Gobekli Tepe, hunter gatherers transition to agriculture

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created January 12, 2011 at 9:17 PM

In the last ten years some amazing discoveries have taken place in western Turkey at an archaeological site called Gobekli Tepe: Some twelve thousands years ago tribes of hunter-gatherers created great monuments and villages, and then, over the following centuries, in that same area many of the grains and large animals were domesticated. I wonder if you have thought about the importance of this discovery and also why do you think that hunter gatherers eventually evolved into agriculturalist


Frontpage book

Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!

4 Answers



on January 13, 2011
at 12:09 AM

I stand by the alcohol argument. The only reason to submit to the pain of agriculture was to have a steady supply of alcoholic beverages.

Could also be related to the great megafauna extinction event that occured 12,900 years ago.

Nope. Definitely the beer.



on July 29, 2011
at 12:43 PM

Oh, this brings back something from the mind archives.

I remember watching an academic documentary about women's lifestyles around this period, and I am pretty sure it was something to do with Gobekli Tepe.

Why I remember it was that they were analysing women's skeletons that they had found around this area and discovered that the remains had significant damage to the junction between the ball of the foot and the toes -- to the extent that they said these women would have big toes that pointed up at a 45 degree angle from the sole of the foot, and the condition would have been extremely painful.

They hypothesised that this condition had been caused by hours upon hours of grain grinding on stone slabs placed on the floor where the women would have adopted a kind of leaning-forward squat position whilst using their toes as leverage.

That was it! I remember now. The documentary looked at where, why and how cultural and social gender roles changed so that the masculine became more dominant and the female more submissive, and the documentary suggested that the start of the change was the move to grain-production. The skeletal evidence suggested women were tasked with grinding, which kept them in one place hour after hour, day after day, and this evolved into the notion of an "internal" domestic role for women where they did not have much external freedom. Rather than being gatherers, with an experience of externalities that had value (where nice berries were, for example), they became imprisoned and lost valuable local knowledge, thus making them politically and socially less valuable than males.

What is also interesting in this regard is that areas that went "neolithic" last tend to be the countries that embraced female equality first, and the countries that adopted neolithic agricultural practices early on have never really accepted gender equality to this day -- to the extent that even their language is still gendered (crikey, verbs are still gendered in some Eastern Med languages).



on January 13, 2011
at 05:10 AM

I suspect it's because as a human population grows too big, it would outstrip the area's ability to sustain it with food if the population did not turn to agriculture. As long as there is tons of food on the hoof and growing wild, there is really no pressure to grow your own. But as the readily available food starts to dwindle, you have to start thinking longer term, staking out and guarding your resources, managing them, encourage growth of food, preventing over collection, encouraging more rapid production in any way you can, etc. Animal husbandry and agriculture are the natural steps to take when food becomes scarce. Interestingly, even some ant populations grow mold for food by feeding it leaves and other ants actually herd and manage aphids and other pests in order to harvest the sweet nectar they give off. So it doesn't really take a big brain to realize this is a good way to go for feeding large populations! ;-)


on January 12, 2011
at 09:41 PM

G??bekli Tepe is really fascinating! The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture is often but not necessarily a transition from nomadism or partial nomadism to sedentism. It's likely that the ancient peoples at G??bekli Tepe created their monument and eventually settled near it, and this settlement and the social structures that developed led over centuries to the domestication of grains to support this new sedentary lifestyle.

What's really interesting to me is that G??bekli Tepe was deliberately buried a few thousand years after it was built...right around the time of the widespread transition to agriculture. So mysterious!

Answer Question

Get FREE instant access to our
Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!