Why this ancient stone pillar could be a major astronomical find

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Apr 27, 2017, 3:38 PM EDT

While fragments of objects that fell from space often reveal secrets about Earth’s past, a relic from tens of thousands of years ago could be evidence of a catastrophic asteroid collision which had an impact on the history of humankind.

The Vulture Stone of Göbekli Tepe is an ancient temple pillar carved with mystical pictograms which scientists believe to be proof of a massive asteroid crashing to Earth. The artifact has always been something of an enigma, because while there has been much speculation on its connection to an ancient asteroid crash, no one has been able to decipher the obscure symbols—until now.

The recent findings from a team of researchers with the University of Edinburgh suggest the creation of the Vulture Stone (named for its distinctive carving of a vulture in flight) coincided with beginning of the Younger Dryas period. This era of global cooling thought to have been brought on by the catastrophe caused people to join forces in cultivating crops, which sparked developments in agriculture that fueled major technological and societal advancements such as Neolithic civilization. Hidden meanings behind the pictograms on the pillar are thought to be astronomical clues to the time it was built.

“We find the symbolism at Göbekli Tepe provides strong support for the Younger-Dryas event as a cometary encounter, and hence for coherent catastrophism,” said team leads Martin B. Sweatman and Dimitrios Tsikritsis in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry.

Zoomorphic carvings at Göbekli Tepe.


Göbekli Tepe is a megalithic site often believed to be the world’s first temple. The Vulture Stone is seen as the dawn of pictograms. Excavated near the Syrian border of southern Turkey, this temple is thought by many to also be the world’s first observatory where meteor showers and comets flashing in the night sky were recorded. They also had a particular interest in the Taurid meteor system, which is thought to have been the source of that fateful comet that crashed to Earth somewhere around 10,950 BCE.

Researchers who investigated the pillar are now convinced it was created to commemorate something catastrophic. Zoomorphic symbols carved into the stone are thought to represent constellations such as Scorpio the scorpion and Lupus the wolf, while a decapitated human body is a chilling ghost of the fatalities. Constellations are especially significant because their position relative to the sun in the carvings was determined to coincide with solstice and equinox dates from the year of the comet strike.      

While there has been previous evidence for the Younger Dryas event’s cosmic origin, such as unusually high concentrations of platinum in ice cores sampled from Greenland, none has been as eerily close to being scientific proof as the Vulture Stone. However, scientists still need to dig deeper into the archaeological mystery.

“There is a consistent interpretation of much other symbolism at Göbekli Tepe in terms of the YD event as a cometary encounter, which supports the theory of coherent catastrophism,” insist Sweatman and Tsikritsis. “But we cannot be as confident in this proposal as the proposal for the date stamp. Other evidence from further excavations at Göbekli Tepe and other sites may help to clarify this.”