May 11, 2019
In our ‘fox’ paper, we read a date from Pillar 43 at Gobekli Tepe using the position of the disk (sun) on the eagle/vulture’s (Sagittarius’) wing. This was quite a rough estimate. We simply found the mid-point between the ‘head’ and ‘wing’ of Sagittarius, which corresponds to 10,950 BC using the summer solstice and Stellarium, and estimated an error of 250 years. But can we be more precise?
The precise date of the event remains difficult to know accurately. The platinum spike in a Greenland ice core is located with very good precision – it is 12,887 +- 5 yrs BP. This is equivalent to 10,937 +- 5 yrs BC. But the Greenland ice core chronology differs from the radiocarbon chronology by about 70 years at this time. So in terms of the radiocarbon chronology this is 10,867 +- 10 yrs BC, where I have added some additional uncertainty to account for this conversion (I’m not actually sure what the correct ‘error’ is in this conversion – I’d need to re-read the paper – but let’s go with this for now).
On the other hand, from their Bayesian statistical analysis of radiocarbon dates of the Younger Dryas boundary (the bottom of the YD black mat where the geochemical signals of the impact lie), the Comet Research Group find a date for the YD event of 12,785 +- 50 yrs BP (2 sigma), which equates to 10,835 +- 50 yrs BC.
Clearly these dates are in good agreement. But they both depend on the accuracy of the radiocarbon or ice core chronology, so it would be nice to have another completely independent check on this date. Perhaps we can use Pillar 43 to do this.
As I said earlier, the date 10,950 +- 250 ys BC in our fox paper is quite a rough estimate based on the mid-point between the wing and head of the eagle/vulture on the summer solstice. But let’s suppose that the people who designed this pillar knew what they were doing, and used the position of the sun relative to the eagle/vulture to accurately describe the date of the event. Of course, this assumes that the eagle/vulture on Pillar 43 represents precisely the same constellation depicted in Stellarium, and we don’t know this for sure. They might have used a slightly different set of stars and lines. Nevertheless, let’s take a look and see what we get – so far we have always found excellent agreement between the constellations in Stellarium and these prehistoric animal symbols.
From Pillar 43 it is clear the sun is depicted much closer to the wing than the head, and it is positioned near the end of the wing. Now let’s try to reproduce this in Stellarium. If 10,950 BC is the mid-point, then an upper limit of around 10,900 BC is consistent with the sun being closer to the wing than the head.
We can also define a lower limit of 10,500 BC, after which time the sun appears to move closer to Ophiuchus than Sagittarius. So we have a new, possibly more accurate date range of 10,500 to 10,900 BC. But this range only uses the data on this main part of the pillar. Remember, we also have the other three solstices, defined by the ‘handbag’ symbols (which are probably sunset symbols) at the top of the pillar. What can they tell us?
These three symbols are the bending bird, ibex? and bear, representing Pisces, Gemini and Virgo respectively. While Pisces and Virgo are of little help in refining our date range, Gemini is very useful. Gemini, represented by the ibex?, corresponds to the winter solstice. Using Stellarium, we find that the winter solstice switches from Gemini to Taurus at around 10,800 BC.
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