In the category ‘my hunebed’ we invite people to write about their own personal thoughts about hunebeds and megalithic monuments. Here is a story of Peter van den Hoek (Archeaoastronomer)
Göbekli Tepe is without a doubt one of the most mysterious structures on Earth. It can be found in southern Turkey, near the border with Syria. Through radiocarbon dating, its antiquity has been determined to be 11.700 years old. This result has confused the Archaeological World quite a bit, as it was assumed that megalithic structures could not be that old. It is also strange that when the structure was no longer in service, it was not just abandoned, but very carefully buried about 9.800 years ago.
Since its discovery in the 1960s, many people have researched the possible function of the four excavated circles with T-pillars. This is also the case in my field of Archaeoastronomy, the search for connections with the celestial bodies. Robert Schoch sees a connection with the stars of the southern constellation Orion. Giulio Magli also looks south and focuses on the brightest star Sirius. Andrew Collins takes a different approach, focusing his gaze to the north, the star Deneb and the constellation Cygnus¹. When I studied the floor plan, see the drawing Ground Plan, I noticed that the circular structures are becoming more and more complex towards the north. It therefore seemed obvious to me, like Collins, to take the northern sky as a starting point. The central T-pillars within the structures change their viewing direction roughly from north-northwest 320° (circle A) to north 353° (circle D). For me, this was an indication to look for a possible connection in the stars, because they slowly change place over time. I thought: ‘Let me look at the ancient settings of Arcturus, the brightest star in the north!’ This turned out to be a good starting point, because from that moment on everything fell into place. Arcturus seemed to serve as the hour hand of a huge celestial clock. In this article I try to explain how I see this.
When you look exactly through the middle of the T-pillars of the construction of circle A, that is the setting point of the brightest northern star Arcturus at 320° in 12.600 BC, see table. Arcturus cannot be seen for a number of hours, but the builders have also thought about this, because if Arcturus is at its lowest point in the north below the horizon, then exactly opposite the star Markab has arrived at its highest point and vice versa. In this way, the two stars form the hour hands of a huge celestial clock. In the drawing Göbekli Tepe as clock in 12.600 BC this is clearly visible. Arcturus is part of the constellation Boötes and is easily recognizable as a kind of kite in the night sky. In 12.600 BC Arcturus would have been exactly above the heads of the builders of Göbekli Tepe when this star had reached its highest point at 90° exactly. I believe this special event was the starting signal for the building of circle A and the clock function of this bright star. Markab is part of the constellation Pegasus and is easily recognizable by a huge rectangle as its basic shape. The time could be read from the position of both stars, because in 24 hours they rotated together in a perfect circle around the north celestial pole.
Over time, Arcturus no longer submerged between the centrally erected T-pillars of construction A, but exactly 17° to the north. This event was the reason for the building of the B circle with the setting point 320° + 17° = 337° in 10.600 BC. See table. Structures C and D were both built when Arcturus sets exactly 8° more north in 10.100 and 9.700 BC.
During the construction of circle C in 10.100 BC, the clock function of Arcturus in the constellation Boötes as a flamingo or crane and Markab in Pegasus as a boar around the north celestial pole appears to have been carved in relief in T-pillar 12, see drawing. During the construction of circle D in 9.700 BC the star Markab is no longer exactly opposite Arcturus. This place is occupied by the star Sadr of the constellation Cygnus. The rotation of both constellations around the north celestial pole appears to be carved here as a relief in T-pillar 43, see drawing. On one side of the celestial pole the flamingo as Oxherd and on the other side the vulture as Swan. The crab here stands for the constellation Hercules, which was exactly below the north celestial pole in 9.700 BC.
I have to admit here that Andrew Collins also saw the connection between the constellation of the Cygnus and the north celestial pole, but did not yet see the complete picture. Collins, by the way, emphasizes in his article¹ the shamanic importance of the north celestial pole as a passage for the soul of a deceased person to travel to the afterlife, just as the smoke goes out through the hole of the yurt or tent in the shamanic culture of Siberia, such as the Chukchee and Altaians. I think this is a very nice spiritual addition to the possible function of this place besides measuring time. The concept of spacetime is given a place here! Time spirals around the celestial pole as a passage to another space or dimension that we are only allowed to enter when our time on Earth is used up after we die.
Continuing on the concept of time, Göbekli Tepe can be used not only as a clock for daily time, but also as a calendar for annual time! During Göbekli Tepe’s ‘being in office’, Arcturus is at its lowest point in spring at 0:00/24:00 and at its highest point in autumn at 0:00/24:00. For the opposite stars, the exact opposite is true. In 11.100 BC both moments coincide exactly with the moment when the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west exactly on March 21 and September 23. The Sun is then exactly 12 hours above and 12 hours below the horizon. We call these the Equinoxes, which means to equalize. I can well imagine that these moments were celebrated here in a big way. It was decided to work with two opposite stars as hour hands because the time and date of the celestial clock could then be read throughout the year. In spring, Arcturus was at its highest point at 12:00 noon, just like our Sun. This meant that this star was overexposed by the Sun for about two to three months and was therefore not visible in the sky. The opposite star, on the other hand, was at its highest point at 0:00/24:00 and therefore clearly readable as a clock and calendar throughout the night. How well did the builders think of that! Göbekli Tepe, by the way, measures an even larger cycle; that of the celestial poles. They make a beautiful circle through the sky in roughly 26.000 years, also called the Platonic, Great or Cosmic year. Special about this is that after 26.000 years, the various structures indicate the exact position of the stars as they did during construction. So construction A indicates exactly the setting point of Arcturus at 320° in 26.000 – 12.600 = 13.400 AD.
In 9.000 BC Sadr takes the setting position of Arcturus at 360° followed by Deneb from the same constellation Cygnus in 8.700 BC. Arcturus then becomes the opposite star. For more than 4.500 years, the celestial clock worked perfectly with the two opposite stars as hour hands, but this changed after 8.000 BC. The stars Deneb and Arcturus slowly shift from place and around 7.800 BC the difference is almost half an hour in which one star is at its lowest point and the other at its highest point. The clock no longer shows the time correctly and the difference quickly increases. It would take thousands of years for two stars to occupy such a position relative to each other. That is why it was decided to bury the building and clock around 7.800 BC. They wanted to preserve the building in order to be able to reuse it thousands of years later as a clock. The radiocarbon dating confirms this assumption, as does the construction of structure D in 9.700 BC.
The concept of a huge celestial clock can also be found in the constructions. Construction D in particular looks the most like a clock with 12 pillars in a circle, like the hour signs on our clocks, see drawing Göbekli Tepe Ground Plan. The stone with hole in it (Holed Stone) opposite pillar 32 in the north at 0°/360° forms the point of 0:00/24:00. The hole in the stone refers to the north celestial pole and at the same time to the point where the star Arcturus touched the horizon at its lowest point due north in 9.500 BC. After that, Arcturus moves to the east, clockwise as with our current clocks, and back to the north to reach its highest point above the heads of the builders at 12:00 noon above pillar 32. The only difference with our clocks is that each pillar stands for 24 : 12 = 2 hours. I must add that this corresponded to the real time in the spring of 9.500 BC. Every day this moment moves forward about 1°, which is equal to four minutes, because the Earth rotates 360° around the Sun in 365 days. This meant that Arcturus was at its highest point in 9.500 BC at 0:00/24:00 in the autumn. The most important here is to remember the similarity of the structures to our current clocks.
Finally, I would like to answer one more question: ‘What is the meaning of the three ‘handbags’ at the top of pillar 43?’ I believe that the handle represents the circle that Arcturus and the opposite stars make on their round through the sky. The top of the bag represents the horizon, where the stars temporarily set to reappear later in their round dance. Just look at the clock drawing from 12.600 BC. When you simplify it, this shape appears. This symbol, which also appears in Sumerian and Olmec relief art, stands for the concept of time! These ancient cultures saw time as cyclical and not linear as we do. They knew, better than we do, that everything is cyclical and always returns to its origins. It is a law that gives something to hold on and strengthens us, as a Sioux Chieftain (1863-1950) once put it:
Everything that the power of the world does is done in a circle. The sky is round and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball and so are the stars. When the wind is at its strongest, it swirls. Birds make round nests because their religion is the same as ours. The sun rises and sets in a circle. The moon does the same thing and both are round. Even the seasons form a big circle in their changes and always come back to where they were. Man’s life is a circle from childhood to childhood. And so the circle is wherever force moves.
During my research, I came across two types of ground plans of Göbekli Tepe. Both ground plans indicate a different direction through the middle of the central T-pillars in construction A. One ground plan made by Klaus Schmidt indicates a direction of 320°, while the other ground plan made by Rodney Hale indicates 312°. Normally, I visit a megalithic structure by myself to check it with the help of my compass and adjust it if necessary. Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Göbekli Tepe yet. I chose to use Klaus Schmidt’s map as a starting point because Arcturus rises exactly at 90° (Zenith) above the heads of the builders when it sets at 320°. This is a very special event in itself and I personally believe that this was the starting signal for the building of construction A in 12.600 BC. If this assumption turns out to be incorrect and 312° is the setting point of Arcturus, then only the year of building of construction A changes to 13.700 BC. So 1.100 years earlier. Even then, Arcturus and Markab form a pair of stars, exactly opposite each other, like the hour hands of this beautiful celestial clock.
Peter van den Hoek
Article Version: 29-12-2023