- The place is the site of the world’s oldest temple
- In the main excavation sites, standing stones, or pillars, are arranged in circles. Beyond, on the hillside, are four other rings of partially excavated pillars
- the place was a burial ground, the dead laid out on the mound side among the stylized gods and spirits of the afterlife
In an ancient city in South-eastern Turkey, Klaus Schmidt, a German archaeologist has found one of the most stunning archaeological discoveries of the present time. This city found huge carved stones about 11,000 years old, crafted and organized by the primeval human beings who had not yet developed metal tools. The megaliths predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years. The place is the site of the world’s oldest temple as convinced by Schmidt and the name of the place is Gobekli Tepe.
“In the main excavation sites, standing stones, or pillars, are arranged in circles. Beyond, on the hillside, are four other rings of partially excavated pillars. Each ring has a roughly similar layout: in the center are two large stone T-shaped pillars encircled by slightly smaller stones facing inward. The tallest pillars tower 16 feet. As we among them, I see that some are blank, while others are elaborately carved: foxes, lions, scorpions and vultures abound, twisting and crawling on the pillars’ broadsides. ” as narrated by Andrew Curry in Smithsonian Magazine.
According to the Schmidt, this is the first human-built holy place.
As imagined by the Curry, how the landscape would have looked like 11,000 years ago, he said “Prehistoric people would have stared upon herds o0f gazelle and other wild animals; gently flowing rivers , which attracted migrating geese and ducks; fruits and nut trees; and rippling fields of wild barley and wild wheat varieties such as emmer and einkorn.”
According to Schmidt, no evidence have been found that people permanently lived there and this was a place of worship which was never known before—humanity’s first “cathedral on a hill.”
Schmidt used ground-penetrating radar and geomagnetic surveys to plot the entire summit and found that at least 16 other megaliths rings linger under the ground across 22 acres.
Anthropologists of the University of Chicago and Istanbul University were the first to scrutinize the Gobekli Tepe in 1960s but was dismissed because they assumed the place was nothing but a deserted medieval cemetery. Later in 1994, when Schmidt read a brief mention about the stone-littered mound in the University of Chicago researchers’ report and decided to go there, he found the place unusual.
Gobekli Tepe which means “belly hill” in Turkish, is 50 feet tall above the surrounding landscape and has a rounded summit dissimilar to the stark mesas nearby. Schmidt said that “It was clear right away this was a gigantic Stone Age site. ”
A year later Schmidt visited the place again with five colleagues and they discovered the first megaliths. As they dug deeper, they found pillars arranged in circles. Although, Schmidt’s team didn’t found any meaningful signs of a settlement: no cooking furnaces, houses or trash pits, and none of the clay fertility figurines that are easily found in the nearby sites belonging to the same age. But the carving on the stones did indicate the use of tools like stone hammers and blades. Schmidt and his team believe that Gobekli Tepe’s stone structure date back to 9000 B.C. since these stone artifacts are similar to others from nearby sites which belong to the same age.
According to Schmidt, primeval stonecutter’s wielding flint instruments could have chipped away at softer limestone outcrops, giving them a shape of pillars on the spot before shifting them a few hundred yards to the top and lifting them upright. And once the stone rings were completed, the ancient architects encrusted them with dirt. And one ring was placed on top of the other repeatedly. Eventually, these layers turned into a hilltop.
Now, Schmidt team has more than a dozen Herman archaeologists, 50 local laborers and a series of students. He works at the site for two months in spring and two months in the fall. In 1995, he bought a traditional Ottoman house with the courtyard in Urfa, a city of nearly a half-million people, to use as a base of operations.
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An archaeozoologist, Joris Peters has studied more than 100,000 bone fragments since 1998 from Gobekli Tepe. He found cut marks and disintegrated edges on them– evidence that the animals were butchered and cooked. Peters has recognized tens of thousands of gazelle bones, which accounts 60 percent of the total, in addition, those other wild animals like boar, sheep, and red deer. Bones of a dozen different bird species, including vultures, cranes, ducks and geese were also found. “The first year, we went through 15,000 pieces of animal bone, all of them wild. It was pretty clear we were dealing with a hunter-gatherer site,” Peters told to Andrew Curry. These remains of wild animals are the signs that the who settled here had not yet domesticated animals or farmed.
Research at other sites in the region has revealed that within 1,000 years of construction, settlers had corralled sheep, cattle, and pigs. At an ancient village just 20 miles away, geneticists found signs of the world’s oldest domesticated strains of wheat; radiocarbon dating reveals that agriculture developed there around 10,500 years ago, or just five centuries after Gobekli Tepe’s construction.
According to Schmidt, to erect and carve the seven-ton stone pillars would have required hands of hundred workers, all needing to be fed and sheltered. Therefore, communities settled in the area around 10,000 years ago. “This shows sociocultural changes come first, agriculture comes later,” says archeologist Ian Hodder of Stanford University who excavated Catalhoyuk, a primeval settlement 300 miles from Gobekli Tepe.
Danielle Stordeur, an archeologist at the National Centre for Scientific Research in France, explained the importance of the carvings of vulture that these birds have long believed to be the transporters of the flesh of the dead up to the paradise. Stordeur has found similar signs at sites belonging to the same time period as Gobekli Tepe 50 miles away from Syria. She said, “You can really see it’s the same culture”.
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Schmidt believes that the secret lies under the surface of the site.Research show that the floors of the rings are made of hardened limestone. To uncover all of the secrets hidden under the ground of Gobekli Tepe, Schmidt, and his team has to dig deeper.
However, Schmidt says, the place was a burial ground, the dead laid out on the mound side among the stylized gods and spirits of the afterlife.
– prepared by NewsGram team.