Ancient Turkish carvings describe comet strike that led to the rise of modern civilization

Ancient carvings described a comet strike.
(Image credit: iStock)

Researchers studying ancient Turkish pillars at the Göbekli Tepe archaeological site have discovered that certain mysterious markings describe a massive comet strike that might have changed the course of human history, The Telegraph reports.

University of Edinburgh researchers found that symbols on the so-called "vulture stone," which dates from 9000 B.C., are linked to the arrangement of constellations. Other markings symbolize a group of comets hitting Earth, and an illustration of a headless man likely symbolizes the widespread loss of life. "Using a computer program to show where the constellations would have appeared above Turkey thousands of years ago, [the experts] were able to pinpoint the comet strike to 10,950 B.C.," The Telegraph reports — the same time as the beginning of the "Younger Dryas" period, when global temperatures plummeted.

Prior to understanding of the vulture stone, many researchers already hypothesized that the Younger Dryas began due to a comet strike, which kicked up debris into the atmosphere and caused the planet to cool. However, there is still no known comet impact site. "I think this research, along with the recent finding of a widespread platinum anomaly across the North American continent, virtually seal the case in favor of [a Younger Dryas comet impact]," said the University of Edinburgh's Dr. Martin Sweatman.

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The cooling of the planet prompted mankind to begin to farm and build permanent settlements, marking the rise of Neolithic civilizations. Prior to the Younger Dryas period, people were primarily nomadic hunters who did not need to collaborate extensively in order to survive.

"It appears Göbekli Tepe was, among other things, an observatory for monitoring the night sky," Sweatman told The Telegraph. "One of its pillars seems to have served as a memorial to this devastating event — probably the worst day in history since the end of the ice age.”

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.