Göbeklitepe Mound! A discovery: There has been a major shift in the way we know about human history. An ancient city in southeast Turkey: Şanlıurfa. The land where the prophet Abraham was thrown into the fire. Thousands of years older than Abraham. A big surprise!

History of Göbeklitepe

Göbeklitepe is approximately 22 km northeast of Şanlıurfa city centre. It is the oldest and largest known settlement in the world, located near the village of Örencik. Göbeklitepe dates back to approximately 12 thousand years ago. For this reason, it overturned a lot of information about the Prehistoric Period and the transition to settled life. Until recently, we assumed that Çayönü and Çatalhöyük were the oldest settlements. With the discovery of Göbeklitepe, the need to rewrite the history of civilizations and religions arose. We also thought that the first temple from the Prehistoric Period, dating back to 5000 BC, was located on the Island of Malta. Excavations at Göbeklitepe changed this information, revealing that the first temple was built in Anatolia in a much earlier period.

Göbeklitepe Architectural Structure and Features

Göbeklitepe consists of an arrangement of four monolithic columns connected by fragments of rough dry stone walls to form a series of circular or oval structures. At the center of each complex are two large columns facing inwards, surrounded by slightly smaller stones. Archaeologists believe these pillars could once have supported roofs. The structures range in size from about 33 to 98 feet and have floors made of terrazzo (burnt lime).

43 megaliths have been discovered in Göbeklitepe so far. They are mostly T-shaped columns of soft limestone up to about 16 feet high. It was excavated and transported from a quarry on the southwest lower slope of the hill. Geophysical surveys at the top have shown us that there are as many as 250 megaliths buried around the site. It shows that there were 16 more complexes at Göbekli Tepe at one time.

What Do Vulture Depictions and Reliefs Tell in Göbeklitepe?

The depictions of vultures at Göbekli Tepe have parallels at other Anatolian and Near Eastern sites. The walls of many temples at the Neolithic site of Çatal Höyük in south-central Turkey were decorated with large skeletal depictions of vultures.

One theory put forward to explain the importance of vultures in the Early Anatolian Neolithic period is as follows. It is in the context of possible exclusion practices that point to a funerary cult. After death, corpses were deliberately left out. Perhaps their skeletons would have been uncovered on some kind of wooden frame from which their flesh had been stripped by vultures. This practice still continues in the Himalayan and Asian steppes. The skeletons were then buried elsewhere. Perhaps the exclusion ritual was the focus of a cult of the dead practiced by the inhabitants of Göbekli Tepe. Because it certainly appears to have been found elsewhere in Anatolia and the Near East in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic.

Art in Göbeklitepe

Some of the standing stones in Göbeklitepe are empty. Some have elaborately carved reliefs and statues. They have extraordinary artifacts in the form of foxes, lions, bulls, scorpions, snakes, wild boars, vultures, waterfowl, insects and spiders. There are also abstract shapes and a relief of a nude woman posed in a front-seated position. Some T-shaped stones have depictions that look like weapons on their sides. It may indicate that the stones represent stylized humans or perhaps gods. The pictograms in Göbekli Tepe do not represent a writing style. However, they may have functioned as sacred symbols, the meanings of which were implicitly understood by the local population at the time.

The excavations in Göbeklitepe revealed monumental architecture, large stone sculptures, symbolic motifs and stylized animations as a cult center. It shows that the communities in the region should have a highly developed and versatile social structure. All these finds unearthed at Göbekli Tepe tell us this. In order to carry out such activities, it is necessary to bring large groups together: In other words, a good organization was needed. It seems that in ancient times: It reveals the existence of personal artistic skills and ritual impulses, a kind of understanding and search for art.

Man is a creature full of surprises! How far back does our history go? Where did it all start? Discoveries raise new questions.

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Photos : By Dick Osseman