At approximately 10,000 BC, the discovery of agriculture and the domestication of animals brought the age of the nomadic hunters to a close. Both discoveries allowed people to stop chasing game and settle in permanent villages.
Agriculture changed everything. Besides starting urban life, it caused the first major population explosion, the rise of authoritarian leaders, the development of priesthood, and the beginning of a worldwide practice of human sacrifice. The dependence of agriculture on the seasons also got people to discover how the orbit of the sun changes during the year. Huge megalithic structures were built in Europe to celebrate this discovery.
All these changes have been so pervasive that historians rightfully speak of the Agricultural Revolution. Agriculture also marked the beginning of a new age called the Neolithic, or New Stone Age.
Farming was independently invented in multiple locations, first around 10,000 BC in the Levant (the Eastern Mediterranean) with the domestication of wheat and legumes. Rough estimates place the invention of farming in Papua New Guinea around 7000 BC (with sugarcane and bananas), in Mesoamerica around 7000 BC (maize), in China around 6000 BC (millet and rice), in Northern South America around 5000 BC (potatoes), in sub-Saharan Africa around 3000 BC (sorghum), and in Eastern North America around 2000 BC (sunflower). It is remarkable that agriculture was invented independently in all these places within the span of just a few thousand years, while humanity had existed for about 300,000 years. This timing likely has something to do with the retreating ice after the last glaciation.
In this same time span, humanity also managed to domesticate a number of animals. The dog is the exception, since it was already domesticated during the hunter-gatherer days (at least since 13,000 BC). The first domesticated animals were sheep, goats, pigs, and cows, all between 9000 and 8000 BC in the Middle East. Initially, these animals were used for meat and hides, but between 6000 and 3000 BC, they were also used for secondary products, such as wool, milk, transportation, and plowing.
The invention of agriculture set off a chain of events that changed almost every aspect of human life. The domestication of plants and cattle made it easier for nomadic tribes to settle down, which in turn made it worthwhile to build permanent houses made from stronger and more durable materials, such as clay bricks or stone. It also allowed people to own more possessions since they didn’t have to carry everything with them. It also became beneficial to develop pottery, which was used for storing, serving, and cooking food.
Eventually humans began to alter the entire landscape to meet their needs. They built man-made villages surrounded by man-made farm fields. These changes were so pervasive that the world of men became distinct from the world of nature. But it wasn’t all upside, since domesticated species are more prone to disease and a starch diet increases the likelihood of tooth decay. Farmers also work harder and make longer hours than hunter-gatherers.
Farming also created the concept of land ownership, which, in turn, led to an increase in the veneration of ancestors from whom the land was inherited. The ancestors often came to be seen as guardians of the land. Not surprisingly, the scarcity of fertile land also led to friction between clans and villages, which resulted in the emergence of warfare for the purpose of territorial expansion (in contrast to the less organized raids of hunter-gatherers). The first evidence of warfare, or at least of sustained conflict, comes from Egypt from around 12,000 BC. Here, semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers living in the transitional period known as the Mesolithic, buried 60 skeletons, half of them containing arrow points.
Agriculture also generated a considerable food surplus, which, in turn, enabled the division of labor. With no longer everyone involved in food production, it became possible for people to specialize in a whole array of other jobs. Some made pottery, while others built houses or became full-time priests.
The food surplus also allowed for the world’s first population explosion, which changed the entire social hierarchy of society. Somehow the egalitarian approach that had worked well for small groups began to break down everywhere communities grew in size. To stabilize larger groups, it became necessary for a small elite to take control of the masses. This elite also began to amass an enormous amount of wealth and possessions—often by force—causing a large gap between the rich and the poor. In many cases, the upper classes also came to be headed by a leader with absolute authority. Why did this happen? Most likely because larger communities are harder to manage and because agriculture requires much more planning and effort than hunting. In short, strong leadership became a necessity.
As societies became larger and more complex, they also developed more elaborate mythologies. Most importantly, religion became institutionalized. Instead of the individual visionary quest of the shaman, early agricultural communities began to rely on scripted and scheduled ceremonies led by trained priests, often based on the agricultural calendar. The people in these communities also began to believe that the gods were superior to mankind and demanded their obedience. As a result, rituals became filled with all kinds of submissive acts, such as kneeling, giving praise, thanksgiving, and food offerings—all forms of worship. In many cases, the leader of the village became the central figure in this new religion. He came to play the most important part in the rituals, acting as a mediator between the people and the gods. In this role, he was believed to be solely responsible for appeasing the gods and thereby ensuring peace and prosperity for the community. This connection to the divine solidified the rule of the leader, but it also meant he was to blame whenever disaster struck.
Fig. 35 – Drawing of an agricultural community on Tikopia, by Victor Adam (1833) (National Library of Australia)
The changes mentioned occurred in all agricultural societies across the world. Even transitional societies fit the pattern well. Take, for instance, the small farming community on the island of Tikopia in the Pacific Ocean. The community on the island was divided into a number of clans, each with its own chief. These chiefs were well off and were considered intermediaries between the gods and the people. Commoners had to bow or kneel in their presence and leave their dwellings without turning their backs. Yet, they had to work the land and fish like everybody else. They also weren’t necessarily the largest landowners and had no military force under their control, and commoners were in principle free to decide whether to follow their orders or not. 
In contrast, the native Hawaiian community was much larger. As expected, we find much stronger class distinctions, accompanied by heavy taxation, land expropriation, the formation of an outcast class, and even frequent human sacrifice. Hawaiian chiefs had near-absolute power. 
The reliance of agriculture on the seasons also led to a number of new superstitions. Since it was believed that the periodic cycle of the seasons was caused by the gods, it was only a small step to assume that the unpredictable agricultural yield was also caused by the goodwill of the gods. As a result, early farming cultures around the world began offering plants and animals to appease the gods and win their favor. Some gods, however, seemed to demand more—they required human sacrifice, which became a common practice around the globe. Take, for instance, the following account from the headhunters of New Guinea. We read:
On the final night [of the ritual], a young girl painted, oiled, and ceremonially costumed, was led into the dancing ground and made to lie beneath a platform of very heavy logs. With her, in open view of the festival, the initiates cohabit, one after another; and while the youth chosen to be last is embracing her, the supports of the logs above are jerked away and the platform drops to a prodigious boom of drums. A hideous howl goes up and the dead girl and boy are dragged from the logs, cut up, roasted, and eaten. 
The victims of these rituals were often war captives or slaves, but not always. In some cases, people in good social standing were sacrificed, sometimes willingly and without a sign of fear. To be sacrificed was an honor, and the “victim” was celebrated as a divine being. It is fair to say that the people who participated in these rites didn’t regard themselves as individuals with their own autonomy but more like mythical creatures partaking in the cosmic dance of the seasons.
The rituals of human sacrifice were likely derived from the observation that vegetation grows during the summer and dies during the winter. This endless cycle of life and death was interpreted as a cosmic law perpetuated by the gods. To try to make sense of this cycle, the belief was formed that the death of winter was necessary for the rejuvenation of life during summer. This idea formed the basis of a world-wide myth describing a god who was killed and buried like a seed, after which he was resurrected in the form of the domesticated plants of the community.
A good example comes from the Native Americans. At the start of spring, a man named Wunzh retreated to a little lodge some distance away from the community. In this lodge, he fasted in solitude, hoping a dream would come to him that would benefit his family (still a hunter-gatherer theme). We read:
True! The Great Spirit made all things, and it is to him that we owe our lives. But could he not make it easier for us to get our food than by hunting animals and taking fish? I must try to find this out in my visions.
On the third day of fasting, a handsome man came down from the sky.
He was richly dressed, having on a great many garments of green and yellow colors but differing in their deeper or lighter shades. He had a plume of waving feathers on his head, and all his motions were graceful.
“I am sent to you, my friend, by that Great Spirit who made all things in the sky and on earth. He has seen and knows your motives in fasting. He sees that it is from a kind and benevolent wish to do good to your people, and to procure a benefit for them, and that you do not seek for strength in war or the praise of warriors. I am sent to instruct you and show you how you can do your kindred good.”
Then the man told him:
Tomorrow, I shall meet you and wrestle with you and, as soon as you have prevailed against me, you will strip off my garments and throw me down, clean the earth of roots and weeds, make it soft, and bury me in the spot. When you have done this, leave my body in the earth, and do not disturb it, but come occasionally to visit the place to see whether I have come to life, and be careful never to let the grass or weeds grow on my grave. Once a month, cover me with fresh earth.
And so it happened. Wunzh carefully visited the grave until the summer was coming to a close. He then invited his father to the spot where the god had been buried:
The lodge had been removed [and] in its place stood a tall and graceful plant, with bright-colored silken hair, surmounted with nodding plumes and stately leaves, and golden clusters on each side. “It is my friend,” shouted the lad, “it is the friend of all mankind. It is Mondawmin (corn). We need no longer rely on hunting alone.”
He then communicated to his father the instructions the stranger gave him. He told him that the broad husks had to be torn away, as he had pulled off the garments in his wrestling; and having done this, showed him how the ear must be held before the fire till the outer skin became brown, while all the milk was retained in the grain. The whole family then united in a feast on the newly grown ears, expressing gratitude to the Merciful Spirit who gave it. So corn came into the world and has ever since been preserved. 
In some myths, the entire world was believed to have been created out of the body of a dying god. Here, we have an example from Mesoamerica:
She was knowing, the goddess Tlalteutli, walking on the primordial waters, a great and wonderful maiden with eyes and jaws at every joint that could see and bite like animals. She was absorbed by the two great gods, Quetzalcoatl (the Plumed Serpent) and Tezcatlipoca (the Smoking Mirror). Deciding to fashion the world from her, they transformed themselves into mighty serpents and came at her from either side. One seized her from the right hand to the left foot, the other from the left hand to the right foot, and together they ripped her asunder.
From the parts, they fashioned not only the earth and heavens, but also the gods. And then to comfort the goddess for what had happened to her, all the gods came down and, paying her obeisance, commanded that there should come from her all the fruits that men require for their life. And so, from her hair they made trees, flowers, and grass; from her eyes springs, fountains, and the little caves; from her mouth rivers and the great caves; from her nose valleys, and from her shoulders mountains.
But the goddess wept all night, for she had a craving to consume human hearts. And she would not be quiet until they were brought to her, nor would she bear fruit until she had been drenched with human blood. 
Fig. 37 – Tlalteutli eating a human heart (Codex Tudela, 16th century, Mexico)
To keep the cycle of the seasons going, some tribes reenacted the killing of the god, for instance during springtime. During these rituals, a human being identified with the god to be killed. This horrifying ritual was practiced across the globe. The following account from Frazer’s The Golden Bough is also from Mesoamerica:
At a great festival in September, which was preceded by a strict fast of seven days, they sanctified a young slave girl of twelve or thirteen years, the prettiest they could find, to represent the Maize Goddess Chicomecohuatl. They invested her with the ornaments of the goddess, putting a miter on her head, maize-cobs round her neck and in her hands, and fastened a green feather upright on the crown of her head to imitate an ear of maize. This they did, we are told, in order to signify that the maize was almost ripe at the time of the festival.
While she stood there, all the elders and nobles came in a line, one behind the other, carrying saucers full of dry and clotted blood which they had drawn from their ears by way of penance during the seven days’ fast. One by one, they squatted on their haunches before her, which was the equivalent of falling on their knees with us, and scraping the crust of blood from the saucer, cast it down before her as an offering in return for the benefits, which she, as the embodiment of the Maize Goddess, had conferred upon them. When the men had thus humbly offered their blood to the human representative of the goddess, the women, forming a long line, did so likewise.
[At the end of the festival] the priests solemnly incensed the girl who personated the goddess; then they threw her on her back on the heap of corn and seeds, cut off her head, caught the gushing blood in a tub, and sprinkled the blood on the wooden image of the goddess, the walls of the chamber, and the offerings of corn, peppers, pumpkins, seeds, and vegetables which cumbered the floor. After that, they flayed the headless trunk, and one of the priests made the shift to squeeze himself into the bloody skin. Having done so, they clad him in all the robes which the girl had worn; they put the miter on his head, the necklace of golden maize-cobs about his neck, the maize-cobs of feathers and gold in his hands; and thus arrayed they led him forth in public, all of them dancing to the tuck of drum, while he acted as fugleman, skipping and posturing at the head of the procession as briskly as he could be expected to do. 
Now, let’s turn to the archeological record. The earliest farming villages appeared at the end of the last ice age in an area known as the Fertile Crescent (see Fig. 38). True to its name, this area was filled with wild plants and game, providing enough resources for hunter-gatherers to settle down. The oldest village in this region was Abu Hureyra, located in modern-day Syria, which dates back to about 11,000 BC. Around 10,000 BC, its inhabitants shifted to agriculture, making them the earliest farmers in the world.
Jericho, located in modern-day Israel, was first inhabited around 9000 BC by hunter-gatherers. A thousand years later, the town reached a population of perhaps 3000 inhabitants and was protected by a 3.6-meter-high stone wall and an 8.5-meter-high circular tower (see Fig. 39). Around 7000 BC, we find evidence of domesticated crops, sheep and goats.
Fig. 38 – Map of the Fertile Crescent, the crescent-shaped strip of fertile land around the Syrian desert (S. P. Dinkgreve, worldhistorybook.com)
Fig. 39 – The tower of Jericho (8000 BC) (Salamandra123, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Fig. 40 – A death mask from Jericho (7-6000 BC) (Jordan Archeological Museum)
In a number of early villages, the dead were buried under the floors of the houses. This practice was particularly prominent in Jericho. Here, skulls of the dead were removed from their bodies, covered with plaster, and painted to resemble the faces of the living, with shells for eyes (see Fig. 40). We have also found several skulls placed in clear arrangements under the floor. In one instance, skulls were placed in a circle looking inward and in another they were placed looking in the same direction in three rows of three. It is unclear if these practices point to ancestor veneration or whether they were sacrificial victims or trophy heads. The 66 skulls found in the “skull building” at Cayonu, Turkey, point to the latter, as these were skulls of young adults, indicating controlled killings. In various villages, including Jericho, we have also found infants buried beneath the thresholds of buildings or in the walls, perhaps as a superstitious means to protect a building from collapse (as we have observed in various later cultures).
A recently discovered site called Gobekli Tepe was established approximately 10,000 BC and reached its peak between 9000 and 8000 BC. The site includes a number of circular rooms with two T-shaped pillars in the middle (see Fig. 41). Some of these pillars are an impressive six meters tall, making them the oldest megaliths ever found. Some of the pillars also have carved animals on them (see Fig. 42). Hundreds of people must have been involved in the construction of this site, and since no settlements have been found nearby, the place likely had some kind of ceremonial function.
Fig. 41 – Temples from Gobekli Tepe (10,000-8000 BC) (© Adobe Stock; Turkey)
Fig. 42 – Carving of an animal on a pillar from Gobekli Tepe (Erkcan; Turkey)
Another important early farming village is Catalhoyuk, which flourished around 7000 BC and had an estimated population of around 6000 people. The village consisted of square-shaped houses stacked next to each other in all directions (see Fig. 43). There were no streets, and villagers had to leave their houses through the ceilings using ladders. Some of the larger rooms had more extensive decorations. It is possible these were public meeting places or even shrines. Various rooms contained plastered bull heads (see Fig. 44) and beautiful murals, such as the ones depicted in Fig. 45 and Fig. 47. The first of these murals shows vultures next to decapitated human figures. The second image depicts what might be a hunt, although the characters on the left are looking in the other direction. One figure is carrying a drum and two might be headless. Some have wondered if these headless figures had something to do with the plastered severed skulls, which were also found in this village.
Some female figurines have also been discovered at Catalhoyuk (see Fig. 46). These fertility figures gained in prominence during the Neolithic, since fertility was now not just associated with birth, but also with the fertility of the soil. Mother Earth became the womb from which all living things were born.
Fig. 43 – Excavation at Catalhoyuk. (Omar Hufton, CC BY-SA 3.0, Turkey)
Fig. 44 – An on-site reconstructed room (Elelicht, CC BY-SA 3.0, Turkey)
Fig. 45 – Drawing of a room in Catalhoyuk with murals of vultures next to decapitated human beings (c. 7000 BC) (Catal Huyuk, James Mellaart, 1967, Turkey)
Fig. 47 – Drawing of a mural from Catalhoyuk of what seems to be a deer hunt with dancing hunters on the left (c. 7000 BC) (Inside the Neolithic Mind, David Lewis-Williams, 2005, Turkey)
The reliance of agriculture on the seasons prompted the discovery of the link between the seasons and the periodically changing orbit of the sun. During the spring equinox (March 20 or 21) and the autumn equinox (September 22 or 23), the sun rises exactly in the east and sets in the west (see the left side of Fig. 48) and day and night are of equal length (“equinox” actually means “equal night”). During the summer, the orbit of the sun shifts upward, rising somewhat north of east, reaching a higher point above the horizon, and staying up for a longer period of time, causing higher temperatures. On June 20, 21, or 22, the orbit of the sun reaches its highest point. This is called the summer solstice, corresponding to the longest day of the year. During the winter, the orbit of the sun shifts downward, rising somewhat south of east, reaching a lower maximum height above the horizon, and staying up for a shorter period of time, causing lower temperatures. On December 21 or 22, the orbit reaches its lowest point, known as the winter solstice, corresponding to the shortest day of the year (see the right side of Fig. 48).
Fig. 48 – On the left, we see the orbit of the sun as seen from the earth during the spring and autumn equinoxes. At these dates, the sun rises exactly in the east and sets in the west. On the right, we see that the orbit shifts upward during summer and downward during winter (S. P. Dinkgreve, worldhistorybook.com)
Recently, in Germany, two concentric wooden fences surrounded by a circular ditch and a mound were discovered, dating to about 4900 BC. The design of the site, called the Goseck circle, revealed that its creators had knowledge of the changing orbit of the sun throughout the year, making it very early evidence of ancient astronomy. Four openings in both the ditch and the fences seem to align with the location of sunrise and sunset during the summer solstice and the winter solstice. The winter solstice must have been especially significant to these farmers as it marks the point after which the sun gains in strength, creating warmer and longer days, which eventually causes the growth of vegetation.
Fig. 49 – The reconstructed Goseck circle. (c. 4900 BC) (Ralf Beutnagel, permission)
Around 3600 BC, the inhabitants of the Island of Malta constructed a number of magnificent megalithic temples. The Mnajdra temple seems aligned with the changing orbit of the sun. During the winter and summer solstice the sun shines precisely along the left and right edge of the door into the main room. In the Tarxien temple, from about 3200 BC, a number of altars were discovered on which animals were sacrificed, as well as the remains of a large statue of a female figure (see Fig. 51). Nearby, we also find a three-story underground tomb called the Hypogeum, which served as a burial site for about 7000 people. The site is known for its impressive architecture (see Fig. 52). A goddess figurine found in the tomb is sleeping on her side, possibly as a metaphor for death (see Fig. 53).
Fig. 50 – Top view of the Gjantija temple of Malta (c. 3600 BC) (Gozo Drone, permission)
Fig. 51 – Remains of a large goddess statue from the Taxien temple (c. 3200 BC) (Briangotts, CC BY-SA 3.0; Malta)
Fig. 52 – The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum in Malta (c. 3200 BC) (Richard Ellis)
Fig. 53 – A sleeping goddess figurine from the same site (Jan van der Crabben, CC BY-SA 3.0; National Museum of Archaeology, Malta)
Around 6000 BC, farming spread to Western Europe, where various communities began to build megalithic monuments made out of enormous stones, some dragged over enormous distances. Europe alone has about 35,000 of these monuments. The simplest versions consist of single vertically-placed stones or several stones placed in rows or circles, such as the circle of Almendres Cromlech, Portugal, dated to 6000 BC. A more advanced structure was the dolmen, which consists of a capstone placed horizontally on top of two or more standing stones (see Fig. 54). The capstone was dragged on top after covering the standing stones with a mound of earth. Moving these heavy rocks without modern machinery might seem like an impossible feat, but the construction of these structures has been replicated in modern times with the help of simple lever systems.
Fig. 54 – Pentre Ifan dolmen in Wales (3500 BC) (Wikimedia)
Fig. 55 – Bryn Celli Ddu passage grave in Wales (3000 BC) (Linguistic Demographer)
In some places, a number of dolmens were stacked next to each other to form a tunnel. This tunnel was then covered by a hill. We call these structures passage graves. In some of them, we have found the remains of skeletons, as well as pottery, weapons, tools, and various other objects. The dead were likely given these goods for use in the afterlife. A notable example is the Welsh grave named Bryn Celli Ddu (see Fig. 55). Here, the passage ends in a roughly circular chamber. In this room, we find a standalone stone carved with meandering and spiral patterns. Interestingly, we find this same motif in Neolithic tombs in both England, Ireland, and Brittany (France), suggesting contact between these regions. A beautiful example can be found on the inner walls of the passageway in the tomb of Gavrinis, an island belonging to Brittany (see Fig. 56).
Fig. 56 – Carved stones inside the passage of the Gavrinis Tomb in Britanny, France (3,500 BC) (Joachim Jahnke, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Fig. 57 – The Newgrange passage grave in Ireland (3200 BC) (Tjp Finn, CC BY-SA 4.0)
The most famous passage grave, from about 3200 BC, is called Newgrange and is located in Ireland (see Fig. 57). It is part of a set of three large tombs (the others are called Knowth and Dowth), and twenty smaller tombs, all in the bend of the river Boyne. More than a quarter of all Neolithic art of Western Europe was found in this area. Newgrange consists of a huge mound with a diameter of about 80 meters and a height of 13 meters. Its passageway is 19 meters long and 1.5 meters high and ends in a chamber with a 3.6-meter-high corbelled roof. This inner chamber has a crucifix-shaped ground plan, with a stone basin found in three of its arms (see Fig. 58). It is likely that the cremated remains of the dead were placed in these basins, as we have found human remains in a basin in the small satellite tomb called Newgrange Z. The entrance of Newgrange, seen in Fig. 59, used to be blocked by a large stone, which is now moved to the side of the entrance. Above the entrance, we find a stone “box” with open sides at the front and the back. Slightly in front of the door is a huge horizontal stone covered with spiral engravings. The other side of the mound has a similar stone, but no entrance.
Fig. 58 – One of the stone basins from Newgrange (c. 3200 BC). (O’Dea, CC BY-SA 4.0; Ireland)
Fig. 59 – Entrance of the Newgrange Passage grave. Notice the box above the door which lets through the sun during the winter solstice (3200 BC) (Ceoil, CC BY-SA 3.0; Ireland)
The passage of Newgrange is aligned with the sun in a spectacular way. During sunrise at the winter solstice—the shortest day of the year—sunlight shines through the box, lighting up the entire passageway for about 20 minutes. Today, light enters four minutes after sunrise, but at the time the structure was made, the light would have entered right on time.
The passage grave known as Knowth, located on the same riverbend, is surrounded by no fewer than 17 small tombs (see Fig. 60). The main tomb has two passages on opposite sides, both with a horizontal stone with spiral patterns in front. The main passage is 40 meters long and the ground plan of the chamber at the end has a crucifix shape, just as was the case in Newgrange. One of three basins found in the tomb is covered in circular engravings and radiating lines. In the right-hand chamber we have also found a beautiful mace head, again covered with spirals (see Fig. 61).
Fig. 60 – Areal view of the Knowth passage graves (c. 3000 BC) (Markiemcg1, CC BY-SA 4.0; Ireland)
Fig. 61 – Macehead with spiral pattern from Knowth (c. 3000 BC) (National Museum of Ireland, CC BY-SA 2.0)
One of the most remarkable and unique megalithic structures is Stonehenge (see Fig. 62). The building of Stonehenge started around 2,500 BC and took about 200 years. The monument consists of two types of stone. The larger stones were taken from a source nearby, but the smaller stones came from a source 400 kilometers away. In Fig. 63, we can see how the larger standing stones were connected to capstones with special joints. All the capstones were connected to form a smooth circle.
Fig. 62 – Stonehenge (c. 2500 BC). (© Shutterstock; England)
Fig. 63 – Special joints were used to connect the standing stones and the capstones (Kris Dinkgreve, permission)
Evidently, the building of this structure required immense effort and manpower, and therefore, it must have served a clear purpose. Unlike the passage graves, however, there is no evidence that Stonehenge was used as a burial site. Instead, it has been identified as a place of worship since a number of pits were found that were used for offerings. The ancient Greek writer Diodorus (1st century BC) referred to Stonehenge as a temple to Apollo, indicating a connection to sun worship. This theory is supported by the fact that sunlight shines through the main entrance on midsummer morning. Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1095–1155 AD), a medieval chronicler, wrote that Stonehenge was used as a place of healing. He reported that people poured water over the small stones and then washed themselves with it, hoping to be cured of their illnesses. However, this was thousands of years after the creation of the site and might not have been its original purpose.