“We used to think agriculture gave rise to cities and later to writing, art and religion. Now the world’s oldest temple suggests the urge to worship sparked civilization”
– Charles C. Man
While it is generally assumed that history is a study of some long over events of the past, the reality is that the more we study, the more our understanding of “the past” keeps changing here in the present and will continue to do so, on into the future. A case in point is the discovery of the ancient archeological site of Gobekli Tepe (pronounced: Gub-behk-lee-teh-peh) which dates c.10,000 BCE, pre-dating Stonehenge by some 6000 years. It was previously believed that the Cradle of Civilization was in Ancient Sumer within the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, in south-central Iraq, which dates from about 6000 BCE. Needless to say, the existence of Gobekli Tepe during the neo-lithic era mandates a complete revision of chronologies as well as previous theories about the history of mankind and the rise of civilization.
This outlier site was discovered in southern Turkey in 1964 and excavations by German archeologist Klaus Schmidt in 1996.. He began extensive explorations of this round mound whose name in Turkish means something like “pot belly”. While it is estimated that only 5% of the site has been excavated, ongoing projects have revealed circular and oval shaped structures in a megalithic ceremonial center which contains terrazzo-like flooring and massive capital T shaped, monolithic limestone pillars, completed with stone, clay and mortar walls. Many of these monoliths are polished smooth and decorated with abstract pictograms and highly sophisticated, detailed depictions of wild animals, reptiles, insects and many species of birds carved in high and bas-relief. This monumental feat was apparently achieved by hunter gatherers using primitive quarrying tools, long before the invention of the wheel, pottery, metallurgy or writing. While these excavations are raising more questions than answers, one of the greatest mysteries is why this temple site appears to have been very suddenly and completely back-filled around 8000 BCE.
We can look forward to more astonishing revelations since ground penetrating radar and geo-magnetic surveys have indicated 16 more circular structures across this 22 acre mound. While many believe Gobekli Tepe to be the world’s oldest temple construction, it could be that this is only the oldest yet discovered. And then there remains the enigma of the Pre-Inca ceremonial site Tiahuanaco high up in the Bolivian Andes. German-Bolivian scholar Arthur Posnansky of the University of La Paz spent 50 years studying the site and concluded that it dates back to 15,000 BCE. In 1945 Professor Posnansky published these findings in his four-volume Tiahaunaco: Cradle of American Man, which have been completely dismissed by orthodox academics. This too could change since only 2% of this mysterious complex has been excavated.