Critical Reading Essay

“The Sanctuary” (the world’s oldest temple and the dawn of civilization) by Elif Batuman is a paper outlining the earliest known civilization. Göbekli Tepe according to Elif is estimated to be be eleven thousand years old predating the great pyramids of egypt, and the earliest known cuneiform texts.

When I selected this paper, I based my first opinion on the title, thinking this was going to be a paper written strictly on fact and evidence (which just so happened to peak my interest), but it didn’t take me long to figure out that this was not going to be the case. So almost right from the start I felt betrayed and a little disappointed  

Reading through this paper I noticed that there were infact supporting evidence for this claim, however to me it seemed that the author spent more time telling about his travels than he did writing about the facts to support the information. Or in other words, it seemed that Elif was more of a tourist than a researcher. However Elif took a position as mostly a neutral party on the subject, he notes several different people from different fields who took sides on both hard evidence and hypothetical stand points. So perhaps this was his goal all along.

From my standpoint I had a hard time trying to figure out exactly what information I was supposed to be receiving. Was this an informative paper?  A log of a tourists perception? Perhaps this was about the local population and how they evolved through time? Was it about the culture of the local population? Was it about the culture of the ancient people? I think the best answer is simply that it was a log of what Elif had seen and experienced strictly out of his own curiosity.

So what could Elif had done different? In my opinion,to alleviate this confusion I believe the author should have stuck to one topic and started at the beginning with the archaeological facts, and progressed through time to the present day, using supporting evidence all the way through and tying each section of the paper together in a way that helps the reader follow a certain timeline throughout history. Instead I found myself jumping from one topic to another. One paragraph i’m reading about traffic, then the next i’m reading about biblical texts, then onto archaeologist interns, then onto a little back history about an archaeologist named Klaus Schmidt. I felt I was being pulled  in every which direction and never felt that I gained a firm hold on the text which is how it remained the whole way through.

It is important to note that although the text was all over the place, there were facts involved, along with stories, theories, conclusions based on evidence. But it wasn’t until the conclusion of the paper that I lost all sense of direction. There was a lot of time spent talking about past culture and how ancient people lived. But when it came to the conclusion, we end with Elif at a public prayer shrine with a local woman standing behind him praying. My thought was “what does this have anything to do with the paper I just read?”  Not to mention this thought had occurred several times during my reading. So if are looking for confusion and wanting to go in every direction possible this would be a good read for you. But if you are looking for structure and information, you better stay clear.


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