Academic Journal Runs Article Claiming Göbekli Tepe Records Comet Strike, Misses Fact That Article Is Based on Speculative Andrew Collins Book
Last night the History Channel broadcast a FOUR HOUR (!) edition of a new show called Ancient Aliens Declassified in which old episodes are expanded with new scenes and commentary. If you think I’m sitting through four hours of Ancient Aliens reruns, you have another thing coming. The first episode covered “The Genius Factor,” and it wove together segments from shows on Leonardo da Vinci, Einstein, Tesla, and other famous figures that the show produced over the last couple of seasons. On the one hand, this proves that the show knows that it is retreading the same material over and over, but it also offers a sad comment on the History Channel’s opinion of its audience.
Meanwhile, news broke last night that an academic journal published an article claiming that the ancient Turkish site of Göbekli Tepe features art that depicts the collision of a comet with the Earth and the effects that it had on humans who lived at the end of the last Ice Age. The article sounds like Graham Hancock’s wet dream, mostly because it echoes nearly point for point claims found in Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods, and it seems that the journal article has more than a little influence from the Hancock school. Or, more specifically, let’s be blunt: Hancock and our authors both cite fringe writer Andrew Collins, namely his 2014 book Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods, and our article authors praise him for having “first proposed” the correlations they have basically just repeated, sometimes nearly verbatim. The whole article is an expansion on Collins’s low-evidence, speculative nonsense, and an actual academic journal ran it without question, with news media ranging from New Scientist to The Telegraph following suit yesterday.
The article called “Decoding Göbekli Tepe with Archaeoastronomy: What Does the Fox Say?” was published in Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, Vol. 17, No 1, (2017), pp. 233-250. It was written by Martin B. Sweatman and Dimitrios Tsikritsis, both engineers—not archaeologists—from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering. While the authors do not cite Graham Hancock, they do cite Collins and list in their bibliography most of the same papers about the so-called Younger Dryas comet impact that Hancock cites, and there is more than a hint of Hancock and especially Collins in the authors’ assertion that Göbekli Tepe should (a) be interpreted astronomically and (b) is the “smoking gun” in proving that the comet really did hit the Earth around 10,900 BCE. It offers no great reassurance that the authors assert that “if” their interpretation of art is correct, then catastrophism is true and “the implications are staggering.”
Notice the logical problems: The authors assumed that the comet really did hit the Earth, and they assumed that Göbekli Tepe should be understood astronomically, and therefore they use those assumptions to prove that the comet hit the Earth and was recorded at Göbekli Tepe.
The authors start with an illogical assumption—the same one that Hancock picked up from the sources he used—that the animals found on the pillars of Göbekli Tepe represent constellations of the Babylonian / Greek constellation system, particularly Scorpio. For many reasons, this is deeply uncertain—not least because the zodiacal constellations as we know them cannot be shown to date back as far at the Ice Age, most not having much evidence for their existence prior to around 500-1000 BCE. Even if we grant 10 times that length, we still haven’t reached the time our authors presume they existed. While our authors recognize in a vague way that this is a problem, they parallel Hancock and Collins—sometimes almost verbatim—in assigning to shapes formed from animals and figures on the pillars various star-patterns in the modern sky. Both sets of writers, for example, emphasize the importance of the so-called “teapot asterism” in Sagittarius. Weirdly, both sets of authors also bring up potential astronomical alignments at the site only to comment they are not strictly relevant to proving their case. The similarities are uncanny. I don’t think it takes much to see why.
Based on the assumption that the figures are stellar, the authors conclude that the images on Pillar 43 represent the night sky in 10,950 BCE, the year of the comet. This presumes exceptional accuracy, and we all know that due to the slow drift of the stars, a reasonable tolerance could cover a long period on either side of that date. Since this is reasonably close to when the site is believed to have been built, one immediately wonders why we should conclude that the images, even if they represent stars, are targeting a comet event instead of, say, the sky at the time the pillars were erected.
It gets worse from there, with the authors arguing that specific symbols are “consistent” with comets, namely belt buckles and snakes. How do they know that the people of ancient Göbekli Tepe used them that way? Curvy shapes, mostly. They think they look exactly like the trajectory of a hypothetical comet.
But is it worth going on from here? Our authors have blatantly lifted their entire program of research from Collins and Hancock—going so far as to deduce from the appearance of animals on the Göbekli Tepe pillars that all of archaeology should be revised to account for what they call “coherent catastrophism,” meaning the old catastrophism but with a modern gloss based on fashionable claims about comets and asteroids. The real danger here is that the imprimatur of an academic journal will lead readers to mistakenly believe that the foundational assumptions, drawn from Collins, have an actual basis in fact, when in, in fact, they are simply speculation.
4/22/2017 11:44:14 am
You should be honest about Giorgio. He's not a nemesis. You misled and lied to him when you met him. Liars seldom are trusted again.
4/22/2017 12:09:15 pm
Unless you were there the day Jason and Giorgio first met—and I'm more than confident in saying you weren't—I'd suggest you stop talking about a topic for which you have no firsthand knowledge.
4/22/2017 12:40:32 pm
If you are referring to Giorgio Tsukalos you are absolutely right, liars are seldom trusted again. Mr. Tsukalos will say or agree with anything that can make him a buck or bring attention to his crazy hypothesis. If your a fan of AA and other pseudo-nonsense,that's your business. But to imply Jason lacks integrity while using Tsoukalos's name in the same sentence is an ludicrous .
4/22/2017 06:43:00 pm
I would assume that is the reason no one posting to this blog pays any attention to you.
4/22/2017 12:17:20 pm
Once again, we have an argument for a bad idea: coherent catastrophism. I believe our understanding of Göbekli Tepe would be better served if we applied the proper sciences and let the facts and evidence speak for themselves. Extraordinary claims are not required.
4/23/2017 09:19:36 pm
Hi OM -
4/23/2017 10:31:36 pm
Because I said coherent catastrophism is a bad idea? I'm sorry, but disagreeing with my opinion is not the same as "you don't know what you are talking about."
4/24/2017 11:49:19 am
Hi OM -
10/14/2019 11:30:30 pm
from what I can see of Gobekli tepe, it reminds me of an amusement park for disparate bands of hunter gatherers, who converge on the place in order to renew contacts, offer brides and grooms and catch up on the world's news. note that the so called monument pillars are very thin, not like Stonehenge or any other henge or "architecture" and pebbled on the top, indicating to me they are not designed to be load bearing. apparently at some time in the past, enough population size made gobekli tepe feasible in the same way that a twentieth century population made a space program feasible (or the analogy of refrigerated rail cars, warehouses and grocery chains) the circles are surrounded by 6 foot walls, just tall enough so someone outside cannot see whats going in inside...much like the walls of a theatre or temple with deus ex machina.
10/14/2019 11:38:13 pm
I forgot to mention the answer lies in the formula Culture = technology X population
4/22/2017 12:41:00 pm
The journal's impact factor is only .35 so it isn't exactly a top tier journal. It doesn't appear to be a pay to publish one but it isn't a major archaeological one eitehr
4/22/2017 09:52:04 pm
Even top rated peer-reviewed journals have an embarrassing failure of screening out fringe rubbish as happened with this "paper." If you want to see a catastrophic failure of peer-review by a major sceintific journal go look at:
4/23/2017 12:35:04 pm
My guess is that someone knew someone. There are some journals where if you know the right people or reference the right people you sail through but if you don't reference them they kick the paper out.
4/22/2017 12:45:45 pm
Wow, "coherent catastrophism"? Is this neologism really necessary? I mean, in the traditional sense, catastrophism refers to the theory that the earth's geological features are formed chiefly by sudden and violent events. If a comet impact was recorded at Gobekli Tepe, that would only point to *one* such catastrophe. But we already knew that such events have happened in the earth's history.
4/22/2017 09:39:48 pm
4/22/2017 09:45:41 pm
My apologies for all the mispelled words and typos. For example, "stochastic eatastrophism" should be "stochastic catastrophism." I just did not take the time to proofread my post.
4/23/2017 12:19:45 pm
Thank you for the links.
4/23/2017 09:17:26 pm
Yes, the new name was necessary.
4/22/2017 01:13:35 pm
So of course they don't mention all the cranes that are more prevalent than snakes at Göbekli Tepe but aren't constellations.
4/23/2017 01:33:32 pm
Exactly, the fringification of GT is under way and it will be buried under 'hordes & heaps' of fringe material just like G1 and Stonehenge were and are. When was the last time you saw a fringe appraisal of Nevali Coli or Blombos cave?
6/29/2019 03:56:02 pm
Omg I had to work hard on both of those because of GT. Does that mean I’m not fringe? This is the smartest board I’ve seen on the subject, I’ll tell you that.
4/22/2017 09:28:48 pm
While the paper concentrates on one of many pillars I have to ask why they didn't 'decode' the rest of the pillars - what if anything do they point to? There are quite a number of them with carvings on them.
4/23/2017 07:05:43 am
I hope that's a rhetorical question because "cherry picking" is the only answer.
Thanks for picking up the story and expressing some critical thoughts here, Jason.
4/23/2017 09:27:35 pm
Hi Jens -
4/23/2017 09:12:49 pm
Wrong, Jason (and this is not like you):
4/24/2017 01:43:14 pm
UGHHH!!!! More and more it seems we may be drifting into a post-critical thinking era. How the heck did this get published?
4/24/2017 04:27:08 pm
I have looked at Pillar 43 of this GT stie, and in my non professional opinion, it is nothing more than a rendition of the gathering of some form of wheat at harvest, and the larger structures above are baskets. It is not a comet strike at all, as there is no basis for it being anything astronomical.
4/24/2017 05:15:44 pm
Here is reply to the paper from one of the excavators at GT
4/25/2017 03:23:08 am
That blog post from an actual on-site Gobekeli Tepe researcher is nicely sceptical and yet interested in seeing what else might come of the idea. Bit of a contrast with the slamming in this post.
5/5/2017 01:32:49 pm
Thank you Jason et al.
7/8/2017 07:21:47 am
Dear Jason, if you think you have something to contribute to this debate, why not try to publish your ideas in a peer reviewed academic journal, like we did? Feel free to choose one you feel is worthy. For your information, the site's archaeologists, who presumably are more qualified than you to defend their position, have responded to our paper, and we have, in turn, responded to them. Please see these latest developments in issue 2 of Volume 17 of the same journal. In the 'matters arising' section you will see we answer some of your criticisms which were similar to the site's archaeologists. Ultimately, the issue is a matter of pattern matching and statistics, both of which are scientific disciplines.
11/15/2018 04:08:12 pm
What are we to make of the paper published 14/11/2018 which shows a massive crater in Greenland, thought to date from "as recently as 12,000 years ago?"
11/18/2018 02:01:28 am
Andy it might have been better to put the full quote in:
11/18/2018 03:27:11 pm
Hanslune, we could also add the quotes "the oldest ice in this crater was actually fairly young, by Greenland's standards, and had experienced a great disturbance in its flow towards the end of the last ice age"
11/18/2018 04:53:50 pm
...and it's best to read the entire article and realize that the matter is not yet resolved.
H. E. Hehn
6/9/2019 12:04:37 pm
"The real danger here is that the imprimatur of an academic journal will lead readers to mistakenly believe that the foundational assumptions, drawn from Collins, have an actual basis in fact, when in, in fact, they are simply speculation."
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