A team of Turkish- American archaeologists has discovered the world’s first temple known to man in Gobekli Tepe, located in southeast Anatolia. Gobekli tepe in Turkish means pot belly. First discovered in a survey in 1963, excavations began in 1994–1995. By 1997, T- shaped 6meters high stone pillars built by neolithic communities 11500 years ago were unearthed.
The discovery was so profound that it upended the contemporary understanding of late hunter-gatherer society, as the finding predates agriculture, pottery, and animal husbandry.
As less than 5% of the site has been excavated, work on the site continues to this day by researchers from the Istanbul University, Sanliurfa Museum, and the German Archaeological Institute. In 2018, in recognition of its paramount universal value as the home of the oldest megaliths known to man, the site was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage.
The excavated pillars are decorated with wild animal reliefs and clothing. It’s believed that the first human settlements appeared here, and researchers hope further studies will help provide insight into the prehistoric religion and iconography of the era.
Carbon dating shows that the structures were built between 9500 and 9000 BCE. Klaus Schmidt, a German archaeologist who, until he died in 2014, supervised the digs on the site, believed that Gobekli Tepe was the world’s first temple.
However, there is an on going debate within the archaeological community. For example, was the site both a settlement and a place of worship? In addition, the site’s hilltop location, the lack of water sources, and the absence of agricultural evidence led researchers to revise some of their former interpretations.
They used geometry
In mid-2020, researchers from Tel Aviv University and Israel Antiquities Authority have, in architectural analysis, found that our ancestors used geometry in their planning to guide them to construct the round stone structures, including the mega assembly of limestone pillars.
Published in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal, the findings were astounding. Professor Avi Gopher of the Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology said,
“Gobekli Tepe is an archaeological wonder. Since there is no evidence of farming or animal domestication at the time, the site is believed to have been built by hunter-gatherers. However, its architectural complexity is highly unusual for them.”
While our ancestors were sophisticated enough to use geometry in their constructions some 7000 years before Stonehenge and 7500 years before the earliest step pyramids of Egypt, the Gobekli Tepe complex might hold the great secrets of our past as a species.
Though our scientific advances in technology today allow us to seek answers to humanity’s great questions by exploring space, perhaps the answers are nearer than we think. If researching our ancestors is the doorway to humanity’s secrets, Gobekli Tepe might be the key that unlocks all.