Göbekli Tepe

The most amazing ancient site, possibly in the world.

I know this is a bit of a giant leap from yesterday’s Post but bear with me.  A short while ago, my friend Suzann sent me a link to some information about the archaeological site in Eastern Turkey known as Göbekli Tepe.  Suzann, as many regular readers will know, was the person who caused me to meet Jeannie back in December 2007 when Su invited me to spend Christmas with her and Don, her husband, at their home down in San Carlos, Mexico.

Before I go on to write about Göbekli Tepe let me also muse on another fascinating connection between Suzann and me.  That is that Su and I were sharing the same waters in the Eastern Mediterranean around 1991.  Here’s an extract from a recent email from Su.,

Don’s brother’s boat was Hana Ho.from Honolulu, Hawaii, a Tayana 55…gorgeous thing! They sailed in the Med for years around that time…it is possible you could have run into them…..

When we first flew in to Cyprus June of 1991, Bob’s boat was up on the hard. It took another 5 days to finish, and we had to climb straight up and down a steep, rickety ladder each time we went out, because we slept on the boat every night….was it ever hot and muggy! and no bathroom facilities in use!! But had a lovely time in Cyprus and really got out and saw things there. Delicious food!!

Then we sailed over toward the Turkey/Syrian border area and then gunk-holed west along the coast, ending up at Izmer, after visiting places like Antalya, Kekova Roads,Fethiya and the magnificent Rock Tombs, Marmaris, Bodrum, Kisadasi, Ephesus to name a few….

I, too, was living on a yacht, over-wintering in Cyprus, and cruising the Turkish and Greek coasts during the summer.  Anyway, enough of these musings.

A scene from Gobekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe is old.  I mean seriously old.  For example, I’m very familiar, being an Englishman, with the mystery and antiquity of Stonehenge.  But even the revised estimates of Stonehenge’s age, now believed to be 3,000 B.C., don’t measure up to the age of Göbekli Tepe.

The Smithsonian website explains much in a fascinating article about Gobekli Tepe, (do click on that link as the Smithsonian article is extremely interesting).

Six miles from Urfa, an ancient city in southeastern Turkey, Klaus Schmidt has made one of the most startling archaeological discoveries of our time: massive carved stones about 11,000 years old, crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery. The megaliths predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years. The place is called Gobekli Tepe, and Schmidt, a German archaeologist who has been working here more than a decade, is convinced it’s the site of the world’s oldest temple.

[my italics]

Imagine, there are fewer years between today and the building of Stonehenge than there are between the construction of Göbekli Tepe and Stonehenge!  Think about that!

Anyway, enjoy this video,

and if that grabs your interest then there is a longer 25-minute radio broadcast by Klaus Schmidt that is on YouTube, see below:

German archeologist Klaus Schmidt, from the German Archaeological Institute, who has been working as the head archeologist at Göbekli Tepe, a temple site located in southeastern Turkey close to the boarder to Syria. Klaus has been excavating there since 1994 and he joins us to talk about the excavation work, and to give us his impressions and theories about the site and the people who built it and worshiped at this ancient temple site. The temple is believed to have been erected in the 10th millennium BC (about 11,500 years ago). It is believed to be the oldest human-made place of worship, it’s even been called the Garden of Eden. Only about 3-5% of the site has been excavated so far, which has unveiled several stone circle rooms, only one of which has been dug down to the floor. As many as 20 such structures are thought to exist under the ground at the site, these have been detected by radar scans. These stone circles have large T-shaped pillars, some of the heaviest stones weigh up to 50 tons. The monoliths are decorated with carved reliefs of animals, abstract pictograms, sacred symbols and similarities to Neolithic cave paintings have been pointed out. The carefully carved figurative reliefs depict lions, bulls, boars, foxes, gazelles, donkeys, snakes and other reptiles, insects, arachnids, and birds, particularly vultures and water fowl. Göbekli Tepe means “Hill with a potbelly” although there already exists other interpretations of the name, connected to the word “Zep Tepi” or “The First Time” a period in beliefs of a mythological golden age when the gods lived amongst humanity together with half-divine offsprings of gods and humans. Is Göbekli Tepe the Garden of Eden? June 24, 2010

If you want more to read then I can do no better than recommend the article that Suzann linked to in her email.  It’s here and it starts thus,

Gobekli Tepe: 12,000 Years Old and Rewriting Human History

“This time what came first was the temple and then the city.”

– Klaus Schmidt, Ph.D., German Archaeological Institute

12,000-year-old circles of limestone columns weighing from 7 to 15 tons or more have been excavated in Gobekli Tepe, Turkey, about 6 miles northeast of Urfa.

Older than Egypt, Sumeria and Stonehenge, 40 standing T-shaped columns have so far been uncovered in four circles 98 feet (30 meters) in diameter. To date, no metal tools have been found since meticulous digging and dating began in 1994. Only 5% of the temple complex in repeating circles has been uncovered.

Ground-penetrating radar surveys indicate there might be at least 250 more standing stones in 18 still-buried circles. Finely honed reliefs and some 3-dimensional sculptures on the limestone columns depict boars, foxes, lions, birds, snakes, scorpions, vultures, reptiles, humans and other figures.

You’ll have to read the rest of the article here.

Sort of puts the history of man into perspective!

11 thoughts on “Göbekli Tepe

  1. Amazing stuff, Paul. Thanks for posting this. I know the answers are probably in the longer video but, how on earth did these people create the exquisite carvings (I particularly liked the warthog relief and 3D hippo) – to say nothing of the large flat-sided megaliths – without metal tools?


    1. Strength of limestone within a few miles in France variesby a factor of twenty (although they make cliffs that look the same!). Hard ignous rock will dig into soft limestone easily.


  2. Amazing archaeology… Turkey is the home of several sites of similar age, as you say, ‘putting the history of man into perspective’ I have long been a fan of Catal Hoyuk ( http://www.catalhoyuk.com/ ), which seems of similar age — a large thriving community now preserved and open for the public to visit. Let’s hope World Heritage can help the Turkish government to preserve Gobekli Tepe the same way. I am sure there is much we can learn from these very ancient ancestors.


    1. Thanks Wen, and thanks for that link to the Çatalhöyük, Turkey site – a quick look was fascinating – recommend others to go there http://www.catalhoyuk.com/

      I would have loved to explored that part of Turkey when sailing in the area but all the advice from the Brits in Cyprus was to stay away because of it’s proximity to the Syrian border.

      Love your own blogsite, by the way. Recommend all LfD readers to call by and enjoy Wen’s writings – http://riotthill.com/


  3. In the weird and sensational category, it’s now known that crops from the Fertile Crescent (to which the city/temple above belongs) arrived in Italy with their farmers. Genetic studies.


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