Astrology

Göbekli Tepe: Ancient Origins of the Zodiac Signs?

The ancient origin of the zodiac signs is one of the world’s great mysteries. It seems like every time we pull on a new thread of knowledge about this subject, our old theories start to unravel, and new theories emerge. While a new theory may become the predominant paradigm for a while, it is often finally replaced after another exciting discovery. With the history of zodiac signs, we’re dealing with truly ancient history, so it’s tough to track down, but the challenge is what makes it fun. Every new discovery makes it more exciting.

History as Taught in School Versus the Real World

Textbooks for school kids usually represent historical events on a static timeline. Children are taught certain facts on this timeline as immutable and they have to recite them back exactly as taught if they want an “A” from the teacher. The real world is a lot messier! It’s blurred. It’s fuzzy around the edges. Historical knowledge is never static, it flows and twists. The “beginning” is often replaced by a new beginning. And… there’s a lot of mystery in history. If you’re a truth seeker, knowing this will serve you better than any static history lesson you learned when you were in school. Always be ready to do away with the dogma!

Suppose you ask your friend who’s really into astrology, “Who invented the zodiac signs?” She might answer back, “The Greeks of course… they invented all that stuff.” Your friend may even tell you that the word “zodiac” is a Greek word meaning “circle of animals.” You may even knock your hand on your forehead at that point and say, “Oh, of course… I should have known that out!”

But was your amateur astrology friend, actually right? This is what she may have read in multiple sources, but no, not really. Let’s say you and your friend decide to visit a professional astrologer together. In the course of the conversation, you may say, “My friend just taught me that the Greeks invented the zodiac signs… how cool.” She might gently correct the record at this point and inform you both that the Greeks actually learned it from the Egyptians (and likely the Phoenicians) who learned it from the Babylonians.

You may then be excited to share your newfound knowledge with the brainiacs in your book club. You find a way to slip these facts about ancient history into the conversation. A history professor in the group points out that the textbooks don’t go back far enough, and it was actually the Sumerians who first developed the zodiac signs. Then an archeologist in the group says, “Well, actually we think now it goes back further than that… much further!”

The history professor has an astonished look on her face. She leans forward and she says, “Tell me more!”

Yes, dear professor, please tell us more.

What Is Göbekli Tepe and Why Is It So Special?

Göbekli Tepe is easily one of the most amazing archaeological discoveries ever made! It was discovered or rather rediscovered, in southern Turkey near the border of Syria in 1994. It was actually first seen decades before but it was deemed “just” a gravesite from the medieval times and not a high archeological priority, so it was not explored deeper down under the top layers. However, Göbekli Tepe turns out to be far more than this and significant to our entire understanding of how civilization actually started.

Göbekli Tepe turns out to be the grandest of grand temples in terms of size, complexity, and apparent usage. It has at least two hundred massive T-shaped pillars arranged in twenty or more circles or ovals. These pillars weighed up to ten tons and stood as tall as twenty feet. They were precisely fitted into the ground rock. They featured exquisitely intricate carvings and engravings! Spoiler alert: upon a careful study by academic teams, these carvings and engravings seem to very accurately depict constellations, planets, and other features that would have been seen visible in the night sky at that time at that exact location. And… the carvings and engravings show evidence of an understanding of zodiac signs and astrology.

But it gets even better… this amazing temple was NOT built in medieval times! It was built far earlier!

The site radiocarbon dates to around ten thousand years B.C.!! This dating, along with other evidence, proves this grand temple was built by hunters and gatherers, not farmers, and not people who lived in cities centered around agriculture! Analysis of the bones of the animals eaten in ceremonials feasts and buried in pits, as well as the tools used to clean and cook the meat, clearly proves that they were wild animals that lived in the surrounding area. There were hunted by the hunter and gatherers and then brought to the site. The archeologist who rediscovered the site and recognized its importance called the assemblage of bones a “stone age zoo.”

The discovery of Göbekli Tepe has made historians and archeologists completely reevaluate what they’ve long thought to be true. They thought the practice of agriculture brought people together into cohesive units (early cities) and THEN temples, places of worship, were built. In fact, no academic had ever even imagined, at least professionally, that such a complex temple could have been built by hunter and gatherers. Academics had always assumed it would take the formation of civilization, i.e. agricultural cities, to build something like this. Some are now entertaining the notion that hunter and gatherers actually lived part of the year in small villages or cities.

Göbekli Tepe appears to have been a meeting place where many people gathered on astrologically significant days like the summer and winter solstices and spring and fall equinoxes. There seemed to be a combination of serious activities and some celebration. Göbekli Tepe is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well it should be.

Zodiac Sign Conclusions

Did the Göbekli Tepe invent the zodiac signs? Maybe. It certainly appears that the pillars at Göbekli Tepe were likely used to track celestial objects in the sky. There are detailed carvings of a lion, a scorpion, and a bull, corresponding to the Zodiac signs of Leo, Scorpio, and Taurus. There are other clues on the engravings that point to these carvings serving as zodiac signs. Other carvings may represent the zodiac signs too, including the 13th zodiac sign.

This all means that the origins of the zodiac signs go back much further than anyone had ever imagined before. And… if hunter and gatherers were already this advanced in their astrological acumen ten thousand years B.C., it begs the question just how far back are we going to have to go find the real beginnings of the zodiac signs and astrology?

Here’s a crazy thought. Many academics now think that Neanderthals were still mingling with our hunting and gathering humans twenty thousand years B.C. Could they have developed the first zodiac signs and taught it to humans?

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Danica Jackson

Danica Jackson got her first telescope when she was only nine years old. She's been fascinated with all things celestial ever since. Her studies on history and anthropology give her unique perspectives on astrology and personal growth.

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