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I am Gary Scott Martin. I am the oldest of three children and the only son of Conrad Lee Martin, Jr. and Loretta Ollie Thomson. (May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.) I am a first-generation Californian. I was born in Long Beach, lived briefly in Santa Maria/Orcutt, grew up in Nipomo, went to college in Los Angeles and Palo Alto, and have resided in Tehachapi for my entire adult life (excepting the academic year of August 1985 through August 1986, spent in Palo Alto). I have been married to Kathy Ann Nusbaum since 1978. We have a daughter and a son. We have five grandchildren. We have been parishioners at Saint Malachy's Roman Catholic Church here in Tehachapi since we were newlyweds. I am a 1974 graduate of St. Joseph's High School in Santa Maria, California; a 1978 graduate of the University of So

Reaching for the Heavens: Neolithic Monumental Architecture

REACHING FOR THE HEAVENS

Neolithic Monumental Architecture

2022-05-01


INTRODUCTION TO THE EXHIBIT

Exhibition Theme and Goal

The yearning of human beings to climb into the heavens, to dive into the depths, to visit the ends of the earth must be primordial. We are one of the few animal species to occupy all of the vastly varying environments of this planet from the freezing, ice-locked poles … to the densest, most remote tropical jungles … to the empty, blazing, rainless deserts.

Today, humans live along the shore of the Dead Sea at 430.5 meters (1,412 feet) below sea level and in the heights of the mountains around La Rinconada, Peru at 5,100 meters (16,372 feet) above sea level. We live in structures as simple as caves and mud huts and in edifices as magnificent as the world's tallest skyscrapers.

In this exhibit, we examine human beings' earliest attempts at monumental architecture, the first known examples of human-built structures. These megalithic* monuments are widely dispersed across the various regions that humans occupied in the neolithic and early bronze age periods (from 12,000 to 3,500 years ago). In reaching back across the millennia, our lofty goal is to examine the first halting attempts (spanning multiple generations) of our distant ancestors to reach for the heavens.

Exhibit Arrangement

For this exhibit, examples of several types of megalithic monumental architecture have been arranged into four viewing areas or stations. These stations separate types of megalithic architecture, geographic areas, and historical periods. They are generally arranged chronologically.

The first station begins with the Megalithic Architecture of Göbekli Tepe (~12,000 years ago).

1. At the center of the exhibit is a model of the Göbekli Tepe site as it would have appeared in the 10th millennium BCE, after the completion of the building known as Enclosure D and during the construction of the building known as Enclosure C. Enclosure D was the fourth building to be excavated, but it is the oldest and most complex building on the site. Enclosure C was excavated prior to Enclosure D but appears to be the second building constructed on the site.

2. A high definition image of the Vulture Stone of Göbekli Tepe. This stone is believed to be the oldest pictograph discovered to date, which would make it a predecessor to Egyptian hieroglyphics and other similar writing systems.

3. A scale model of Pillar 18, one of the huge central pillars of Enclosure D provides an appreciation of the scale of the site.

4. A composite of two high definition images of the carving in relief of a boar and the carving in three dimensions of a feline predator from the inner edge of Pillar 27, Enclosure C.

The second station is devoted to the Passage Tomb of Gavrinis Island in Brittany, France (~6,000 years ago).

5. The exterior of the Passage Tomb of Gavrinis is a stepped pyramid built approximately 1,000 years before the earliest known Egyptian pyramids.

6. An image of the passage to the burial chamber illustrates the size and arrangement of the 29 megaliths employed.

7. An image of highly ornate (baroque) geometric patterns carved into the megaliths.

The third station covers examples of the Menhirs (standing stone monuments) and Dolmens (megalithic tombs) of Western Europe from modern Portugal to Switzerland (6,600 to 4,000 years ago).

8. The Great Statue-Menhir of Bevaix, Treytel-A Sugiez, Neuchâtel, Switzerland. This three-ton megalith was erected near Lake Neuchâtel approximately 6,000 years ago and human features were carved into it at a later time.

9. Dolmen de Tella. A 5,000-year-old megalithic grave in the high Pyrenees Mountains of Spain.

10. Anta de Pendilhe. A 5,000-year-old megalithic grave in what is now northern Portugal.

The final station covers examples of the best known, and most astronomically sophisticated, examples of megalithic architecture, the stone circles of the British Isles (5,100 to 3,500 years ago).

11. A montage of images of Brodgar Stone Circle and Henge, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK. The most complete surviving henge and stone circle in the British Isles.

12. A cloudy sunset over Stonehenge, the best known of all megalithic monuments. Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, England, UK.

Conclusion

Megalithic monumental architecture represents the origins of architecture and is key to our understanding of the development of scientific knowledge, religious beliefs, and aesthetic sense within human cultures during the period of profound change that accompanied the transition from nomadic foraging bands to settled permanent communities. Therefore, this architecture is fundamental to understanding what it is to be human and how we have come to be who we are.


* Megalithic means using very large single stones (megaliths).




HISTORICAL CONTEXT

For at least 3.3 million years, the ancestors of modern humans lived in small nomadic groups of about 100 closely related individuals, occasionally of as many as 300 individuals, but no more. Our ancestors made, and left behind, stone tools that increased in sophistication over the millennia. This implies both the beginnings and the gradual development of language. These nomadic foragers moved often to follow herds of wild animals and to gather a wide variety of plants for food and other uses. More than two million years ago, our ancestor species first left Africa and gradually spread across Eurasia.

Around 120,000 years ago it is known that anatomically modern humans, and our sibling species who have not survived, began to bury their dead using ritual methods. By 35,000 years ago, sophisticated cave paintings, which archaeologists call rock art, had appeared. Simultaneously, the archaeological record tells of humans who had healed from serious broken bones, indicating that their communities had begun to care for their injured while they healed. These were both important milestones on the long road to becoming human.

The “Standard Narrative” of human development is that, about 10,000 years ago, agriculture led to the first permanent settlements, which grew larger and larger over time. It was believed that increasing settlement size required the development of the social structures that are now known as civilization.

Göbekli Tepe, in the mountains of southeastern Turkey, near the upper Euphrates river, was first identified as a prehistoric site in a 1963 survey. However, it would be 1995, 32 years later, before Klaus Schmidt, a German archaeologist, recognizing its importance, would begin excavations there that he continued until his death in 2014. Others continue Schmidt’s work today. What Schmidt uncovered there has sparked a debate that may yet overturn the “Standard Narrative.”

Göbekli Tepe is a complex of large round-oval and rectangular buildings with massive monolithic T-shaped pillars carved from locally quarried limestone. This site has been dated to about 9800 BCE (nearly 12,000 years ago) and it contains the most complex early monumental megalithic architecture currently known. The structures are considered among the earliest evidence worldwide of human-made megalithic buildings and are believed to have been constructed specifically for seasonal ritual uses by a surprisingly large population of prehistoric, semi-nomadic, foraging people. The development of Göbekli Tepe precedes agriculture by about 2,000 years. Schmidt frequently called Göbekli Tepe the world’s earliest temple. There is debate on that point between archaeologists, but that debate is changing our understanding of the origins of what is today referred to as “human civilization.”

The other, later megalithic monuments also appear to have been built and maintained by peoples who either had yet to adopt an agricultural, settled lifestyle or were in the early stages of that transition. Archaeologists call this settled lifestyle sedentism. Many archaeologists now argue that it wasn’t the development of agriculture that led to civilization, but that the development of increasingly sophisticated spirituality brought together the larger social groups that enabled agriculture and thus sedentism (living in a place permanently). To those who argue this new theory, these megalithic monuments are the earliest permanent record of an important milestone on the long and winding road to becoming more fully human.




GÖBEKLI TEPE, Anatolia, Turkey

10th Millenium BCE



Map showing location of Göbekli Tepe Archeological Site

Architect & Artists Unknown
10th millennium BCE (~12,000 years ago)

Reconstruction of Göbekli Tepe Archeological Site
Şanlıurfa Province, District of Haliliye, Anatolia, Turkey

10th millennium BCE (~12,000 years ago)



The Göbekli Tepe archaeological site is comprised of large round-oval and rectangular buildings with massive monolithic T-shaped pillars carved from locally quarried limestone. This site contains the most complex early monumental megalithic architecture currently known. The structures are considered among the earliest evidence worldwide of human-made megalithic buildings and are believed to have been constructed specifically for seasonal ritual uses by a surprisingly large population of prehistoric, semi-nomadic, foraging people. These monumental buildings were erected during the period known as the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) and during the subsequent Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (EPPNB), between approximately 9600 and 8200 BC.

The characteristic T-shaped (anthropomorphic) pillars first found at Göbekli Tepe were carved from quarries in the adjacent limestone plateau using stone and bone tools. Subsequently, they were dragged to the site where they were erected at their designated spots and/or slotted into walls also constructed from the locally plentiful limestone.

No evidence of long-term residence has been found at Göbekli Tepe. The alignment of the various enclosures with astronomical features such as constellations and the polar star leads archaeologists to believe that Göbekli Tepe was used for seasonal ritual purposes by groups of peoples who then moved on, to return time and again over a period of about 1,500 years. The site is so well preserved because, in approximately 8000 BC, the entire site was carefully filled and completely covered with soil from the surrounding area, indicating that it was abandoned deliberately.



Artist(s) Unknown
10th millennium BCE (~12,000 years ago)

The Vulture Stone, Göbekli Tepe
10th millennium BCE (~12,000 years ago)


The Vulture Stone, properly identified as Pillar 43 at Göbekli Tepe, is one of the most graphically-charged and complex reliefs so far excavated on that site. On the left-hand side, a vulture is holding an orb or egg on its outstretched wing. Lower down there is a scorpion, and the imagery is further complicated by the depiction of a headless ithyphallic man. It is considered to be the best-preserved early, stone-cut pictogram yet discovered.



Artist(s) Unknown
10th millennium BCE (~12,000 years ago)

Pillar 18 (Eastern Central Pillar, Enclosure D), Göbekli Tepe
10th millennium BCE (~12,000 years ago)


Above is a compound image constructed to convey the overall grandeur of the Central Pillars of Enclosure D of Göbekli Tepe. It is arranged from an overall view at the top to successively more detailed views as you progress downward.

The topmost image is of the recreation of Enclosure D constructed at the Şanlıurfa Museum, an Archaeological Museum devoted to the antiquity of what is now Turkey. The Şanlıurfa Museum is about six miles (9.6 km) from Göbekli Tepe.

The second image is a night photograph of Pillar 18 taken midway through the excavation of Enclosure D. It is meant to convey an impression of Enclosure D as closely as possible to the way that it appeared nearly 12,000 years ago to the people who built it. On the right side face of the pillar, the “arms” of the person or god represented by the pillar appear together with a carved relief of a canine figure.

The third layer of images is meant to convey both the overall size and quality of the carving of the pillar. In addition, they also reveal some of the anthropomorphic detail carved in relief into the pillar. They were taken after Pillar 18 had been completely excavated. The detail in the bottom left corner is of the hands of the figure depicted, the belt buckle and fox-skin loincloth, and an H-like symbol bracketed by semicircles on either side. Recent linguistic analysis of the imagery on the belt links this partially encircled H-like symbol with the Luwian logogram for god, making it perhaps the earliest written word yet found. Another symbol on the belt of Pillar 18 has been linked to the Luwian word for “gate.” Luwian is an ancient language, or group of languages, within the Anatolian branch of the Proto-Indo-European language family. Luwian is believed to have been spoken across Southern Turkey during the period in which Göbekli Tepe was built and occupied.

Several of the enclosures excavated to date at Göbekli Tepe are built around two immense central pillars similar to Pillar 18. However, Enclosure D is the oldest, largest, and most complex of the excavated enclosures. Its eastern central pillar is designated Pillar 18, and its western central pillar is designated Pillar 31. These are the two largest pillars unearthed at Göbekli Tepe, they are approximately 16 feet in height. Pillar 31 possesses anthropomorphic features and elements similar to those of Pillar 18. Among these are arms and hands, a stole-like garment, a belt, and a loincloth. However, these figures do not have faces. Similar anthropomorphic features are also seen on other T-shaped pillars at Göbekli Tepe, Nevali Çori, and other sites in the regions of Anatolia and Upper Mesopotamia.



Artist(s) Unknown
10th millennium BCE (~12,000 years ago)

Carving of Feline Predator into Front Edge of Pillar 27 (Enclosure C), Göbekli Tepe
10th millennium BCE (~12,000 years ago)


The front face of Pillar 27 is unique among Göbekli Tepe pillars in that it features a feline predator carved nearly in the round as well as a boar carved in relief.




CAIRN GAVRINIS, Gulf of Morbihan, Brittany, France

Late 5th to early 4th millennium BCE



Map showing location of Gavrinis Island.

Architect and Artist(s) Unknown
Late 5th to early 4th millennium BCE (~6,000 years ago)

Exterior of the Passage Tomb on Gavrinis Island, Gulf of Morbihan, Brittany, France
Late 5th to early 4th millennium BCE (~6,000 years ago)



Cairn Gavrinis is impressive in size. The stone and sand structure, shaped like a stepped pyramid, stands 26 feet (8 meters) tall and over 164 feet (50 meters) in diameter. It protects a dolmen forming a gallery 5 feet (1.5 meters) wide and 46 feet (14 meters) long. The gallery ends in a burial chamber.



Artist(s) Unknown
Late 5th to early 4th millennium BCE (~6,000 years ago)

Gallery (Interior) of the Passage Tomb on Gavrinis Island, Gulf of Morbihan, Brittany, France
Late 5th to early 4th millennium BCE (~6,000 years ago)


The walls of the gallery of the Cairn consist of 29 carefully arranged pillars. The gallery is aligned facing east so that sunrise on the winter solstice illuminates the grave.



Artist(s) Unknown
Late 5th to early 4th millennium BCE (~6,000 years ago)

Gallery (Interior) of the Passage Tomb on Gavrinis Island, Gulf of Morbihan, Brittany, France
Late 5th to early 4th millennium BCE (~6,000 years ago)


Of the 29 slabs forming the pillars of the gallery, 23 display elaborate geometric pattern carvings. Consequently, Cairn Gavrinis is often referred to as the most elaborately decorated of the Middle Neolithic passage graves in Europe, if not in the World.




MENHIRS AND DOLMENS OF WESTERN EUROPE

Middle to Late Neolithic Period, Mid 5th to Late 3rd Millenium BCE



Map of the location of Bevaix, Treytel-A Sugiez, Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Artists Unknown
Mid 5th to Late 3rd millennium BCE (6,600-3,900 years ago)

Great Statue-Menhir of Bevaix, Treytel-A Sugiez, Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Mid 5th to Late 3rd millennium BCE (6,600-3,900 years ago)



The Great Statue-Menhir of Bevaix is carved from a block of schist (a medium to coarse-grained metamorphic rock) standing 11 feet (3.35 meters) tall and weighing approximately 6,200 lbs (2,800 kg). The Great Statue-Menhir’s features appear to be a face, two hands, and parallel linear elements that could be ribs or some form of clothing or other adornment.

The menhir was erected on Plateaux de Bevaix just above the north-western shore of Lake Neuchâtel as part of a set of eight megaliths oriented in a north-east-to-south-west line (parallel to the lake) sometime during the first occupation of the site between 4600 and 3700 BCE. The site was then unoccupied for about 800 years. The carving of the statue’s features took place sometime during the second occupation of the site, between 2900 and 1900 BCE. The Great Statue Menhir of Bevaix, along with the Small Statue-Menhir, and one other of the original set of eight megaliths are now on display at the Laténium, Neuchâtel Cantonal Archeology Museum, in Hauterive, Switzerland.



Map Showing Location of Dolmen de Tella, Pyrenees Mountains, Aragón, Spain

Architect Unknown
Late 4th millennium BCE (~5,000 years ago)

Dolmen de Tella, Pyrenees Mountains, Aragón, Spain
Late 4th millennium BCE (~5,000 years ago)



A magnificently situated dolmen, high up on the mountainside below the village of Tella in the Spanish Pyrenees. The site is often described as one of the most breathtaking western European Neolithic sites.

Dolmens are ancient tombs built of a number of undressed vertical stone slabs (orthostats), usually weighing several tons, supporting a single flat capstone. Menhirs and dolmens are the most common forms of Neolithic megalithic architecture. Megaliths are very large stones used for architectural purposes, the orthostats and the capstones of Dolmens are considered megaliths. In its original state, the dolmen was covered over with a heaped-up mound of earth or small stones retained by an external ring of stones (tumulus). The disappearance of the encompassing mound over time has given dolmens their typical table-like appearance. Dolmens are found across Eurasia from Ireland to the Korean Peninsula and Japan.



Map Showing Location of Anta de Pendilhe, Vila Nova de Paiva, Viseu, Portugal

Architect Unknown
Late 4th to early 3rd millennium BCE (~5,000 years ago)

Anta de Pendilhe, Vila Nova de Paiva, Viseu, Portugal
Late 4th to early 3rd millennium BCE (~5,000 years ago)



This dolmen features a polygonal plan funerary chamber framed by nine pillars. The largest of the pillars corresponds to a headboard and bears evidence that there were paintings on it originally. Anta de Pendilhe has a long corridor, 13 feet (4 meters) in length. Only two of the corridor’s primitive pillars remain and the dolmen’s tumulus was destroyed by agricultural activity in its vicinity.

The composite image shown here is made up of an upper side view of the dolmen, including the remaining portion of its original earthen mound, and a lower view directly into the burial chamber from the floor of the corridor showing the “headboard” megalith in the image center.




STONE CIRCLES OF THE BRITISH ISLES

Late Neolithic Period, Late 3rd to Mid 2nd Millenium BCE



Map Showing Location of Ring of Brodgar Stone Circle and Henge, Orkney, Scotland, UK

Architect Unknown
Late 3rd millennium BCE (4,000-4,500 years ago)

Ring of Brodgar Stone Circle and Henge, Orkney, Scotland, UK
Late 3rd millennium BCE (4,000-4,500 years ago)



The Ring of Brodgar Stone Circle and Henge is comprised of a nearly perfectly circular raised bank 341 feet (104 meters) in diameter surrounding a rock-cut ditch up to 9.8 feet (3 meters) deep. Constructed in the ditch is a megalithic stone circle — originally of as many as 60 megaliths — 27 remained standing at the end of the 20th century. There are also at least 13 prehistoric burial mounds in the immediate vicinity of the Ring.

The composite image above is capped with a panoramic view of The Ring of Brodgar on a snowy winter day to help to convey the scope of the monument. From left to right, the lower row of images display a cloudy sunset, a slightly misty moonrise, and a bright, sunny afternoon. The stones are undressed and vary substantially in size. However, the ring is closer to a perfect circle than any other stone circle in the British Isles.

The prehistoric stone circles of Great Britain are thought to have served an astronomical purpose by providing a means to determine the seasons. They also appear to have served as sites for seasonal gatherings and religious rites. However, there is much about their purpose and construction that remains a mystery.



Map Showing Location of Stonehenge, Salisbury, England, UK

Architect(s) Unknown
Late 4th to Mid 2nd millennium BCE (5,100-3,500 years ago)

Stonehenge, Salisbury, England, UK
Late 4th to Mid 2nd millennium BCE (5,100-3,500 years ago)



The iconic massive dressed megalithic sarsens (vertical stone pillars) and lintels (horizontals or capstones) that form Stonehenge’s outer circle and central horseshoe are seen in this sunset image. These stones average 16.5 feet (5 meters) in height (above ground), 7 feet (2 meters) in width, and they weigh as much as 35 tons  (70,000 lbs, nearly the weight of a fully-loaded semi-truck). They were brought to Stonehenge from a quarry near Marlborough, about 15 miles to the north, without the benefit of draft animals or wheeled transport.

The earliest work at Stonehenge (approximately 3100 BCE), known as Stonehenge Phase I, was the construction of the henge earthwork (a raised bank surrounding a circular ditch) of about 360 feet (110 meters) in diameter enclosing a slightly sloping space. The henge's original opening was to the northeast. Phase II involved building a wooden structure in the henge which has not survived. About six hundred years after Phase I, Stonehenge Phase III (2500 BCE) began with the erection of an 86-foot diameter double ring (two concentric circles) of “bluestones.” The bluestones were doleritic rocks that were quarried in the Preseli Hills of Wales, about 140 miles northwest of Stonehenge. The bluestones average about 3 tons (6,000) in weight. The builders of Stonehenge Phase III are thought to have brought the bluestones with them as they migrated from Wales into England. Sarsens replaced some of the bluestones over the next century, after which many of the bluestones were reerected inside the outer circle of the sarsens. During Phase III, the openings of the monument were reoriented to align with sunrise and sunset on the summer solstice.

The Stonehenge site also contains at least 60 cremation burials and was apparently used as a burial site for selected individuals until about 1500 BCE. It is unknown how the individuals buried there were selected.




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