Kortik or Kurtik Tepe is an early Neolithic archaeological site, located in eastern Turkey that was inhabited from about 10400 to 9250 BCE. The site is roughly 280 km away from the better known and widely researched site of Gobekli Tepe. Alternative scholars have come to the conclusion that Gobekli Tepe, is a place of worship, an observatory, a centre for cosmology, perhaps all of these rolled into one. Some scholars believe that Gobekli Tepe represents the memory of a cataclysmic event of history, recorded in stone, most likely of the times of the great flood.
Some others have claimed that it may in fact be a stone representation of the constellation Pleiades, one of the most easily identifiable constellations in the sky. Excavations at Gobekli Tepe have revealed six stone circles so far, which seem to be arranged like the six stars of Pleiades. The true picture of the layout of the site and what it represents however will emerge only after all the excavations are complete.
Gobekli Tepe has no dwelling areas indicating that it served a purpose other than inhabitation. Given its complex yet refined architecture, its T-shaped andromorphic slabs with various animal figures, and the calendrical arrangement of the slabs that correspond either to the number of months in a year, or else are aligned to star configurations in the sky, in all indicate that the civilization that was the founder of this site was well informed about astronomy and architecture.
Yet current theories state that the society at the time to which Gobekli Tepe is dated was that of Neolithic hunter gatherers. The sophistication of the design at Gobekli Tepe questions the hitherto accepted theory that a civilization begins to grow and cultures start to develop only in agricultural or settled societies, and that growth happens without any pre-planning and evolves with time. At Gobekli Tepe and its sister sites like Kortik Tepe, scholars say that though the community was still that of hunter gatherers yet it was culturally advanced. Not only that, it has also been found that the most ancient structures at Gobekli Tepe are the most advanced and refined in quality than the newer structures which seem to show a drop in both artisan skill and finesse.
Unlike Gobekli Tepe where excavations have revealed only architectural structures, thousands of pieces of artifacts, apart from architectural structures have been excavated from Kortik Tepe, the maximum that any of these sites have generated. Pieces of pottery, stone vessels, jewellery objects, animal shells, flint tools, places of burials, objects of rituals, and other artifacts of residential life such as cutting and drilling tools, mortar and pestle hands used to grind ingredients in a kitchen or a laboratory, have all been found at Kortik Tepe.
So what was a society of hunter gatherers using this site for. No literature is available, no memories remain, for these sites are far too ancient. Scholars have put forth the view that Kortik Tepe was a residential area, perhaps the builders of Gobekli Tepe lived here. Yet many questions remain. One may therefore analyze the Kortik Tepe site in the Sanskritic-Vedic context to evaluate if that path can lead to additional revelations and add a cultural ambience and vibrance which once must have been a part of this, now silent, site.
|Kortik Tepe, Turkey|
The very first thing that catches ones attention is the name of the site, Kortik or Kurtik Tepe, for both these names are cognate of the Sanskrit Kartik or Kartika or Krittika which is the Vedic name for the nakshatra or the asterism of Pleiades. The starting point for the nakshatra or asterism sequence according to the Vedas is Krittika (though in today’s time we start the sequence with Ashvini and lies in Aries) which lies in the constellation of Taurus represented by the bull.
This indicates that at the time when the Vedas were composed or their interpretation was recorded, the asterism of Kartika, that is Pleiades may have marked the start of the new year, that is astronomically when the cluster of stars called Kartika is conjunct with the vernal (spring) equinox, that is on the day when the length of day and night are equal.
In the Atharaveda the first three nakshatras or ‘lunar mansions’ or ‘cluster of stars’ in the sky are the Kartika or Pleaides represented by the goat, which appears in the larger constellation or Zodiac of Taurus represented by the bull; the second asterism is Rohini (also called Aldebaran) which is represented by the serpent; and the third is Mrigashira represented by the deer’s head. A section of the sky with the span of 30 degrees is known as the zodiac, for example Taurus. In Vedic astrology there are 27 nakshatras each 13.33 degrees, each represented by an animal. These are the animals seen carved on the slabs at Gobekli Tepe and Kortik Tepe.
The Lord of Pleiades or Kartika in the Vedic tradition is Lord Kartikeya who was also known as just Kartika or Skanda. Skanda (स्कन्ध), which means ‘the cutter or the cleaver’ was the only entity, apart from Vishwakarma, the ‘celestial architect’, who have been attributed with most of the engineering marvels of the ancient Vedic world, such as the building of a dam at the time when the river Ganges was brought down from the Himalayan mountain to the plains, or the cleaving of a mountain in the Himalayas to construct a tunnel, all of which are mentioned in the Vedic and Puranic texts.
Whether Skanda is one person or refers to many people who had similar skills is not known but in any case his association with Kartika or Pleiades (for he was born he was six-faceted or six-faced representing the six prominent stars of Pleiades) links him to the structure at Gobekli Tepe which as mentioned is a stone-representation of Pleiades.
Skanda’s or Kartikeya’s association with Kortik Tepe in Turkey also stems from his name Kartika which probably has distorted into Kortik with time, and indicates that a Vedic link might have been present once, and can today shed some light on the mystery that shrouds these sites. Could Skanda or his clan be a builder of the megaliths of ancient Turkey as well. A study of the Puranic texts may reveal the answer. To summarize, nobody knows how old the name Kortik is or what its etymology is, but assuming that in the name Kortik somehow its ancient most name has survived, one may need not only to study the importance of Peliades in the ancient world in more depth but also the engineering feats of Skanda around the world described in the Puranic texts.
Kortik Tepe, about 100 metres from the Batman Stream. The location is close to where the Tigris meets the Batman River near the town of Pinarbasi. In the Vedic culture the confluence of two rivers is always considered sacred. River confluences are places of pilgrimage, visited to wash off the sins by bathing in the rivers. River confluences are also places where the dead are buried or cremated for it is believed that cremation at river confluences results in removing obstacle in the soul’s final journey to heaven. The excavation of skeletons and ritual bone artifacts at Kortik Tepe points a finger in this direction. Archaeologists say that this site appears to be a village or a dwelling but it is a kind of Village where the dead are buried on the village site.
In antiquity, the Batman River was known as the Kalata. This name meant ‘bride’ to the Syriac people who populated the area; it was thus translated into Greek as Nymphios. In Sanskrit the word ‘kala’ has to do either with ‘the cycle of time’ or ‘calendar’ or with ‘blackness and death. In this context the interpretation of Kalata as ‘blackness’ makes a lot of sense. The Batman, near its confluence with the Tigris, flows just a mile or two off Turkey’s largest petroleum field. Petroleum is often referred to as black gold and lends a darkish tinge to the water of Batman. The word Kala is often found in ancient river names around the world, or in the names of towns near rivers, and there is also a possibility maybe a distortion of the Sanskrit (कुल) ‘kula’ meaning ‘river’.
Kortik Tepe in Turkey is located at the confluence of the
River Tigris and River Kalata. In the Vedic tradition confluences of river
where considered sacred sites.
But how did the river Kalata come to be known as Batman. It is believed that the river got its name from the nearby mountain called ‘Bati Raman’. Bati is Turkish for west. Raman is the name of the mountain. This name is at once a reminder of the Vedic god, Sri Rama, however it does not indicate a link unless there is more evidence, even though Central Asia has many natural sites such as Mount Jabal Ram in Jordan or Lake Ram in Israel, that carry this name.
Kartika is also the name of a month in the Hindu lunar calendar which corresponds to the months of November and December. Even in todays times, in the month of Kartika, on the fifteenth lunar day which is a full moon day, devotees take a holy dip in the major rivers of India, especially at confluences of rivers such as at Prayag, the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna. If the full moon day of the month of Kartika, Kartika Purnima as it is known coincides with the autumn equinox, its significance multiplies manifold. Taking a holy dip at the confluence of rivers washes away the entire karmic burden of the soul. So was the town of Pinasari the Prayag of ancient Turkey?
The presence of a huge numbers of pottery items is also thus explained. It is a ritual to make an offering of grains, home utensils and kitchen items not only to the departed soul in case of a death, but also to the priest who perform ritualistic yagnas for an ascetic or a devotee. The pottery items at Kortik Tepe, many of them unused, may either be the offerings already made by pilgrims and devotees, or items available for sale at the pilgrimage site indicating that commercial relations too existed.
Some of the excavated items at Kortik Tepe are unique such as the highly stylized small stones with carvings of unidentified creatures. These stones seem to be the carved equivalents of the Vedic-Hindu shaligrams. Shaligrams are ammonoid fossilized shells, and are non-andromorphic symbols of God. Shaligrams are traditionally collected from river-beds or banks of rivers – today the Gandak River in Nepal is especially known for these. Typically the stones are oval in shape, black in colour, and belong to the Devonian-Cretaceous period, that is from 400-66 million years ago.
It appears that a ritual similar to the Vedic tradition of collecting this sacred stone and worshipping them existed in the ancient civilization of Turkey too. In the Skanda Purana, there is a verse where Lord Shiva speaks to his son Kartika, and says that, “In this mortal world, if anyone does not worship Shaligram Shila, I do not at all accept any of their worship and obeisance.” The belief even today is that worshipping of shaligrams is the equivalent of reading and mastering all the Vedas.
Carved stones found at Kortik Tepe
have a resemblence to sacred stones of India
|Shaligrams or fossilized shells are worshipped as
sacred stones.in the Vedic tradition
The name Shiva appears on the map of Turkey in the form of the town of Sivas on the river Kizil, which it is said can be explained as the truncated form of Greek Sebastos meaning ‘venerable’ but that was a translation of the Roman ‘augustus’ which the Roman emperors used for themselves. This name was given to the city in around 64 BC, and much of its earlier history was erased. Prior to that perhaps there was a town by the Vedic name that has re-emerged today, that is Shiva. This is highly likely considering that many towns on the river Kizil have Indic-Sanskritic names such as Salarkolu (‘kula’ is Sanskrit for river), Karanar (‘Karan’ is a character in Mahabharata), Yalmansaray (‘sara’ is Sanskrit for a ‘lake’ or ‘waterbody’), Saraycik, Deveci Deg (‘deva’ is Sanskrit for ‘god’ or ‘deity’), Avsar (‘ava’ is water, ‘sara’ is lake), Sarmasikkaya (‘sarma’ is Sanskrit for ‘flowing’), Kula (‘river’ or ‘well’), Sakarca (‘sakaar’ or ‘beautiful), Kapulukaya (‘kapil’– fire, ‘kaya’-form) Sagirkavak (‘Sagar’ is Sanskrit for ‘sea’), Amarat (‘amar’ or ‘immortal’), Keysar (saffron), Ahmetisar (‘ahmati’– abounding in ‘snakes’, sara – ‘lake’) and Kullu (‘kula’ ‘well’ or ‘waterbody’). With so many Sanskritic names on the river Kizil alone, it is evident that the etymology of the name Sivas too was Sanskritic and must be researched far earlier in antiquity than just about to 2000 years back to which the name Sebastian is dated. The river Kizilirmak was known to the Hittities as Marassantiya, ‘Maras’ is Sanskrit for ‘rain water’ or ‘stream’, Santiya is ‘peace’. There is a lake by the name of Sivan in Armenia too, with an entirely different explanation for its etymology. However, a more consitent meaning to this name is provided only within a Vedic-Sanskritic cultural backdrop. For Sanskritic links to the name Gobekli Tepe, click here.
But now back to the shaligram rituals of the Vedas. It is said that if a dying person is given the water poured over Shaligram, he is purified from all the sins and attains Moksha. Whether this Vedic tradition of worshiping the equivalents of shaligrams also appeared in Kortik Tepe remains unknown though it appears that Kortik Tepe was a site where the dead were buried with all funerary rituals. From a Vedic perspective, Kortik Tepe does not appear to be a simple village settlement, it appears to be a pilgrimage site. In fact, even Kurahan Tepe seems to have Vedic links as mentioned by researcher Andrew Collins. For more on Vedic links to Karahan Tepe click here.