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Is Gobekli Tepe World’s First man-made Temple? Find out!

The place is the site of the world’s oldest temple as convinced by Schmidt, a German archaeologist and the name of the place is Gobekli Tepe

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Göbekli Tepe location map
Göbekli Tepe location map, Wikimedia Commons
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  • 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.

File:Göbekli Tepe, Urfa.jpg
Göbekli Tepe, Urfa. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

“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.

View of site and excavation
View of site and excavation, Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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.

File:Göbekli Tepe site (1).JPG
Göbekli Tepe site, Wikimedia Commons

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.

File:Göbekli Tepe Pillar.JPG
Göbekli Tepe Pillar, Wikimedia Commons

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.

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Really interesting to know this. There would be some other isolated part which might have even more evidences of such events

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Belling The Cat: The Difficult Relationship of India with Turkey

The land of the Whirling Dervishes, where the compassionate views of Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi have cast a lasting shadow, is India’s forbidden fruit

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Turkey and India's relationship is very rocky. Pixabay

By Tania Bhattacharya

  • India and Tukey share a bad relationship
  • There are numerous reasons for it
  • Some of the reasons are as trivial as they can get
Ms. Tania Bhattacharya

When the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, passed away on the morning of the 10th of November 1938, months before the world broke out into war, a Turkish lady in the streets of Istanbul commented to a reporter covering the tragedy, lamenting “Turkey has lost her lover. Now, she must marry and settle down”. The incident is mentioned in Irfan’s Orga’s ‘Phoenix Ascendant’, a comprehensive biography of Mustafa Kemal Pasha.

National heroes are lionized almost everywhere among native communities; but Ataturk and his younger contemporary Subhash Chandra Bose, enjoy a kind of veneration among their people, that even hardened jingoists elsewhere, would not be caught doing. Subhash was an admirer of Ataturk and was determined to meet him, until the British overlords of India, put a spanner in the works. That was not all. In his ‘Glimpses Of World History’, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, made glowing references to Mustafa Kemal, calling him a progressive head of state with the singular objective of emancipating the women of his country. Indeed in Turkey, Kemalism is the byword for progressiveness and the radical intellectual approach.

India and Turkey have troubles due to Kashmir as well. VOA

The trajectory of Sultanate ridden Turkey, and post-colonial India have been analogous, but with a few exceptions. Both countries started out with a prominent Socialist outlook, and statesmen who could navigate the complex waters of international one-upmanship to establish their nascent independent territories into positions of respect. Ataturk did this by having the humiliating Treaty of Sevres, scrapped and Nehru hoisted India to the enviable position of the leader of the NAM (Non-Aligned Movement).

Both men encouraged the scientific temper and set their respective countries on the path of western style democracy. India and Turkey are both Constitutionally Laic, Socialist Republics, with elected governments at the helm of affairs. Both states have successfully produced indomitable women heads of state; Indira Gandhi in India, and Tancu Ciller in Turkey.

However, barring the temper of the Constitutions of the two countries, there have been dichotomies which cannot be missed. The Indian state has an army that has never displayed an interest in the legislative functioning of its polity, maintaining a respectful distance from political upheavals. On the other hand, the Turkish military has tried to usurp power multiple times, in that country. The first three times it attempted to do so, it successfully affected a regime change. The years were 1960, 1971, and 1980. A fourth rumbling from the uniformed men was heard in 2016, but was immediately suppressed and extinguished by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Some insiders and whistle blowers have claimed, that the coup was an eyewash, that was perpetrated by Erdogan’s moles present within the military. After all, the only person who benefitted from the crackdowns, was Erdogan himself.

India’s north-western neighbour, has been a major roadblock on the path to India-Turkey relations. Right from its inception, Pakistan has been a firm ally of Turkey. The roots of this friendship go deep down and can be found embedded in the Khilafat movement of the sub-continent during British times, when Indian Muslims had banded together to oppose the abdication of the last Turkish Sultan, and with him, the position of the Caliph of Islam. Turkey supports Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir, something that has always troubled the Indian upper echelons, which wants to steer the relationship between their nation and Turkey, ahead.

Where Kemalism had impressed itself upon the elite masses of Turkey, with its accent on westernization, President Erdogan has managed to ride the votebank of the working class, with his emphasis on political Islam. He, unlike his other civilian predecessors, has not only managed to hold on to his position, but has also been successful in reinforcing it and becoming the master of all he surveys.

Terrorism is yet another problem between the two countries. VOA

Turkey remained unaffected by the Arab Spring revolts that have shaken the Middle East since the April of 2011, with the latest victims being Yemen and Iran, which is a testament to its stability. But, as India has watched from the sidelines, this crucial NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) member, has shown its back to democracy by embracing a new shade of totalitarianism in the form of the Turkish President’s office, stifled the opposition, dissolved protests from dissidents, and has sought to deal with the Kurdish problem in a much harsher way than previous governments.

Turkey being Asia’s gateway to Europe, a member of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation), and a developed nation by many estimates, is crucial to India as not only an economic partner, but also a comrade among the fraternity of the Islamic states, with whom maintaining good relations is vital to India’s interests. During the Cold War, Indo-Turkish bonding had been left in suspended animation due to a conflict of interests; as India was a founding member of the NAM (Non-Aligned Movement), while Turkey was firmly in the Allied Camp, in the Western created and controlled NATO setup.

In the 21st century, India and Turkey have produced two unexpectedly hawkish point men, who seem to share a warm personal rapport with each-other. While India’s Prime Minister Modi, started out in life as a tea seller, Turkey’s Erdogan used to sell lemonade at a train station. Born and raised in humble circumstances, the two men have shown some resolve in bettering their bilateral ties. The year that Modi was indicted for his indifference to the carnage of Gujarat’s Muslims – 2002 – was also the same year that Recep Tayyip Erdogan made himself visible on the radar of Turkish politics.

Also Read: How a young Astronomer from Turkey turned into an Islamic State Fighter

Despite the co-incidental sweet spot though, India and Turkey are unable to capitalize on the opportunities afforded to each-other. Among the thorny issues that need to be tackled, are:

  1. Trade
  2. Kashmir
  3.  FethullahGulen
  4. Terrorism

1.Trade between India and Turkey, is to the tune of 6.4 billion, but India accounts for a much smaller percentage of Turkish imports than other countries, especially those from within the European Union, from whom Turkey buys goods. There is an enormous potential in investing in infrastructure via construction, as Turkey can provide its assistance to India over the matter.

2. On the Kashmir front, Turkey currently favours Pakistan’s stand, though not openly discouraging India. As an ombudsman in the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation), it is imperative for India, to get Turkey on board over Kashmir and make that country sympathetic to our stand on the issue.

3. FethullahGulen is a spiritual Sufi Turkish leader, who presently lives in exile in the United States. He used to be a formidable political figure in the power corridors of Ankara, and was a close aide of President Erdogan. A one-time imam in Turkey, Mr. Gulen was an associate of Erdogan and his AKP (Justice and Development Party) and continues to preside over an empire of charitable institutions that provide education and low-cost housing to the needy, globally. Many Gulenist institutions function in India and have never caused a friction with the Indian state. However, during President Erdogan’s last Indian visit, which took place on the 1st of May 2017, he had insisted that India close down all Gulenist outlets, as they were instruments of sedition against his government. India refused to do so and looked upon the directive as amounting to interfering with our sovereignty, since any such decision could only be taken by our own authorities. Fethullah Gulen was accused of masterminding the military coup that took place in Turkey in the July of 2016, albeit without sufficient evidence. The coup itself, and the crackdown on it, was the bloodiest in the history of Turkey, but for the very first time, it was successfully contained by the elected government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Spiritually and philosophically, Mr. Gulen’s views are more feminist and reconciliatory than the pro-hardline views held by Erdogan.

President Erdogan of Turkey.Wikimedia Commons

4. During the day long meeting between President Erdogan and Prime Minister Modi, the former pledged full support to India in its fight against terrorism, but cherry picked on the issue. Erdogan’s primary concern was to help India in our war against the Naxalites, which is a Left-Wing secessionist movement in this country. As an Islamist Right Winger, the Turkish President’s anti-Naxalite stand was predictable. However, he evinced no particular interest in the incidents of cross-border terrorism that India has had to suffer. Pakistan and Turkey are close international allies, especially since Pakistan is the world’s only nation that supports the Turkish created entity of the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus). Turkey has suffered numerous terrorist attacks ever since the inception of the Turkish Republic in 1923, that were carried out by the PKK, an outlawed, armed Kurdish, political resistance group.

The reason why Turkey is important to India, is due to the reality, that Turkey is West Asia’s most important state, geographically, politically, and militarily. Situated at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, this much-misunderstood country, has been knocking on the doors of the EU (European Union) and if it resolves its Human Rights record pertaining to the Kurds, and the Ottoman Genocide, it might very well become the only Asian nation to be an EU member state. As a leading member of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Turkey’s support to India is vital for the latter to gain traction within the community of the Muslim world, since currently only some Gulf nations are friendly with us. Turkey is a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) member, and its military prowess within that body is substantial. It is the only progressive, and secular (though these are increasingly being eroded), developed nation in West Asia, with a stable political climate. India, being the country with the second largest Muslim population, it is imperative, that the two nations develop closer ties and lasting bonds, if they can lessen the distance between themselves.

The land of the Whirling Dervishes, where the compassionate views of Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi have cast a lasting shadow, is India’s forbidden fruit. It can only be hoped, that political wisdom, farsightedness, and reciprocity, will allow the Indians to lay the foundations of a unique friendship, with the West Asian colossus of Turkey.

Tania is a freelance writer with a Masters in Defence and Strategic Studies who has a wide range of interests.