Saturday, December 22, 2018





FROM RockArtBlog   

 Have a very Merry Christmas, 

A Happy New Year's Eve, 

and all the best in 2018.

Saturday, December 15, 2018


58 Holes game board pecked
in Azerbaijan rock shelter,
Photograph W. Crist, courtesy
of the director of the
Gobustan State Historical
and Cultural Preserve.

Back in 2013 I posted a number of columns about game boards carved into rock. Now a new example has been reported from Azerbaijan, an ancient Near Eastern game called 58 Holes, or Hounds and Jackals (the name Hounds and Jackals was bestowed by Howard Carter to describe an example he found in King Tutankhamen's tomb). (Gurevich 2017)

Egyptian 58 Holes game board, - public domain.

Apparently originating in Egypt at around 2000 BCE, 58 Holes spread throughout the Near East quickly. "At least 68 gameboards of 58 Holes have been found archaeologically, including examples from Iraq (Ur, Uruk, Sippar, Nippur, Nineveh, Ashur, Babylon, Nuzi), Syria (Ras el-Ain, Tell Ajlun, Khafaje), Iran (Tappeh Sialk, Susa, Luristan), Israel (Tel Beth Shean, Megiddo, Gezer), Turkey (Boghazkoy, Kultepe, Karalhuyuk, Acemhuyuk), and Egypt (Buhen, Thebes, El-Lahun, Sedment)." (Hirst 2017)

This newly discovered example was pecked into stone in a rock shelter in Azerbaijan, some 1000 to 2000 km. from the Near East. Archaeologist Walter Crist of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City saw a photograph of the pattern online and recognized it as a board for 58 Holes. Crist contacted a colleague in Azerbaijan who helped him arrange a site visit in April 2018. "Once there, Crist found that the site he saw online had been bulldozed for a housing development. But a scientific official in Azerbaijan told him of another rock-shelter with the same dot pattern. Crist, who has studied Near Eastern versions of 58 holes, recognized the two-person game when he reached that site." (Bower 2018)

Hopefully the knowledge and recognition of this will protect this site from the bulldozer. In any event RockArtBlog is grateful for the situation that put Walter Crist in place to save it.

NOTE: Images in this posting were retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below.


Bower, Bruce
2018 A Bronze Age Game Called 58 Holes Was Found Chiseled Into Stone in Azerbaijan, November 16, 2018,

Gurevich, Eli
2017 Hounds and Jackals, October 14, 2017,

Hirst, Kris
2017 58 Holes: Ancient Egyptian Board Game of Hounds and Jackals, November 12, 2017,

Saturday, December 8, 2018


Pillar 43, Gobekli Tepe, Turkey.

I have recently posted a couple of columns on the remarkable temples of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey. In these, I have expressed my fascination at the level of sophistication, and artistic accomplishment, achieved at this very early stage in the history of human culture. With something as remarkable as Gobekli Tepe, it is perhaps inevitable that fringies begin to find "hidden secrets" and predictions of coming catastrophe in it. These are perhaps best expressed in Magicians of the Gods by Graham Hancock, wherein he explains the theory that art work on one of the pillars at Gobekli Tepe actually portrays the Mayan calendrical standstill.

The pillar 43 chart of constellations,
Gobekli Tepe, Graham Hancock,
Magicians Of The GodsFigure 50.

Hancock was apparently pointed in the right direction by the writings of Paul D. Burley who discovered great astronomical meanings in Gobekli Tepe. Such is the case with the remarkable relief carvings on pillar 43. "There is a bird with outstretched wings, two smaller birds, a scorpion, a snake, a circle, and a number of wavy lines and cord-like features. At first glance this lithified menagerie appears to be simply a hodgepodge of animals and geometric designs randomly placed to fill in the broad side of the pillar. The key to unlocking this early Neolithic puzzle is the circle situated at the center of the scene. I am immediately reminded of the cosmic Father - the sun. The next clues are the scorpion facing up toward the sun, and the large bird seemingly holding the sun upon an outstretched wing. In fact, the sun figure appears to be located accurately on the ecliptic with respect to the familiar constellation of Scorpio, although the scorpion depicted on the pillar occupies only the left portion, or head, of our modern conception of that constellation. As such, the sun symbol is located as close to the galactic center as it can be on the ecliptic as it crosses the galactic plane." (Burley 2013)

The pillar 43 chart of constellations
diagrammed, Gobekli Tepe,
Graham Hancock, Magicians
Of The Gods. Page 310. 

Burley's analysis brings a couple of problems to mind for me. First, you cannot see any constellations in the sky when the sun is out and among them. You only see constellations at night when the sun is gone and the sky is dark. Why would the sun be illustrated in the middle of a star map of the night sky? Second, Burley makes great significance out of the precision of the location of this sun disk, yet the sun moves constantly while the constellations are essentially fixed for any earthbound observer. Even if you could see the sun with the constellations in the sky it would only be in any one position for an instant.


Pillar 43 with the modern
equivalent constellations,
Gobekli Tepe, Graham Hancock,
Magicians Of The GodsFigure 51.

Hancock, however, believes Burley hook, line, and sinker, but adds his own interpretation to the meaning of this star chart. It did not represent the sky back at the time Gobekli Tepe was constructed. No, it presages the sky of present-day earth. Hancock's computer work with sky simulation software proved to him that the carvings on pillar 43 were intended as some sort of message to us today. "By a process of elimination we have seen that Gobekli Tepe cannot be inviting us to consider the equinoxes, and nor can it be inviting us to consider the summer solstice, even at the favorable moment of sunset. This leaves us only with the winter solstice with the sun in Sagittarius targeting the center of the Milky Way galaxy, the definitive astronomical signature of the years between 1960 and 2040 in our own epoch - a signature that recurs only at 26,000-year intervals." (Hancock 2015:332)

Hancock's speculated constellations
charted on pillar 43, Gobekli Tepe,
Graham Hancock, Magicians Of
The Gods, Page 320.

Another comparable scientific achievement of prehistoric antiquity that survived the ages and came down to us in the same degree of completeness is the Mayan calendar "that envisaged a great cycle in the life of the world coming to an end in exactly the same 80-year period between 1960 and 2040." (Hancock 2015:333)

If I understand Hancock, the point of all of these predictions pointing to the 80-year period between 1960 and 2040 CE, is the danger of a collision with a comet. He cites a number of references to authors speculating about the possibility of large bodies in the Taurid meteor stream. "Calculations indicate that this presently invisible object at the heart of the Taurid stream might be as much as 30 kilometers in diameter. Moreover, it is thought that other large fragments accompany it." (Hancock 2015:438) Hancock's date for this disastrous collision with the earth is apparently 2030.

"The Taurids are an annual meteor shower associated with the comet Encke. The Taurids are actually two separate showers, with a Southern and a Northern component. The Southern Taurids originated from Comet Encke, while the Northern Taurids originated from the asteroid 2004TG. They are named after their radiant point in the constellation Taurus." (Wikipedia)

So now we know, both the ancient inhabitants of Gobekli Tepe, with their predictions on pillar 43, and the ancient Mayans whose calendar ended in our era because there was no point in continuing it, we are all going to be extinct, had knowledge somehow of this impending doom. Perhaps that is the "Magic" of his title, that they somehow knew about this.

I think it is really a shame to clutter up the knowledge and awareness of a magnificent place like Gobekli Tepe with this nonsense. The amazing architecture from such an early period, with the beautifully sophisticated imagery should be enough, but, for Catastrophe Theorists and the flim-flam authors who sell that stuff it never is.  

NOTE: Some images in this posting were retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these subjects you should read the originals at the sites listed below.


Burley, Paul D.,
2013 Communicating Ancient Cosmic Geography, March 8, 2013,

Hancock, Graham
2015 Magicians of the Gods, St. Martin's Press, New York.

Saturday, December 1, 2018


Gobekli Tepe, Pillar 43,,
Public Domain.

Now, to dig a little deeper into the phenomenon of Gobekli Tepe. Readers of RockArtBlog will recognize that I have an interest in the subject of natural phenomena in rock art, among these the science of astronomy. I have long believed that any remarkable natural phenomena will tend to be recorded by the people who observed them. Among these phenomena would be the close approach of a comet. Now two researchers from the University of Edinburgh have proposed that some of the marvelous carvings at Gobekli Tepe record just such an occurrence.

The remarkable recent discoveries at Gobekli Tepe, in Turkey, have given us very early architecture decorated with sophisticated stone carvings, but they have also given us (as all such discoveries seem to) new controversies concerning archaeoastronomy and the supposed comet strike that caused the Younger Dryas.

"The Younger Dryas (c. 12.900 to c. 11,700 BP) was a return to glacial conditions which temporarily reversed the gradual climatic warming after the Last Glacial Maximum started receding around 20,000 BP. It is named after an indicator genus, the alpine-tundra wildflower Dryas octopetala, as its leaves are occasionally abundant in the Late Glacial, often minerogenic-rich, like lake sediments of Scandinavian lakes." (Wikipedia)

Gobekli Tepe, Pillar 43,
Public Domain.

Gobekli Tepe, Turkish for "Potbelly Hill", is an archaeological site in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Sanliurfa. The tell has a height of 15 m (49 ft) and is about 300 m (980 ft) in diameter. It is approximately 760 m (2,490 ft) above sea level.
The tell includes two phases of use believed to be of a social or ritual nature dating back to the 10th - 8th millennium BCE. During the first phase, belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), circles of massive T-shaped stone pillars were erected - the world's oldest known megaliths. More than 200 pillars in about 20 circles are currently known through geophysical surveys. Each pillar has a height of up to 6 m (20 ft) and weighs up to 10 tons. They are fitted into sockets that were hewn out of the bedrock." (Wikipedia) It is these pillars which we are concerned with here. They are remarkably carved with low relief images and symbols, some have 3-dimensional animals, and human appendages making them stylized standing human figures.

Martin Sweatman and Dimitrios Tsikritsis, of the School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, King's Buildings, Edinburgh, Scotland, have analyzed carvings on some of these pillars and deciphered them to tell an amazing tale. Sweatman and Tsikritsis claim they are a record of the huge comet strike that caused the Younger Dryas by reversing the climate warming, putting earth back into ice age conditions for 1,000 years. This comet strike has been amazingly difficult to locate, no remaining physical has been found so far. This has led to theories that state that the comet may have hit the earth on the ice sheet covering Canada during the late glacial age, leaving no crater in the ground.

Gobeckli Tepe, carved pillar,
the lower image is a fox., Public Domain.

"As they are central to this work we will describe in detail a few of the key pillars of interest and their corresponding carvings. The key to unlocking our interpretation of GT is pillar 43, Enclosure D, also known as the ‘Vulture Stone’ (see Figure 1). Enclosure D is formed of a rough circular wall with eleven large upright megaliths embedded into its inner surface (once there were perhaps twelve), protruding upwards and inwards. Near the centre of the enclosure stand a pair of massive hammer-shaped megaliths, each weighing around 15 tonnes with some anthropomorphic features. We will come back to them. Pillar 43 is embedded into the north-west of the enclosure. Striking images of this pillar can be found in the academic literature and across the internet. Indeed, pillar 43 is one of the defining images of Göbekli Tepe, and has been called ‘the world’s first pictogram’." (Sweatmen and Tsikritsis, 2017)

Sweatman and Tsikritsis proceed through a very complex analysis of the imagery on pillar 43 to the conclusion that it records a dated astronomical occurrence in 10950 BC ± 250 yrs, roughly coinciding with the end of the Younger Dryas - why not the date of the event that they say began the Younger Dryas I am not able to understand. As I understand them, they say that pillar 43 sets the date and implies a catastrophe occurred, and pillar 18 indicates that it was a comet. How did the inhabitants of Gobekli Tepe, who produced this record, know of something that happened 2,000 years earlier?

"We have interpreted much of the symbolism of Göbekli Tepe in terms of astronomical events. By matching low-relief carvings on some of the pillars at Göbekli Tepe to star asterisms we find compelling evidence that the famous ‘Vulture Stone’ is a date stamp for 10950 BC ± 250 yrs, which corresponds closely to the proposed Younger Dryas event, estimated at 10890 BC. We also find evidence that a key function of Göbekli Tepe was to observe meteor showers and record cometary encounters. Indeed, the people of Göbekli Tepe appear to have had a special interest in the Taurid meteor stream, the same meteor stream that is proposed as responsible for the Younger-Dryas event. Is Göbekli Tepe the ‘smoking gun’ for the Younger-Dryas cometary encounter, and hence for coherent catastrophism?" (Sweatman and Tsikritsis)

The date designated has been arrived at by assuming the circle seen in what is roughly the center of pillar 43 (the Vulture Stone) as the sun, and the other images on the face are identified as constellations. Apparently running the (assumed) identified constellations back in a computer to the positions they occupy on pillar 43 gives the date 10950 BCE ± 250. The other pillar involved in this interpretation is pillar 18 of Enclosure D. Its imagery identifies the causal event of the Younger Dryas, a comet strike on earth. The comet is proven by the image of a fox with the foxes' tail representing the comet. (Sweatman and Tsikritsis)

I have read their paper and I must say I am not convinced. They state, in many instances, that some carved symbol carries a certain meaning, but present no evidence to back that up. We have the same criticisms here that I have found pertinent in other claimed prehistoric star charts, and a star chart is exactly what they are claiming pillar 43 is. However, a picture of a scorpion provides absolutely no proof whatsoever that the ancient inhabitants identified the same Scorpio constellation as we do, or any Scorpio constellation at all, for that matter. They might have seen those stars as representing anything at all. They might have looked up at the constellation of the rabbit's genitals for all we know. A picture of a scorpion proves nothing. I will look more deeply into these constellations and star charts in my next column.

It is, perhaps, inevitable that catastrophe theorists would find ways to involve something as remarkable as Gobekli Tepe in their crazy ideas. The press has loved this story by Sweatman and Tsikritsis, but I have not found much in the way of assent from the scientific community. It is a shame that some people cannot just admire it for what it is, amazingly early examples of temple architecture and remarkable artwork combined in one place, produced thousands of years earlier than most other known examples, a miracle of human creativity. Not everything encodes secret messages! I do, however, urge you to read their paper for yourself and make up your own mind. 

NOTE: Some images in this posting were retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the original listed below.


Sweatman, Martin B., and Dimitrios Tsikritsis
2017 Decoding Gobekli Tepe With Archaeoastronomy: What Does The Fox Say?, p. 233-50, Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry (open access), Vol. 17, No. 1.öbekli_Tepe