.

However, most of the researchers are suspicious about a single explanation for the origin of civilization.  It appears that in some places of the world, religion may have been the origin; in others, agriculture, population pressure, settlement…

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