The world’s oldest temple and the limits of knowledge

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Archeology continues to turn the best theories of scientists on their heads. In Turkey, they’ve uncovered a temple that’s millennia older than the next oldest known temple. They estimate it to be at least 12,000 years old, dating from the earliest moments of civilization, at time most scientists believed humanity consisted solely of roving hunter-gatherer nomads.

 

Schmidt and his colleagues estimate that at least 500 people were required to hew the 10- to 50-ton stone pillars from local quarries, move them from as far as a quarter-mile away, and erect them. How did Stone Age people achieve the level of organization necessary to do this?

The new theory is that an elite priestly caste must have formed much earlier than previous estimates. What’s funny is that the scientists continue to base their theories on assumptions, such as for example that monotheism follows after polytheism and animism in human civilization.

There’s a kind of post-Enlightenment chronological snobbery, a sort of gnosticism, not in the classical sense, but in a more general sense of a worship of our own intellect. Modern intellectual man believes he can unlock all the secrets of the universe through his own means. Yet we’re constantly seeing the folly of such belief.

So many theories once taught as virtual fact when I was a kid have now been cast aside in favor of some new formulation, often characterized as bedrock solid and the last word. In 30 years they too will be on the ash heap of history. So it goes.

Photo credit: Haldun Aydingün in the journal Archaeology.

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