Book Review—Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods

Collins, Andrew. Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods. The Temple of the Watchers and the Discovery of Eden. (Bear and Co. 2014) Kindle Edition

The book wasn’t quite what I expected, but the first half or so is a great description of fascinating archaeology. Then the book gets Odd. The introduction by Graham Hancock gives readers a large hint that this is not a standard academic or even popular archaeology book. Which was a bit disappointing, but I still learned a great deal, even if I did a lot of eye-rolling toward the end.

The author, Andrew Collins, became intrigued by Neolithic and Paleolithic sites that don’t seem to fit what most archaeologists accept as the standard progression of society and culture in terms of technology and organization. The overall idea is that over time, small groups of hunter-gatherers coalesced on occasion into larger groups for rituals and socializing, then scattered out again, but that they never really built major structures (with a tiny handful of exceptions, including the complex at Salisbury Plain in England, and Göbekli Tepe, and Catalhuyuk in Anatolia.) At some point, agriculture began to complement, then slowly replace the hunter-gatherer lifestyle in much of Eurasia. These developments happened locally, to meet local needs, and agriculture also spread relatively slowly. That’s the standard.

The first part of the book is a study of the site of Göbekli Tepe. It is a collection of megaliths (carved standing stones in this case) that seem to be part of a larger complex of structures. Some of the stones and the buildings were aligned with particular stars and constellations back when the complex was built. There’s not an obvious local development pattern at Göbekli Tepe that archaeologists have found yet, unlike Salisbury in England. I emphasize yet, because Anatolia – modern Turkey – is a comparatively understudied area. This chunk of the book is great, and the author is careful to note what we can 100% confirm, what archaeologists are mostly certain about, and what is speculation or is based on computer modeling.

Then the book launches into speculation based partly on the Apocryphal book of 1st Enoch, Genesis, and some other texts, plus theoretical archaeology, and some other things. Collins believes that the remnant survivors of a superior culture (not necessary alien, but certainly odd-looking) were forced from their homeland in the north by a terrible disaster. They spread, and taught the people of Anatolia and elsewhere metalworking, construction, and to remember a terrible flood, among other things. These people remained semi-separate, and were priests and leaders until they finally died out. The Book of Enoch preserves some of this in the description of the fallen angels who had relations with men, and of the skills they taught mankind. Collins then combines this with Genesis to find the Rivers of Eden and perhaps the Garden of Eden itself in the mountains near Göbekli Tepe.

Collins writes well, and the story is intriguing. If you are interested in lost civilizations, prehistory, and what-ifs, it’s a great book. As I said above, the first half or so had solid archaeology and was quite clear what’s known vs. theorized vs. private speculation. The second half I read as an interesting fiction. My difficulty with Hancock, Collins, and others is that they have to pull too many stray bits and pieces together. Francis Pryor’s understanding of the Salisbury Plain complex, for example, is simpler and fits the evidence without requiring a super-civilization in the past. The photos and diagrams are very good, and the book has decent maps.

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use and received no remuneration or consideration from the author or publisher for this review.


6 thoughts on “Book Review—Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods

  1. It was the Hyperboreans. Again.
    At least the Atlanteans stayed out of it this time. (And the less said of the Picts, the better.)

    We know there was a mass migration out of the Caucasus Mountains region in prehistory. We know that area was wracked by floods of biblical proportions when the most recent Ice Age faded.
    Posit that these Indo-Europeans had developed rudimentary smelting (not a large stretch for people in a mineral-rich area with frequent high winds channeled by geography*) and you’re 9/10 of the way there without aliens, angels, or other woo. (It also supplies a built in limiter to the spread of the tech, in that the ore is pretty rare, and populations displaced by this mass migration would necessarily be pushed into less hospitable areas, like mountains, which would place the raw materials safely out of reach in most instances.)

    *I’ve had campfires get hot enough to smelt copper and tin in such conditions. (And turn wire hangers used for roasting marshmallows into incandescent modern art, which was more fun than roasting marshmallows. And nobody even got branded.)

    • Yes. Given that it now appears that metallurgy developed once in Eurasia, and that in the Balkans, you don’t have to have superior Lost Civilizations. Metal work seems to have come from pottery, and both predate the arrival of proto-Indo-Europeans by several thousand years at least. The Balkans had a lot of relatively easy to find copper and copper ores, and the techniques spread from there to Anatolia and Mesopotamia, then farther east and west with the P.E.I cultures. (Africa seems to have been different, but I have not found a good, recent overview for Africa.)

      Heck, the people around the Great Lakes were playing with copper before Europeans arrived, but didn’t have the tin or other possible alloys to make a tool-hard bronze. The Peruvian Coastal peoples and Inca alloyed gold with other things to get different colors (arsenic was a popular addition. Little rough on the goldsmiths, though!)

      • Pa had (I think $SISTAUR has it now, but am not sure) a chunk of native copper picked up from walking about the lakeshore… waaaaay back when it was NOT a big deal to pick up a rock and hold on to it. You know, those Civilized Times.

  2. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were ancient civilizations on Earth that we don’t know about.

    Mind you, I’m thinking Iron Age technology at the most.

    While fiction, Michael Scott Rohan’s Winter of the World series had such a civilization.

    It was destroyed because it was located in regions that before the Ice Age were underwater and were flooded out when the Ice receded. In Rohan’s story, the regions flooded too quickly for the humans to save their higher tech.

    But yes, we have no evidence of such civilizations so for now it’s just fiction. 😉

  3. Graham Hancock tends to turn the ideas up to 12, whether needed or not. Catastrophic flooding of what became the Black Sea resulted in legends and myths of Biblical age, and made a good 90% answer. The makes a lsite like Cyprus invaluable to displaced metal workers, and would give a different meaning to the heavily armed or armored “People of the Sea.” Sounds like one for the reading stack, at least the first part.

    Heh – at least there’s no mention of a freebooter, a barbarian, coming from far, hard lands, a Cimmerian, at the mention of whose name the Picts blanch, and Atlanteans quail in terror … 🙂

Comments are closed.