Do claimed dates for Göbekli Tepe and the Lost City of Dwarka outdate the Bible’s timeline?
Kevon G. from the US wrote into CMI with a question about the dating of supposedly ancient sites (specifically Göbekli Tepe and Dwarka, India) and how they relate to the much shorter chronology of the Bible. CMI’s Gavin Cox responds below.
I greatly appreciate your work and am thankful for your efforts.
My real concern is ancient archaeological findings.
Specifically would be Gobekli Tepe; dated to 14,000 BC. I understand these dating methods may be questionable; however, they do have some science behind them apart from Carbon 14 dating.
The Lost City of Dwarka, India; which has specific mention in the Bhagavad Gita, that also shows specific manuscript and other evidences of its writing that supposedly date back to 6–7000 BC.
I was hoping that you would do an article dealing with these anomalies that seem to transpose a longer age for the earth.
Sincerely desiring a good discussion and most willing to listen;
Many thanks for writing into CMI with your question regarding the dating of Göbekli Tepe and the Lost City of Dwarka.
Regarding the dating of archaeological remains, artefacts, or buildings, CMI places all such evidence in the post-Flood era. It would be impossible for archaeological remains such as these to survive the cataclysmic Floodwaters, which eroded and re-shaped the entire face of the earth during the yearlong deluge. Thus, there is a clear conflict between the biblical and secular timelines.
Regarding Göbekli Tepe, a Neolithic site near the Syrian-Turkish border, CMI has previously written about this, placing it within the biblical timeframe. See the articles: How does Göbekli Tepe fit with biblical history? And Göbekli Tepe shows evidence of geometric planning. The authors of these articles make similar concluding remarks that highlight the problems of dating this site to such vast ages. For instance, Carter and Robinson state:
“The secular date places it more than 7,000 years before Stonehenge … Yet, strangely, there is little evidence for anything else built on such a massive scale in the intervening years. Archaeologically, it is as if those intervening thousands of years never existed.”1
Carter and Sanders draw a similar conclusion:
“To put things in perspective—archaeologists are claiming that, 12,000 years ago, people were capable of carving these huge monuments. This is supposed to be long before any sort of written language, thousands of years before the Egyptian pyramids, and prior to the settlement of Sumer. Out of nowhere, we have this ancient monument, and then humans supposedly put down their chisels and don’t build anything for thousands of years more—but when they do, we get Sumer and the Egyptian pyramids. This stretches credulity.”2
When Göbekli Tepe is placed within the constraints of the biblical timeframe (according to the Masoretic chronology) the logical conundrum of a technological and construction hiatus disappears. Göbekli Tepe exists within a progression of successive post-Flood history up to and possibly after Babel (Genesis 10:25; 11:1, biblically dated at c. 140–200 years after the Flood) there is therefore no missing millennia of construction or technology development.
Regarding the methods of arriving at the date of Göbekli Tepe, these are in-fact based primarily on carbon-14 (14C) dating. For instance, in a 2013 paper published in the archaeological journal Neo-Lithics by Dietrich et al.,3 the stratigraphy of the site is divided into three major sequences (I–III) and the oldest sections dated to the mid-10th millennium BC on the basis of eleven 14C samples taken from progressively deeper excavations. The samples analysed were mostly charcoal, but also included a wall plaster sample, collagen from a cattle tooth, and humic acids from a soil sample. These gave a range of dates of 9,990±30 years to 8,880±60 years BC (but certainly not the 14,000 BC figure you mention). The problem, biblically speaking, is that this places Göbekli Tepe nearly 6,000 years before the creation of the world (c. 4,000 BC according to the MT chronology)—in which case these dates must be rejected. From the perspective of the investigators, each of the three stratigraphic sequences had their own dating challenges. For instance, layer III was backfilled at the end of its use such that it:
“ … poses severe problems for the dating of this layer using the radiocarbon method, as organic remains from the fill-sediments could be older or younger than the enclosures, with younger samples becoming deposited at lower depths, thus producing an inverse stratigraphy.”3
It was found that carbon dates for layer II were inconsistent with the chronology of layer III so that:
“ … the data fail to provide absolute chronological points of reference for architecture and strata.”3
Regarding the dating of collagen samples, it is admitted that:
“ … collagen conservation is poor, and the carbonate-rich sediments at Göbekli Tepe may be the cause for problems with the dating of apatite [the main mineral constituent in teeth] fractions.”3
I noticed on the calibration curve published in the report (p. 39) that there are at least four areas on the curve giving a flat response in terms of calibrated carbon-dates.
Flat responses are not good, as they give false dates, meaning the radiocarbon data cannot be calibrated. A famous example of a flat curve is known as the Hallstatt disaster/plateau which renders dates in the first millennium (specifically 400–800 BC during the so-called Iron Age) virtually useless, which is admitted to be a ‘disaster for archaeology’ in this era, which is a real problem for biblical archaeology, specifically.
CMI has written extensively on why radiocarbon dating becomes increasingly inaccurate the closer in time one approaches the era of the Flood. One of the main reasons being is that the Earth’s magnetic field has degraded significantly in the 4,500 since the Flood. A strong magnetic field means less cosmic rays enter the atmosphere, so less nitrogen-14 is converted into carbon-14. Unless this is taken into consideration, samples will date too old (i.e., the 12C:14C ratio will be artificially higher, compared to today’s ratio) the further one goes back in time. The radiocarbon experts have even questioned the calibration of the accelerator mass spectrometer machines used to date carbon samples. Even the ‘oldest’ samples have measurable amounts of 14C. Thus, not only can they not ‘zero out’ their machines, this also means we cannot find a carbon source in the world that is million years old (see also 14C measured in diamonds). Uniformitarian thinking is therefore useless to establish absolute dates, although it may be helpful in arriving at relative dates.
Another method attempting to date the stone blocks at Göbekli Tepe is the build-up of calcium carbonate on the stone surfaces over time—these are referred to as ‘pedogenic carbonates’. These begin to form as soon as the limestone blocks were buried in soil. It is assumed that uniform rates of formation can be extrapolated backwards to date such carbonate layers. However, the authors admit of this method:
“Unfortunately, the pedogenic carbonate layers accumulate at a variable rate over long time periods, so a sample comprising a whole layer will yield only an average value.”3
The proposed solution is to carbon date the oldest carbonate in a thin section thus establishing a ‘date’ of the burial of the block. This again assumes uniformity of rates for any oldest thin section chosen, an assumption impossible to prove. It is similar to the thinking behind attempting to date speleothem formations (stalagmites and stalactites) in caves by assuming simple uniform rates of deposition in the present and extrapolating backwards into the unobserved past. This method should be rejected on philosophical grounds and is something else CMI has written extensively about. The variables inherent in the history of formation of these structures is highly complex, see for example: Rapid Caves 1, 2, 3, and Speleothem growth in caves vs man-made structures.
Theoretical star alignments
Finally, some researchers, using computer programs, have attempted to date Göbekli Tepe on the basis of its supposed orientation to the stars, specifically Sirius. Certain stone blocks at Göbekli Tepe might have been oriented to stars at dates in the past, but some alignment dates are far older than the biblical date of creation. Yet, the orientation of certain blocks with certain stars are chosen by the investigators, with no actual field evidence to prove such ideas. The blocks themselves give no clue as to what stars they are supposed to be oriented towards, and we don’t know that they were even designed as star pointers, which means any perceived alignments are purely the object of the investigator’s imagination and a-priori assumptions about the past. However, the idea that Göbekli Tepe was an observatory used to predict things like eclipses and star conjunctions may be of some merit, making it a similar structure in function to the British Neolithic site, Stonehenge, which in the biblical timeline would be a post-Babel construction.
When all these dating issues for Göbekli Tepe are assessed without the baggage of uniformitarian thinking, this Neolithic site fits comfortably within the historical constraints of Genesis as a post-Flood settlement.
Dwarka dating issues
You also ask about The Lost City of Dwarka, India, which you state is dated to “6–7,000 BC” and is attested to in the Bhagavad Gita. There is a magnificent limestone temple extant at the site which historically was claimed by some to have been built by Krishna some 2,500 years ago but is actually a 16th century temple. Furthermore, the Bhagavad Gita was composed by Indo-European speakers sometime after the so called ‘Yamnaya cultural horizon’4. These people most certainly trace back to a location in Central Asia, from whence all the Indo-European languages seem to have come. Yet, the dating of these events is solidly couched in evolutionary assumption. We would place the rise of these nomadic Steppe peoples several centuries to a millennium after the Tower of Babel, which occurred around 2,500 BC.
A study of ceramics found at Dwarka and Bet Dwarka establish the settlement as dating to 1,520 BC. An archaeological report published in 1992 states the following in its abstract:
“From 1981 to 1990, the Marine Archaeology Centre of the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa undertook offshore excavations in Dwarka and Bet Dwarka (island). The excavations yielded a seal, chert blades, an inscription in the Late Harappan-Brahmi transitional script and protohistoric pottery. Thermoluminescence date for the pottery of Period I from Bet Dwarka is 3520 BP and 2000 to 1800 BP for Period II.”5
Your claimed date range of between 6–7,000 BC for the Lost City of Dwarka (which is older than the biblical date of creation) appears to be unattested in the literature (although not on internet forums), and from a biblical perspective must be rejected.
Other useful reading on creation.com should include: Archaeology Questions and Answers, and Archaeology, and see also CMI’s media centre on the subject: archaeology. And may I also recommend the following CMI resources: Evidence for the Bible, and Patterns of Evidence: Exodus.
I hope that helps,
References and notes
- Robinson, P. and Carter, R., Göbekli Tepe shows evidence of geometric planning, 5 November 2020; creation.com/gobekli-tepe-geometric-planning. Return to text.
- Carter, R. and Sanders, L., How does Göbekli Tepe fit with biblical history? 26 July 2011; creation.com/gobekli-tepe. Return to text.
- Dietrich, O., Köksal-Schmidt, C., Notroff, J., and Schmidt, K., Göbekli Tepe in Neo-Lithics 1(13):36–41, 2013. Return to text.
- This is conventionally described as a late Copper to early Bronze Age archaeological culture of the region between the Southern Bug, Dniester, and Ural rivers (the Pontic steppe), dating to 3300–2600 BC. Return to text.
- Gaur, A.S., P.Gudigar, S., and Tripati, S., Protohistoric ceramics of Dwarka and Bet Dwarka, in: The Role of Universities and Research Institutes in Marine Archaeology, Proceedings of the Third Indian Conference on Marine Archaeology of Indian Ocean Countries, (pp. 165–171), 1992. Return to text.