Robert M. Schoch: Research Highlights
Solar-Induced Dark Age (SIDA)

Image of a display in the new Urfa Museum in Turkey: early man hunting
Display in the new Urfa Museum in Turkey – a depiction of early man hunting.

Rising From the Ashes of SIDA

By Robert M. Schoch

What was the state of humanity before civilization arose? To this day the popular conception, both among the public and as promulgated by many historians and archaeologists, is that of small, primarily nomadic, bands of people perpetually on the brink of existence, endlessly in pursuit of their next meal. The words of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) still resonate in expressing this myth: “. . . the life of man [was] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”1 That is, humans were mere hunters and gatherers foraging for food. The technology of the time was primitive, characterized as “stone age”. Social institutions were minimal. In warmer climates people could go naked, whereas in colder climates they wrapped themselves in animal skins and huddled in caves. According to the standard paradigm, as espoused by the great archaeological synthesizer V. Gordon Childe (1892-1957), this all changed with the domestication of plants and animals and the development of agriculture, which ultimately led to the first great civilizations taking root in such regions as Mesopotamia and Egypt around 5000 to 6000 years ago.

This nice neat scenario may be the modern dogma, but that does not assure its veracity. There is another, much older, view found among the classical ancients – including the Greeks, the Romans, and the dynastic Egyptians – which is encapsulated in the legend of Atlantis as recounted by Plato (ca. 429-423 to ca. 348-347 BCE). The core of the Atlantis story is that a high culture, a true civilization, existed thousands of years prior to the most recent flowering of civilization, circa 4000 BCE to 3000 BCE. Furthermore, this earlier civilization was destroyed cataclysmically by natural events, including the island nation of Atlantis being enveloped by the ocean waters (that is, it was flooded). Most interestingly, Plato gives a precise chronology which, when translated into our modern system of dating, places the fall of Atlantis at circa 9600 BCE – tantalizingly close to the end of the last ice age circa 9700 BCE, as determined by modern geological techniques.

Image of Plato
Plato. Luni marble, copy of the portrait made by Silanion ca. 370 BC for the Academia in Athens. Photo courtesy of Marie-Lan Nguyen, 2009.

The Atlantis story does not exist in isolation. Around the globe there are ancient and indigenous legends of early advanced peoples, civilizations, that existed thousands of years ago (thousands of years prior to the latest flowering of civilization beginning about 5000 to 6000 years ago). These early societies and civilizations were subsequently destroyed by natural cataclysms. The dynastic Egyptians two thousand years prior to Plato spoke of the epoch they referred to as Zep Tepi, or the “first time”, a “golden age” of civilization. In modern terms, Zep Tepi may well date to the millennia just before the end of the last ice age.2

Such stories, be they framed in terms of Atlantis, Zep Tepi, or the Judeo-Christian Biblical deluge, are disparaged and offhandedly dismissed by many modern academics. But the hallmark of good science and scholarship is to always stick with the evidence, following it wherever it may lead, whether or not it contradicts the popular paradigm of the day. In a sense, both the modern Hobbesian view (that humanity was in a primitive and brutish state prior to the rise of civilization about 5000 to 6000 thousand years ago) and the classical ancient opinion (that advanced civilizations existed thousands of years earlier) may be correct.

As I elaborate upon briefly below (and discuss more fully in my book Forgotten Civilization), in my assessment there is now overwhelming evidence that sophisticated culture – civilization – existed prior to the end of the last ice age, and this is what gave rise to the story of Atlantis and similar legends (thus confirming Plato and other ancient traditions). However, this early cycle of civilization was dealt a mighty setback; it was utterly devastated, with only a few isolated remnants surviving, by the natural cataclysms that brought the last ice age to a close, circa 9700 BCE.

Major solar outbursts and eruptions, the likes of which have not been experienced on Earth in modern times, were the instigating factors that ended the last ice age and brought early civilization to its knees. A dark age ensued, which I refer to as SIDA (solar-induced dark age3). For thousands of years following the end of the last ice age humanity was reduced to the brutish Hobbsian state, hunting, foraging, and eking out a hardscrabble existence; and this included living in caves in some regions. Indeed, retreating to caves and other underground shelters would have been a way for isolated pockets of humanity to survive the cataclysmic solar-induced onslaughts at the end of the last ice age. Electrical plasma discharges from the Sun, driven to the surface of our planet, would have caused widespread incineration where they touched down as well as setting off wildfires. Solar outbursts not only warmed the planet overall but, hitting glaciers, oceans, and lakes, through melting and instantaneous evaporation, would have placed vast amounts of moisture into the atmosphere that subsequently came down as torrential rains. These rains, combined with rising sea levels, caused widespread flooding across the globe.

Thus during the millennia prior to the latest cycle of civilization, beginning circa 5000 to 6000 years ago, humanity was in a primitive stone age state, as the conventional paradigm holds, except that this state was due to a decline from an earlier and more advanced state. After a time lag of millennia, civilization as we know it arose from the literal ashes of SIDA.

Robert Schoch's timeline for SIDA and the reemergence of civilization
Timeline for SIDA and the reemergence of civilization.

On a personal note, at Yale University (where I earned my Ph.D.) I was trained in the conventional paradigm regarding the when, where, and why of the rise of civilization. For many years I literally would not even voice the word “Atlantis” in public for fear of being mocked by my academic peers. Now I have bucked academic conventions and even been labeled a heretic by some. Why did I change my opinion? In a nutshell, I am convinced that the evidence tells a different, more complex, story than the simple scenario I was taught so many years ago.


Back in 1991, I had the temerity to announce that the Great Sphinx of Egypt, conventionally dated to 2500 BCE (the reign of Pharaoh Khafre), actually has its origins in the 7000 to 5000 BCE range, or possibly earlier. My announcement was done via a presentation at the October 1991 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (this was allowed only after a formal abstract, submitted with my colleague John Anthony West, was accepted based on positive professional peer review).4 I made my case utilizing scientific analyses, comparing erosion and weathering profiles around the Sphinx to the ancient climatic history of Egypt. In brief, the Sphinx sits on the edge of the Sahara Desert, a hyper-arid region for the past 5000 years; yet the statue shows substantial rain-induced erosion. The original structure must date back thousands of years prior to 3000 BCE (the head was re-carved in dynastic times).

Image of the Great Sphinx of Egypt in its enclosure, combined with an 
					illustration showing the deep fissures and undulating surfaces created 
					by water (rainfall) weathering
The Great Sphinx of Egypt in its enclosure, with an illustration showing the deep fissures and undulating surfaces created by water (rainfall) weathering.

I had pushed the Great Sphinx, arguably the grandest and most recognizable statue in the world, back into a period when humanity was supposedly just transitioning from a hunter-gatherer economy to a sedentary life. People 7000 or more years ago were still brutish and unsavory, at least by modern civilized standards. Certainly they were not carving giant statues (the Sphinx is about 20 meters tall by over 70 meters long) out of solid limestone bedrock. Immediately after my announcement of an older Sphinx, I was under attack. Archaeologist Carol Redmount (University of California, Berkeley) was quoted in the media, “There’s just no way that could be true.” The article continued, “The people of that region would not have had the technology, the governing institutions or even the will to build such a structure thousands of years before Khafre’s reign, she said.”5

The initial hoopla peaked in February 1992 at a “debate” on the age of the Great Sphinx held at the Chicago meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.6 As the New York Times put it, “The exchange was to last an hour, but it spilled over to a news conference and then a hallway confrontation in which voices were raised and words skated on the icy edge of scientific politeness.” Egyptologist Mark Lehner could not accept the notion of an older Sphinx, personally attacking me by labeling my research “pseudoscience.” Lehner argued, “If the Sphinx was built by an earlier culture, where is the evidence of that civilization? Where are the pottery shards? People during that age were hunters and gatherers. They didn’t build cities.”7 At the time I lacked any pottery shards. But I was sure of my science, and I persisted. Two decades later, we have something better than pottery shards, and even earlier than my conservative Sphinx date of circa 5000 BCE to 7000 BCE (I now currently posit, based on additional evidence and a reanalysis of my original data, that the core body of the Great Sphinx dates back to the end of the last ice age; the head was re-carved in dynastic times). Göbekli Tepe dates back over 10,000 years ago.

Composite image of Göbekli Tepe (from the southeast looking northwest); 
					photos taken in 2010, before this area of the site was covered with a modern 
Composite view of Göbekli Tepe (from the southeast looking northwest); photos taken in 2010, before this area of the site was covered with a modern roof.


A short drive from Urfa (alternatively Şanlıurfa), Southeastern Turkey, atop a mountain north of the Harran Plain, sits Göbekli Tepe. In 1995 the late Prof. Dr. Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute began excavating the site.8 In 2010 I first visited it for myself. I was amazed.

Image of the first pillar found at Göbekli Tepe
Göbekli Tepe: First pillar found by the landowner (the top was broken as he endeavored to plow his field).

At Göbekli Tepe immense finely carved and decorated T-shaped limestone pillars, many in the range of two to five and a half meters tall and weighing up to an estimated 10 to 15 tons, stand in Stonehenge-like circles. The workmanship is extraordinary, with clear sharp edges that would do any modern mason proud. It may be a cliché, but I cannot help but think of the opening scene of the classic 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. A group of ape-like proto-humans discovers a giant monolith; influenced by it, they learn to use tools, leading to civilization.9

Various pillars at Göbekli Tepe are decorated with bas-reliefs of animals, including foxes, boars, snakes, aurochs (wild cattle), Asiatic wild asses, wild sheep, birds (cranes, a vulture), a gazelle, and arthropods (scorpion, ants). The carvings are refined, sophisticated, and beautifully executed. Not only are there bas-reliefs, but also carvings in the round, including a carnivorous beast, possibly a lion or other feline, working its way down a column, apparently in pursuit of a boar carved in relief below. In the round carvings of lions and boars have been uncovered, now housed in the Museum of Şanlıurfa, as is a life-sized statue of a man, which, though from Urfa, apparently dates to the Göbekli Tepe era. Also from Göbekli Tepe are perfectly drilled stone beads. And, according to Prof. Schmidt, while some of the stone pillars were set in the local bedrock, others were set into a concrete- or terrazzo-like floor. Looking only at style and quality of workmanship, one might easily suggest that Göbekli Tepe dates between 3000 and 1000 BCE. How wrong one would be. Based on radiocarbon analyses, the site goes back to the period of 9000 to 10,000 BCE (or possibly earlier), and was intentionally buried circa 8000 BCE.10 That is, the site dates back an astounding 10,000 to 12,000 years ago!

This was supposedly the time of the brutish, nomadic, hunters and gatherers who, according to many academics, did not have the technology, governing institutions, or will to build structures such as those found at Göbekli Tepe. Clearly there is a disconnect between what conventional historians and archaeologists have been teaching all these years and the clear evidence on the ground. As Stanford University archaeologist Ian Hodder commented, Göbekli Tepe is “unbelievably big and amazing, at a ridiculously early date... huge great stones and fantastic, highly refined art... Many people think that it changes everything... It overturns the whole apple cart. All our theories were wrong.”11 Like my redating of the Great Sphinx, Göbekli Tepe forces us to reconsider our antiquity.

And like my work on the Sphinx, the specialists are perplexed by Göbekli Tepe. Patrick Symmes wrote in Newsweek, “But the real reason the ruins at Göbekli remain almost unknown, not yet incorporated in textbooks, is that the evidence is too strong, not too weak. ‘The problem with this discovery,’ as [Glenn] Schwartz of Johns Hopkins puts it, ‘is that it is unique.’ No other monumental sites from the era have been found. Before Göbekli, humans drew stick figures on cave walls, shaped clay into tiny dolls, and perhaps piled up small stones for shelter or worship. Even after Göbekli, there is little evidence of sophisticated building.”12

Image of Göbekli Tepe pillar showing detailed relief carvings as well as  
				abutting secondary surrounding walls
Göbekli Tepe pillar showing detailed relief carvings; image also shows abutting secondary surrounding walls.

In a nutshell, we have evidence of high culture and civilization circa 10,000 to 8000 BCE, but then an apparent decline or hiatus for thousands of years, until the “rise” of civilization once again in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and elsewhere. What happened?


A hallmark of civilization is precise scientific observation. Astronomy is often considered the earliest yet most sophisticated of the sciences. A particularly subtle astronomical phenomenon, the discovery of which is generally credited to Hipparchus of Rhodes in the second century BCE,13 is the slow movement of the stars relative to the Sun (the rising and setting points of non-circumpolar stars change with time). Known as precession, the entire cycle, with stars returning to their “starting points”, takes somewhat under 26,000 years. Some researchers suggest that precession was known to the ancient Egyptians and other early civilizations, and is reflected in myths worldwide.14 Others dispute such assertions. I found evidence of precession at Göbekli Tepe, adding another layer of sophistication to this remarkable site.

The excavated portions of Göbekli Tepe lie on the southern slope of a hill looking out to the southern skies. Thus far, the better part of four stone circles (enclosures) has been excavated in an area measuring about 40 by 40 meters square. Additional, later and smaller, pillars and structures have been partially uncovered both 20 to 30 meters north and about 80 meters west of the major area of circles,15 and eighteen or more stone circles still under the earth have been identified. Enclosure D is located furthest north. To the southeast lies Enclosure C, and to the south of Enclosure D lies Enclosure B and finally A. The enclosures are very close to each other, almost abutting. Each enclosure possesses a pair of tall central parallel pillars ringed by a circle of shorter pillars with later stonewalls between the pillars. If at some point the enclosures were covered over, they may have been entered from above; indeed, possible carved stone “portals” have been found that may have been set in a roof.

The central pairs of pillars are oriented generally toward the southeast, as if forming sighting tubes toward the sky. The central pillars of Enclosure D include arms and hands, with the hands holding the belly or navel area, and it is clear that the anthropomorphic pillars are facing south. The orientations vary from enclosure to enclosure, however. For Enclosure D the central pillars are oriented approximately 7º east of south. Those for Enclosures C, B, and A are approximately 13º east of south, 20º east of south, and 35º east of south respectively.16 These varying angles suggest the builders were observing stars and building new enclosures oriented progressively toward the east as they followed particular stars or star clusters over hundreds of years.

Photo of an aerial image of Göbekli Tepe on display at the new Urfa 
Photo of an aerial image of Göbekli Tepe on display at the new Urfa Museum. Arrows indicate approximate midpoints of the central pillars in each enclosure. For more accurate diagrams, please see Dr. Schmidt's published papers (copyrighted) as well as images further below showing the precise positioning of the central pillars into their foundations.

What were the builders observing? This is a difficult question to answer, but we can hypothesize. On the morning of the Vernal Equinox of circa 10,000 BCE, before the Sun rose due east at Göbekli Tepe, the Pleiades, Taurus, and the top of Orion were in view in the direction indicated by the central stones of Enclosure D, with Orion’s belt not far above the horizon (as seen from the best vantage points in the area) as dawn broke.17 A similar scenario played out for the orientation of the central stones of Enclosure C in circa 9500 BCE and for Enclosure B in circa 9000 BCE. Enclosure A is oriented toward the Pleiades, Taurus, and Orion on the morning of the Vernal Equinox circa 8500 BCE, but due to precessional changes, the entire belt of Orion no longer rose above the horizon before dawn broke. By about 8150 BCE the belt of Orion remained below the horizon at dawn on the morning of the Vernal Equinox. These dates fit well the timeframe established for Göbekli Tepe on the basis of radiocarbon dating.

Overview image of Göbekli Tepe looking slightly southeast 
					towards the horizon, with an approximation of the constellations Orion and 
					Taurus as they would appear in the sky
Enclosures D, C, B, and A of Göbekli Tepe, looking slightly southeast towards the horizon (photo take in 2010, before the area was roofed). The illustrations of Orion and Taurus are rough approximations, as the constellations would appear much larger in the sky.

The Vernal Equinox is easily observed and noted, and since the beginning of recorded history has been an important marker, celebrated with festivities. It marks the first day of the year in numerous calendars, and is tied to cosmological creation stories. I suspect that these traditions go back to Göbekli Tepe times, and even earlier.

Image of central pillar of Enclosure D at Göbekli Tepe, showing anthropomorphic 
Central pillar of Enclosure D at Göbekli Tepe, showing anthropomorphic features (arms, hands, animal nestled in the elbow joint, belt with symbols, fox-pelt loincloth); photo taken in 2010.

The Orion-Taurus region of the sky has been a focus of ancient humans for tens of thousands of years in Europe and the Middle East. Here are located the asterisms of Orion’s belt and the Hyades, as well as the Pleiades. Researchers such as Michael Rappenglueck, Frank Edge, and Luz Antequera Congregado have identified the constellation Taurus and the Pleiades among the paintings of Lascaux cave, France, dating back 16,500 years ago.18 Additionally, Rappenglueck asserts that a tiny tablet from Germany, carved of mammoth ivory and dating back at least 32,500 years, depicts the constellation Orion in the familiar guise of a narrow-waist male with outstretched arms and legs.19 Given such evidence, it is reasonable that the Göbekli Tepe people recognized Orion as a human figure, even as a hunter. The mammal remains found while excavating Göbekli Tepe (including numerous gazelle, aurochs or wild cattle, wild ass, fox, wild sheep/goat species, and boars), as well as the reliefs on the pillars, can be taken to indicate a hunting society. Indeed, studying the anthropomorphic pillars of Enclosure D, they may represent, in stylized form, Orion. Not only do they have arms (which could be interpreted as the arms of Orion brought down to the body), but also prominent belts (the belt stars of Orion), and a fox or dog-like creature nestled in the arm of one pillar, which could represent Sirius, the Dog Star. Just as Orion travels with his companion, Sirius, so too do the Göbekli Tepe pillars.

Are we looking at science (in this case astronomy) encoded in the language of art (stone sculpture)? Yes, I do believe this could be the case. Furthermore, the central pillars of Enclosure D have fox pelt loincloths that may possibly represent the Orion Nebula and associated features. However, if the fox pelt loincloth does represent the Orion Nebula, this may be a remembrance of a feature that was visible above the horizon circa 12,000 BCE and earlier at Göbekli Tepe, as it no longer appeared above the horizon during the period of 10,000 to 8000 BCE at Göbekli Tepe. Or, it may be that the Göbekli Tepe people knew of this feature from viewing Orion at more southern latitudes, such as in the area of Giza, Egypt, where the Orion Nebula rose above the horizon circa 10,000 to 8000 BCE.

My suggestion that the Göbekli Tepe people were observing the Orion-Taurus-Pleiades region of the sky on the morning of the Vernal Equinox is simply a hypothesis. If they were observing stars (versus the Sun, for instance), then they needed to readjust their observations over the centuries due to precessional changes. And maybe they were observing something more than just the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars.


Image of Easter Island Moai
Easter Island moai with hands to the navel region.

Having returned from Easter Island (January 2010) not long before my first visit to Göbekli Tepe (May 2010), I was surprised to see numerous iconographic similarities between the two. I believe these similarities are real, but I might have missed them if I had not been to both sites in succession. Furthermore, both Easter Island and Göbekli Tepe may relate to powerful plasma events in the skies at the end of the last ice age.

The outstanding feature of Easter Island is the moai, those huge stone heads and torsos that dot the island. In the case of Göbekli Tepe, stone pillars dominate the scene. Amazingly, both the moai and the anthropomorphic central pillars of Enclosure D at Göbekli Tepe have arms and hands positioned similarly against the body, with hands and fingers extended over the belly and navel region. The moai are looking up at the skies, and I believe the Göbekli Tepe pillars are also looking towards the skies. Are they looking to identical phenomena?

As I have discussed elsewhere,20 the indigenous Easter Island rongorongo script may record, or have been inspired by (the surviving rongorongo tablets are assuredly recent, being copies of copies of copies...), a major plasma event in the skies thousands of years ago, at the end of the last ice age. Plasma consists of electrically charged particles. Familiar plasma phenomena on Earth today include lightning and auroras, the northern and southern lights. In the past, much more powerful plasma events may have taken place, perhaps due to coronal mass ejections from the Sun or emissions from other celestial objects. Powerful plasma phenomena could cause strong electrical discharges to hit Earth, burning and incinerating materials on the planet’s surface. Los Alamos plasma physicist Anthony L. Peratt and his associates have established that petroglyphs found worldwide record an intense plasma event (or events) in prehistory.21 Peratt has determined that powerful plasma phenomena observed in the skies would take on characteristic shapes resembling humanoid figures, humans with bird heads, sets of rings or donut shapes, and writhing snakes or serpents—shapes reflected in the ancient petroglyphs. Plasma events may be a dominant theme found among the ancient remains of Easter Island. Likewise, plasma may be important to understanding Göbekli Tepe.

One of the strange and perplexing aspects of Göbekli Tepe is that it was not simply abandoned and left to oblivion, but intentionally buried around 8000 BCE. Furthermore, before its final burial, stonewalls were built between the finely wrought pillars. These walls are, in my opinion, clearly secondary as in many cases they cover over the fine relief carvings on the pillars. They are also much cruder than the pillars. Additionally, some pillars appear to have fallen over and broken, and were subsequently repaired or re-erected when the walls were built. In several cases the bases of the broken pillars are missing or lying horizontally under the tops of the broken pillars that were set to the correct height on a pile of stones. At this late stage the walls and pillars may have been roofed over.

Images of plasma shapes and petroglyphs identified by Dr. Peratt in 
					comparison to the rongorongo glyphs
Plate 24 from Forgotten Civilization: The Role of Solar Outbursts in Our Past and Future by Robert Schoch (Plasma and petroglyph illustrations courtesy of Dr. Anthony L. Peratt, reprinted with permission from IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, December 2003, volume 31).

Among the oddities of Easter Island are the low-lying, solid, thick-walled stone buildings with narrow entrances that look like bunkers or fallout shelters. These stone “houses” of Easter Island are similar to the structures formed by the walls and pillars of Göbekli Tepe. Could they, in both cases, have been protection from some type of phenomena emanating from the skies, such as plasma strikes? Some might criticize comparisons between Easter Island and Göbekli Tepe not only on the basis that they are on opposite sides of the globe, but are also ostensibly separated by thousands of years (Göbekli Tepe dating from 8000 BCE and before, whereas according to standard chronologies Easter Island was not inhabited until a mere millennium and a half ago). In counterargument, I question whether we really know when Easter Island was first colonized. Even if surviving Easter Island antiquities and structures are from a relatively late period, they may reflect earlier traditions and styles, perhaps brought by settlers from elsewhere, that date back to a time of intense plasma outbursts. The rongorongo tablets may carefully preserve ancient texts that were copied over and over.

Just as I have argued that the Easter Island rongorongo script records plasma events in the ancient skies, so too might certain carved motifs found at Göbekli Tepe. Peratt has made the connection between birdman petroglyphs and plasma phenomena around the world. On Easter Island we find birdman petroglyphs as well as birdmen and bird symbols among the rongorongo hieroglyphs. At Göbekli Tepe a very similar bird form was carved into one of the pillars. Peratt records many plasma phenomena that can be interpreted as having the appearance of snakes. An abundance of snakes are found on the pillars of Göbekli Tepe, slithering vertically up and down the ends of some of the columns. Could these represent huge bolts of plasma?


Based on the evidence slowly being pieced together, it appears there was a major plasma event, or events, in antiquity. In my book Forgotten Civilization22 I have made the case that a major plasma event, circa 9700 BCE, brought about the end of the last ice age. Based on the radiocarbon dating, some of the structures at Göbekli Tepe are contemporaneous with the end of the last ice age. Enclosure D in particular was initially erected prior to 9700 BCE, but suffered damage (indicated, for instance, by the toppled and subsequently re-erected pillar) during the cataclysmic activity that brought the ice age to an end. At this time the earliest crude secondary walls were erected between the pillars. Later stone pillars and enclosures were erected during the early period of turmoil just after the ice age ended, and ultimately the entire site of Göbekli Tepe was artificially buried (perhaps to protect it?) under a mountain of dirt and debris.

Images of plasma glyphs established by Dr. Peratt in comparison to 
					the rongorongo glyphs
Enclosure C at Göbekli Tepe, showing (at ground level) the precise positioning of the central pillars into their foundations. Also evident in the photo (from 2010) are the secondary walls supporting the outer/surrounding pillars, and in some cases serving to prop up and reposition the broken pieces of toppled pillars (suggesting the importance of their positioning).

With the damage to, and ultimate burial and abandonment of, Göbekli Tepe, there can be no doubt that the solar-induced dark age – SIDA – had begun. In terms of material artifacts, primarily large megalithic structures from pre-SIDA times remained. Pockets of humanity survived in isolated spots where the natural geography and resources were relatively hospitable. A good example is the Cappodocia region of modern Turkey where the soft volcanic bedrock was conducive to the excavation of extensive underground shelters and indeed entire cities, providing protection from the occasional solar outbursts that most likely continued for centuries or millennia after the close of the last ice age, somewhat analogous to the aftershocks following a large earthquake.

It would be 5000 to 6000 years before civilization would reemerge.

Image of above and underground rock shelters in Cappadocia
Above and underground rock shelters in the Cappadocia region of Turkey (some of the underground cities are estimated to have at one time each sheltered tens of thousands of people, small animals, etc.).

A postscript for those considering visiting Göbekli Tepe:

The site has changed in recent years. While still unique, enigmatic, and breathtaking, it is an active archaeological site and thus subject to constant change. In recent years the decision was made by those in authority to roof over the primary excavation area. This has changed the feel of the complex.

Image of above and underground rock shelters in Cappadocia
Göbekli Tepe in 2015 (roofed over). The view is looking toward the southwest.


1. Quoted from: Of man, being the first part of Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes. Available at: (Accessed 20 February 2016).

2. For further discussion of V. Gordon Childe, Plato, Atlantis, and Zep Tepi, see: Robert M. Schoch, Forgotten Civilization: The Role of Solar Outbursts in Our Past and Future, Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2012.

3. A phrase and acronym first suggested by my wife Catherine (Katie) Ulissey.

4. Robert M. Schoch and John Anthony West, “Redating the Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt”, Geological Society of America abstracts with programs, vol. 23, no. 5, p. A253 (1991). For further discussion of the date of the Great Sphinx, see: Robert M. Schoch. “Redating the Great Sphinx of Giza”, KMT, A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 52-59, 66-70 (Summer 1992); Robert M. Schoch, “Geological Evidence Pertaining to the Age of the Great Sphinx”, in New Scenarios on the Evolution of the Solar System and Consequences on History of Earth and Man (Eds. Emilio Spedicato and Adalberto Notarpietro), Proceedings of the Conference, Milano and Bergamo, June 7-9th, 1999. Università degli Studi di Bergamo, Quaderni del Dipartmento di Matematica, Statistica, Informatica ed Applicazion, Serie Miscellanea, Anno 2002, N. 3, pp. 171-203 (2002); Robert M. Schoch, “Life with the Great Sphinx: Some Personal Reflections”, Darklore, vol. 1, pp. 38-55, 291 (2007); Robert M. Schoch with Robert Aquinas McNally, Voices of the Rocks: A Scientist Looks at Catastrophes and Ancient Civilizations, New York: Harmony Books, 1999; Robert M. Schoch with Robert Aquinas McNally, Voyages of the Pyramid Builders: The True Origins of the Pyramids from Lost Egypt to Ancient America, New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2003; Robert M. Schoch & Robert Aquinas McNally, Pyramid Quest: Secrets of the Great Pyramid and the Dawn of Civilization, New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2005; Robert M. Schoch and John Anthony West, “Further Evidence Supporting a Pre-2500 B.C. Date for the Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt”, Geological Society of America abstracts with programs, v. 32, no. 7, p. A276 (2000); T. L. Dobecki and R. M. Schoch, “Seismic Investigations in the Vicinity of the Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt”, Geoarchaeology, vol. 7, no. 6, pp. 527-544 (1992).

5. Lee Dye, “Sphinx’s New Riddle—Is It Older Than Experts Say? Archeology: Geologists cite study of weathering patterns. But Egyptologists say findings can’t be right”, Los Angeles Times, October 23, 1991. Posted at: Accessed 14 June 2010.

6. Robert M. Schoch, “How old is the Sphinx?”, Abstracts for the 1992 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Chicago, p. 202 (1992).

7. Anonymous, “Scholars Dispute Claim That Sphinx Is Much Older”, New York Times, February 9, 1992. Posted at: Accessed 14 June 2010.

8. Klaus Schmidt, Sie bauten die ersten Tempel: Das rätselhafte Heiligtum der Steinzeitjäger, Die archäologische Entdeckung am Göbekli Tepe, München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2006/2008; Klaus Schmidt, Taş Çaği Avcılarının Gizemli Kutsal Alanı Göbekli Tepe En Eski Tapınağı Yapanlar, Istanbul: Arkeolojí ve Sanat Yayınları, 2007; K. Schmidt, “Göbekli Tepe, Southeastern Turkey: A Preliminary Report on the 1995-1999 Excavations,” Paléorient, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 45-54 (2001); Joris Peters and Klaus Schmidt, “Animals in the symbolic world of Pre-Pottery Neolithic Göbekli Tepe, south-eastern Turkey: a preliminary assessment”, Anthropozoologica, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 179-218 (2004). For popular discussions of Göbekli Tepe, see: Graham Chandler (photographs by Ergun Ça?atay), “The Beginning of the End for Hunter-Gathers.” Saudi ARAMCO World, vol. 60, no. 2, pp. 2-9 (March/April 2009); Andrew Curry (photographs by Berthold Steinhilber), “The World’s First Temple? Predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, Turkey’s Stunning Gobekli Tepe Upends the Conventional View of the Rise of Civilization”, Smithsonian, vol. 39, no. 8, pp. 54-58, 60 (November 2008); Patrick Symmes, “History in the Remaking: A temple complex in Turkey that predates even the pyramids is rewriting the story of human evolution”, Newsweek, 1 March 2010, article published online 19 February 2010 at: (Accessed 29 April 2010).

9. Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, directed by Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey (film), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1968.

10. I discussed the dating of Göbekli Tepe on site with Prof. Schmidt. It is based not only on calibrated radiocarbon dates of circa 9000 BCE or earlier on organic remains found in the material used to fill the site (these dates would be later than the actual occupation of the site), but also dates of circa 8000-7500 BCE on pedogenic carbonate coatings and micro-stalactites on wall stones (see Peters and Schmidt, 2004, p. 182 [note 5.]). These carbonate coatings and micro-stalactites would have formed only after the burial of the site and after soil formation began, thus indicating that the site itself was buried by circa 8000 BCE, and possibly much earlier.

11. Quoted by Patrick Symmes in Newsweek [see note 5.].

12. Patrick Symmes [see note 5.]

13. Giulio Magli, “On the possible discovery of precessional effects in ancient astronomy,” article from 2004 posted at: Accessed 17 June 2010; Giulio Magli, Mysteries and Discoveries of Archaeoastronomy: From Giza to Easter Island, New York: Copernicus Books, 2009.

14. See for instance, J. Norman Lockyer, The Dawn of Astronomy, New York: Macmillan, 1894 (reprinted, with a preface by Giorgio de Santillana, Cambridge, Mass.: IT Press, 1964); Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, Hamlet’s Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time, Boston: Gambit, 1969.

15. The main, and older, portion of Göbekli Tepe under discussion in this article belongs to Schmidt’s Layer III; the younger and smaller pillars and structures belong to Schmidt’s Layer II.

16. These measurements are only approximate, and are based on the plan of Göbekli Tepe on page 186 of Peters and Schmidt, 2004 [note 8.].

17. Alignments discussed here were determined using the computer program “Starry Night Pro 4.5” (Toronto: Space Holding Company, 2003).

18. Christopher Seddon, “Ice Age Star Maps?” article dated 1 January 2008, posted at Accessed 5 June 2010; Gary D. Thompson, “Paleolithic European Constellations - star maps in Lascaux cave in France 16,500-13,000 B.C.”, article dated 2001-2007, posted at: Accessed 5 June 2010; David Whitehouse, “Ice Age star map discovered”, article dated 9 August 2000, posted at: Accessed 5 June 2010.

19. David Whitehouse, “ ‘Oldest star chart’ found”, article dated 21 January 2003, posted at: Accessed 5 June 2010.

20. Robert M. Schoch, “An Ancient Warning, A Global Message, From the End of the Last Ice Age”, New Dawn, July-August 2010, pp. 15-21.

21. Anthony L. Peratt, “Characteristics for the Occurrence of a High-Current, Z-Pinch Aurora as Recorded in Antiquity”, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Transactions on Plasma Science, vol. 31, no. 6, pp. 1192-1214 (December 2003); Anthony L. Peratt, John McGovern, Alfred H. Qöyawayma, Marinus Anthony Van der Sluijs, and Mathias G. Peratt, “Characteristics for the Occurrence of a High-Current, Z-Pinch Aurora as Recorded in Antiquity Part II: Directionality and Source”, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Transactions on Plasma Science, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 778-807 (August 2007); A. L. Peratt and W. F. Yao, “Evidence for an Intense Solar Outburst in Prehistory”, Physica Scripta (The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences), 13 pages (December 2008).

22. See note 3.

Image of Robert Schoch at Göbekli Tepe
Robert Schoch at Göbekli Tepe, 2010. Photo by Catherine Ulissey


A full-time faculty member at Boston University since 1984, earned his Ph.D. (1983) in Geology and Geophysics at Yale University. In the early 1990s, Dr. Schoch’s geological analyses of the Great Sphinx demonstrated that the statue is thousands of years older than the conventional dating of 2500 BCE, bringing him international fame and recognition. His assertions that there was an earlier cycle of civilization before civilization is supposed to have existed, though attacked by many members of the Egyptological and archaeological establishments, have stood the test of time. Stunning confirmation of Dr. Schoch’s views has come with the discovery of the highly sophisticated 12,000-year-old site of Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey. In recent years, further data and reanalysis of his previous work has led Dr. Schoch to conclude that the origins of the Sphinx go back millennia further than he first proposed. Dr. Schoch is the author of numerous books and articles, both academic and popular, including Forgotten Civilization: The Role of Solar Outbursts in Our Past and Future (Inner Traditions, 2012). He has reached audiences around the world via television, radio, live presentations, and the Internet (the Emmy-winning documentary The Mystery of the Sphinx, which first aired on NBC, remains a favorite among audiences). In recognition of his scientific contributions to the study of ancient civilizations, in 2014 Dr. Schoch was awarded the title of Honorary Professor of the Nikola Vaptsarov Naval Academy in Varna, Bulgaria. Dr. Schoch’s website is:

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