Göbeklitepe is the oldest known sanctuary, or rather a complex of temples, predating the Egyptian Pyramids by 7,000 and Stonehenge in Britain by 6,000 years, showing that the Neolithic people written in history books only as pre-agriculture hunter-gatherers were in fact part of a much more advanced civilization!
THE GÖBEKLİTEPE DIG SITE
Göbeklitepe, a settlement dating back to the Neolithic period, is located near the village of Örencik, 18 km northeast of Şanlıurfa, Turkey. The Göbeklitepe tumulus has debunked the theory related to the settled history of the Neolithic era, about which history books say that ‘nomadic communities learned agriculture and then began a settled life’. The importance of the findings from the ongoing dig, which began in 1995 under the leadership of H. Hauptmann from the German Archeological Institute and is currently led by German archeologist Dr. Klaus Schmidt, is described by Stanford University Professor Ian Hodder as, “Gobeklitepe changed everything”.
Göbeklitepe is the oldest sanctuary, or rather a complex of temples, predating the Egyptian Pyramids by 7,000 and Stonehenge in Britain by 6,000 years, showing that the Neolithic people written in history books only as pre-agriculture hunter-gatherers were in fact part of a much more advanced civilization!
Considering four separate circular temples have been uncovered and that underground analyses show this count will soon reach twenty, this is a trove of treasure whose top layers are from 10,000 BC but might take us back all the way to 12,000 BC with the uncovering of the remaining temples. The findings so far clearly show that our hunter-gatherer ancestors did not just try to stay alive: to the contrary, they had advanced knowledge of engineering that helped them put 50 ton slabs of rock on top of each other. It would have been impossible to feed the large groups living here with only foraged food and hunted animals. This is why they would have carried out animal domestication and agricultural activities to meet their needs. Research in the region has revealed that the earliest form of wheat, which is an important culture plant with hundreds of genetic variations, was first grown on the skirts of Göbeklitepe.
Our ancestors who lived in this area 12,000 – 14,000 years ago not only tried to fulfill their daily needs, but also made an effort to understand nature, believed in the existence of supernatural powers or gods, and regularly gathered for religious ceremonies. During these ceremonies, they built temples and megaliths decorated with animal and human reliefs symbolizing their beliefs. Based on these findings, the archeologists working at dig site think that it was not economic or ecological reasons that prompted the transition to a settled life style, but rather these crowded and long lasting religious rituals. This means that civilization was not born in Palestine or lower Mesopotamia, but in Anatolia.
The Göbeklitepe tumulus, where the Prophet Abraham lived and Hebraic religions appeared, functioned as a holy center where people gathered at certain times to perform religious ceremonies. The most important findings are naturally the temples where the rituals took place. Inside the temple, which is 12 meters tall with 1.4 meter thick walls, are megaliths made up of two large stone blocks decorated with various reliefs placed on top of each other, representing the human form. The structures at Göbeklitepe show that an advanced social structure existed before pottery, the use of metals, the invention of writing or the wheel, even before the advent of agriculture and the domestication of animals, known as the Neolithic Revolution. In fact, some archeologists state that the “Neolithic Revolution” began in and around Göbeklitepe. Supporting this thesis is the absence of any pictorial representation of hunting animals, a trademark of the Stone Age, and the discovery of the earliest forms of wheat and various grains in this region. Also apparent are an organized working culture with certain social roles in the construction of a complex of temples on this scale as well as various rituals led by religious leaders ensuring a social organizational model during the use of these temples.
Similarities between Nevali Cori, a settlement which currently remains inundated by the waters of the Ataturk dam, only 25 km from Göbeklitepe and dated to a more recent time, show that this social structure was rather widespread.
The ‘T’ shaped megaliths with reliefs found at both sites, the structure of the base of the temples and the animal and human figures found there show us that the people of that era actually shared a common social and cultural structure. In the words of Dr. Klaus Schmidt, who is leading the dig, Göbeklitepe is the oldest known religious site in the world today.
It is a center of pilgrimage where visitors once traveled from 150-200 km away.
In fact, Schmidt surmises that it is highly likely that the holy mountain called Ekur, where the Annuna gods of the Sumerian belief system were later believed to live, refers to Göbeklitepe. Therefore, prior to beginning a settled way of life, people built temples before they built cities like Catalhoyuk and Jericho; and recreated the animals around them which they might have domesticated as religious symbols in the reliefs they made. The fact remains that Göbeklitepe is a site that witnessed the birth of religions are they are known today, and the world’s oldest sanctuary.