Ozgür Baris Etli
Diffusion is the anthropological term used to describe how similar customs, beliefs and artefact designs are spread between cultures through migration, invasion or trade. Diffusion is not just a ‘one-way street’ as history has shown that ideas have travelled in all directions, while in fact most ancient civilisations can be demonstrated to have absorbed cultural elements from a multiplicity of foreign societies. Today, globalisation has increased exponentially the variety of influences that all societies now experience. Not only is the number of these influences greater but the rate of increase is apparently accelerating. The ubiquity of Coca-Cola, T-shirts, Irish pubs, Japanese cameras, German cars, English language, Guinness, Chinese toys, ABBA, AK-47s etc., etc., etc., are indicative of the global reach of commercial ‘empires’ today. In older civilisations trade was more concerned with commodities such as metals, olive oil, wine, amber, obsidian, or timber, so the technologies involved in their production or exploitation were also exchanged.
The development of agriculture also saw techniques spread, which had to be modified to suit different climates, although recent studies indicate that agriculture started around the same time in a number of centres(I).
in the Fertile Crescent as far north as the Zagros Mountains. Further north, on the steppes of Russia, horses were domesticated and apparently there also the use of chariots originated. A book by David W. Anthony also attributes the region with being the source of what is known as the Proto-Indo-European family of languages.
Societal concepts, religious or legal were no different as their geographical spread can also be traced over time. Consider the different strands of the Abrahamic faiths, beginning with Judaism, which spawned Christianity and later was joined by Islam through Muhammad, who claimed to be a descendant of Abraham. Similarly, democracy has slowly evolved and spread over time and still has a long way to go.
Since early man left Africa, he has had ample time to settle all over our planet and exploit it resources, moving from being a hunter-gatherer to becoming a settled farmer, developing urban centres (city states), then empires and the inevitable wars. Wars, then like today, led to the develop of new technologies, chariots, longbows, armour, to be copied and if possible improved upon, by each side.
My view is that initially, technology and techniques were freely exchanged between peoples, until gradually the idea of monopoly entered the human psyche, eventually leading to the paranoia and greed associated with the ownership of ‘intellectual property’ today. I would speculate that a freer and possibly gentler diffusion of ideas lasted until, at the earliest, the first millennium BC.
In 2014, the University of Connecticut published the result of studies which demonstrated that human technological innovation occurred intermittently throughout the Old World, rather than spreading from a single point of origin, as previously thought(j).
Egerton Sykes, a leading 20th century Atlantologist, was a committed diffusionist, describing it as “the lifeblood of civilisation”(h).
A more extreme view is the concept of ‘hyperdiffusion’, which is the idea that there was a single ‘mother-culture’ which led to the development of all major civilisations. Ignatius Donnelly was a hyperdiffusionist, advocating Atlantis as the mother culture. His ‘heretical’ views were highlighted by the range of similarities between structures around the world in apparently unrelated cultures, which seem to greatly exceed what could be expected by mere coincidence alone. This is explored further in a recent illustrated article on the Malagabay website(v).
Similarly James Churchward proposed his invention, Mu, as an alternative hyperdiffusion centre. Perhaps better known is the work of W. J. Perry who was convinced  that an archaic civilisation had begun in Egypt and gradually spread eastward through Asia and Polynesia, eventually reaching the Americas. Ben Urish published a paper(d) in 1986 that offers a critical overview of hyperdiffusion.
Konrad Kulczyk promotes a hyperdiffusionist theory that places his proto-civilisation, New Atlantis, just south of the Aral Sea(e).
Ivar Zapp proposes a global seafaring civilisation thousands of years before the Greeks, Egyptians or Sumerians(k) in an as yet unpublished book, Babel Deciphered.
Hyperdiffusion is clearly a seductive theory having attracted the attention of researchers such as Richard Cassaro, who has produced an impressive collection of visual cultural similarities between ancient Egypt and pre-Columbian America(a). While the idea is not new, Cassaro’s images highlight the concept of diffusion very effectively, although he has, in my opinion overinterpreted the evidence in order to support hyperdiffusion.
Cassaro published The Missing Link in 2016 in which he expands on the widespread distribution of what he refers to as the ‘godself icon’. Although he clearly demonstrates that the motif has an extensive geographical spread it is equally obvious that the appearance of the icon is spread over a vast period of time apparently coinciding with the emergence of civilisation in different places at very different times, which, in my view, is not fully compatible with the concept of hyperdiffusion, as I would have expected a ‘mother-culture’, if such existed, to have spread its global influence far more rapidly.
A comparable discovery has been made by Ozgür Baris Etli, who has drawn attention(o) to carved hands at Göbekli Tepe that have counterparts in many other parts of the world where hands meeting at the navel are similarly depicted. I recently came across an image of(q) a megalithic statue in the Indonesian Bada Valley(u) showing its hands in a similar position.
Having mentioned Indonesia, I must draw your attention to a recent book by Dhani Irwanto, entitled Sundaland: Tracing the Cradle of Civilizations (1618), in which he makes a strong case for considering his native land as an ancient diffusionist centre, which experienced waves of emigration at the end of the Younger Dry as period that influenced the great civilisations of the Indus Valley, Egypt and Greece. Irwanto also claims that their cultural impact included the transference of the story of Atlantis from its original home in Sundaland.
Equally intriguing is the ‘Three Hares’ motif, found across Europe, the Middle East and as far as China(p) and now the subject of a book by Greeves, Andrew & Chapman. Another stylised symbol is that of the rosette found in the Mediterranean and spread as far as India(r)(s).
In a similar vein Jim Allen has devoted chapter three of his latest book to outlining what he entitled Bolivia and the Sumerian Connection(b). Arguably even more impressive is the array of images presented by Allen(c) suggesting that the civilisations of America were greatly influenced by ancient cultures in both east and west. It is obvious that a number of artifacts can be developed independently, but at some point the number of similar items produced by two separate cultures can exceed the number that can be reasonably put down to coincidence. The number of similarities presented by Allen alone clearly exceeds that threshold, demonstrating that the Americas were influenced by different sources, ruling out Americas as the home of a mother-culture.
The whole subject of diffusion is wide ranging and complex and well beyond my competence to do it justice in this short entry. However, for those interested in pursuing the subject further, I would like to recommend a 1997 paper(l) by David H. Kelley (1924-2011), available on Dale Drinnon’s website.
Egypt is frequently mentioned in this regard being seen as the influence behind Neolithic megalith building AND the pyramids of Central America, in spite of the fact that Newgrange was constructed before the Egyptian Pyramids and the New World pyramids were built thousands of years after those in Egypt. Atlantis is regularly suggested as another mother- culture but without a single piece of evidence to support this speculative contention. For decades the idea that the pyramids of Egypt and those in the Americas were the consequence of diffusion from a common source, namely Atlantis situated in the Atlantic was heavily promoted. However, we can now more closely identify the pyramids of America with the step-pyramids of China!
Consequently, for me, hyperdiffusion is not convincing. History has clearly shown that inventions have frequently been independently developed at the same time in different countries, while even in prehistoric times it has been demonstrated(f) that the evolution of stone tools took place as a result of the innovative abilities of local populations, addressing the same needs.
A word of warning; “recent research published in Nature by a team led by Tomos Proffitt at the University of Oxford shows that capuchin monkeys regularly produce sharp-edged flakes indistinguishable from those made by early hominins.”(t)
Even today technologies are developed independently throughout the world, but not in complete isolation, because of the instant worldwide communications available.
As a result of global marketing, in Ireland now we drive German, British and Japanese cars, use US computer technology and play with Chinese toys. However, being generous by nature, we gave the world the Irish pub, Riverdance and Guinness.
A two-part blog(m)(n) highlighting the many weaknesses in the concept of hyperdiffusion should be required reading for anyone interested in the subject.
Although Donnelly and his contemporaries, focused on the possibility of Old World influences in the New World, today, there is less of a Mediterranean centred or Eurocentric approach to diffusionism. Instead, there is greater acceptance that the Americas have also had extensive cultural influences from Asia.
(l) See: Archive 3563
*(u) Atlantis Rising No.110 March/April 2015 p.41*
Göbekli Tepe is a site in South-East Turkey, just north of the Syrian border near the town of Sanliurfa that has been excavated for the past 15 years. The work has been led by the German archaeologist, the late Klaus Schmidt, who has dated the site to 9600 BC, eerily coinciding with Plato’s apparent date for the war with Atlantis. In fairness to those who accept Plato’s date, the existence of the monuments at Göbekli Tepe at such an early date at least indicates the possibility, of Plato’s date being correct. However, I am not altogether happy with the date assigned to the site, as I cannot imagine how the stones were carved to such a high standard without metal tools, a development still some thousands of years in the future. Dating details are available online(ar).
A paper by Schmidt on the development of agriculture at the time of Göbekli Tepe is freely available online(ao)
Sanliurfa mentioned above, was ancient Urfa and is suggested by David Rohl as the original Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.
The site consists of megalithic stone circles with T-shaped uprights on some of which are carved a variety of animals. What is most peculiar is the fact that these monuments were completely buried after hundreds of years of use. One suggestion is that that the site is pre-diluvian and was buried by the biblical Flood!
A paper by Alastair Coombs entitled The Atlantis Twins offered further thoughts on possible prehistoric references, including a suggested link with Göbekli Tepe. This was expanded and retitled Göbekli Tepe & the Atlantis Twins and later published on Graham Hancock’s website(aq).
Schmidt ws convinced that this site marked the transition from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural society. An interesting article is to be found in the March/April 2009 issue of Saudi Aramco World and on its website(a).
The consensus now is that Göbekli Tepe is the oldest known temple in the world, predating the temples of Malta by an astonishing 4,000-5,000 years. This, of course, is based on the dating offered by Schmidt, which may require revision. However, Adam’s Calendar(c) in Mpumalanga, South Africa, has been dated to over 70,000 BC, which, if true, would throw an even greater number of theories onto the scrapheap.
However, the idea that Göbekli Tepe is a temple site has been challenged by Professor Ted Banning at the University of Toronto, who has claimed(j) that it was ‘one of the world’s biggest garbage dumps’ suggested by the amounts of bones, tools and charcoal found there. Instead, he claims that the structures were homes, I personally find this unconvincing. Needless to say Schmidt was also unhappy with Banning’s contention and was writing a rebuttal of his claim, which I’m not sure if this was completed or published.
Readers might be interested in comparing the monuments of Gobekli Tepe with the taulas of Menorca(d)at the far end of the Mediterranean. Some of which are also to be found in clusters.
Studies have apparently confirmed astronomical alignments at these sites(i). A German site has highlighted a possible connection(ac). The most extensive publication on the subject of taulas was published in 1995 by Hochsieder & Knösel, in French.
Studies have apparently confirmed astronomical alignments at these sites(i). National Geographic magazine published a leading article on the site in June 2011, which can be read online(e). A new website devoted to Göbekli Tepe with more images is worth a visit(f). Another well illustrated site(k) has drawn attention to the possibility that the animal images at the site match constellations at the time they were carved. It will be interesting to see how this particular investigation proceeds.
Nevertheless, another temple site 30 km to the northwest, Nevali Çori(g), dated to 6,000 BC also has T-shaped pillars but in my mind it raises the question of how the same form of monument would still be in use three and a half thousand years later. I would expect some stylistic evolution unless of course the dating of the two sites should be closer.
Another large site designated as Karahan Tepe(t), which is 63 km east of Sanliurfa has hundreds of pillars, many T-shaped, but the site has yet to be excavated. Page 6 of a pdf file(h) will give you more details.
A Norwegian website(l) has some little-seen images of the Göbekli Tepe site.
A new suggestion has now emerged linking Easter Island and the ongoing discoveries at Göbekli Tepe. This seems to date back to early 2010(m) and has now been given greater prominence in Robert Schoch’s most recent book, Forgotten Civilization. A 2013 article(n) by Schoch includes a report of a recent visit by him to the site.
In July 2013 a paper(o)(p) by Giulio Magli explores the possibility that Göbekli Tepe had been constructed to “celebrate and successively follow the appearance of a new, extremely brilliant star in the southern skies: Sirius.” Sirius is the brightest star and had significance for ancient Egyptians and Greeks and features in Robert Temple’s theory regarding the astronomical knowledge of the Dogon people of Mali.
Magli’s suggestion has been dismissed in a paper(q) by Andrew Collins and Rodney Hale, who have made the alternative proposal that if there was an intended astronomical orientation, a more likely candidate was the star Deneb in the Cygnus constellation. Collins has already explored the significance of that constellation in the ancient cultures of America, Egypt and Britain in The Cygnus Mystery. In 2014 Collins devoted an entire book to the Göbekli Tepe discoveries with the publication of Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods. In it he refers briefly to Atlantis commenting that “Plato’s account of Atlantis might well be based on some kind of historical reality” (p.168). This seems to lack the certainty he showed in his best-selling Gateway to Atlantis. Additionally, Collins has produced a 68-minute video entitled Gobekli Tepe and the Watchers of Eden, referencing his earlier work(w). A preview(y) of Genesis of the Gods has been published on a number of websites including Academia.edu and Graham Hancock.com. Collins’ book has been heavily criticised as pseudoscience(an) by at least one commentator.
Hugh Newman, author and self-confessed ‘megalithomaniac’ has now proposed links between Göbekli Tepe and ancient Peru. He has also managed to include Göbekli Tepe in his theory of earth grids(r). Another writer, Trebha Cooper, claims a link between France and Göbekli Tepe(x)!
The unexpected death of Klaus Schmidt (1953-2014) took place on Sunday July 20th 2014 and announced shortly afterwards(s).
In September 2014, archaeologists on the site were describing it as “the oldest known sculptural workshop on the planet.”(v)
The excellent The Stream of Time website from ‘antiquated antiquarian’ has a couple of well illustrated blogs relating to Göbekli Tepe(z) and the region generally.
In April 2015, the Ancient Origins website published a two-part article(ag) by Ozgür Baris Etli, a Turkish scientist,in which he discusses the most recent discoveries on the site. The article(aa)(ab) is well illustrated as the author reviews the carvings there and their possible relevance to the early development of religion. In a 2016 article(ah), on the same site, he has drawn attention to the similarity of the position of carved hands at Göbekli Tepe, Easter Island as well as number of other sites around the world where the hands are shown meeting at the navel. The significance of this, if any, is not known.
What has been identified as possibly the earliest pictograph in the world has now been revealed at the Göbekli Tepe site(ad). Andrew Collins also claims(ae) to have found the earliest depiction of Göbekli Tepe in the museum at Sanliurfa. Not unexpectedly Jason Colavito has a few words to say on the matter(af). Colavito also has a critical view(ai) of the recent Turkish documentary, supported by the government, which claims that Göbekli Tepe was built by Telah, Abraham’s father, and destroyed by Abraham. So who built Nevali Çori?
The March 2017 edition of Mediterranean Archaeology & Archaeometry (Vol.17, No.1, pp 233-250) includes a paper(aj) by M.B. Sweatman & D. Tsikritsis of the University of Edinburgh. In it they claim that the animals carved on the Göbekli Tepe pillars represent asterisms and that they found “compelling evidence that the famous ‘Vulture Stone’ is a date stamp for 10950 BC ± 250 yrs, which corresponds closely to the proposed Younger Dryas event, estimated at 10890 BC.” Understandably, their claims have been met with stony scepticism(ak). Sweatman has expanded his ideas further in Prehistory Decoded .
*In an August 2019 article on Graham Hancock’s website(at) Sweatman ventures further into the realms of wild speculation with the suggestion that Göbekli Tepe should be considered the world’s first ‘university’. This obviously had Jason Colavito spluttering into his cereal bowl, prompting him to apply his literary scalpel to the idea(au) .*
Constantinos Ragazas has produced a paper(am) in which he argues against the early date ascribed to Göbekli Tepe by Schmidt and others. He ponders on “How a Date can go wrong: Were Göbekli Tepe built 600 BC by Babylonians/Assyrians, no one would flinch a thought. It is the Date that makes Göbekli Tepe an enigma. The great dilemma for archaeologists is reconciling the date with the people that built Göbekli Tepe. Either the date is wrong or our theories of prehistoric people are wrong. And prehistoric people were more capable 12,000 years ago than all our other evidence tell us. Archeologists trust their date over their understanding of prehistoric people. I argue the date is wrong. And prehistoric people were as we have always thought.” While this is controversial enough, Ragazas goes further and claims that Göbekli Tepe is in fact the site of the ‘Hanging Gardens of Babylon’!
However, Ragazas’ reservations regarding the early dating of Göbekli Tepe were given further support in an extensive 2016 paper(ap) by Dimitrios Dendrinos of the University of Kansas.
In March 2019, a paper by Roger M. Pearlman put forward another radical idea, namely, that Göbekli Tepe had been founded by Noah (Noach) and his sons(as).