BUILT 7000 YEARS BEFORE STONEHENGE, Göbekli Tepe in Turkey is awe-inspiring. Covering at least 22 acres, it features more than 200 T-shaped, image-covered, stone pillars up to 20 feet (6m) tall and weighing 22 tons (most of the ~100 stones at Stonehenge are of similar size, with a few being much bigger). Most researchers believe that the pillars had religious (skull cult?) and probably astronomical significance, and were used for 2000 years before they were inexplicably buried.
For many years, archaeologists believed that civilizations generally progressed with farming coming first, then towns, then religion. When dating indicated that Göbekli Tepe was built 12,000 years ago by hunter-gatherers, that sequence had to be revised – with religion coming first.
Now it appears that something important came before all of these: BEER. There is evidence of nearly 11,000-year-old beer-making troughs at the site, and it’s likely that brewing went on some time before that – all from hand-gathered, wild grains. Large limestone troughs that held up to 42 gallons of liquid show traces of oxalates, which are produced during the fermentation of grain into alcohol. Gathering wild grain and making beer this way is hard work, and it was likely done mostly for special feasts and gatherings with important cultural and religious purposes. The alcohol-induced friendliness at those feasts may have enhanced bonding of clans and inspired ideas for collective projects such as building monuments.
So this leaves us with more questions than answers:
Is beer the great civilizer of mankind? (My wife would disagree).
Was the first cultivation of grain more for bread or for beer?
What is the relationship of the dates of the building – and burying! – of Gobekli Tepe with the Younger Dryas (sudden cooling 12,800 years ago, then warming 11,500 years ago, both ends of which are associated with mass extinctions)?
Why would people bury the monuments?