The team from the University of Edinburgh analyzed stone carvings in the world’s oldest known temple Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey and revealed that a swarm of comet fragments hit the Earth in around 11000 BC.
The markings suggest that a swarm of comet fragments hit Earth at the exact same time that a mini-ice age struck known as the Younger Dryas, which is a crucial period in humanity’s history as it coincides with the beginnings of agriculture and the first Neolithic civilizations.
Scientists have speculated for decades that the last mass extinction of animals on Earth was triggered by a comet colliding with the planet and sparking a sudden drop in temperature around 13,000 years ago.
This sudden change in climate, which lasted 1,000 years and it is known as the Younger Dryas climate reversal, saw many species of large mammals die out and also brought humans to the brink of extinction. But although a comet strike is one of the leading hypotheses for causing Younger Dryas, scientists haven’t been able to find physical proof of comets from around that time.
The team from the University of Edinburgh led by Martin Sweatman had analyzed mysterious symbols carved into stone pillars at Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey. Sweatman’s team found while studying symbols carved into the temple’s pillars that depictions of animals correlate with constellations and astronomical alignments associated with a comet strike.
By interpreting the animals as astronomical symbols, and using software to match their positions to patterns of stars, researchers dated the event in 10,950BC. The dating from the carvings agrees well with timing derived from an ice core from Greenland, which pinpoints the event – probably resulting from the break-up of a giant comet in the inner solar system – to 10,890BC.
Other carvings found at the site include an early form of writing, and images depicting a headless man, which could be evidence of large loss of life following the comet strike, according to scientists.