“Gobekli Tepe changes eveything.” (Ian Hodder, Stanford Universty Archeologist)
“Before we knew how to farm, before we lived in a village, before we even knew how to make pots, we built a star temple on a hill.” (Klaus Schmidt)
The desire to build a temple begins with faith. The oldest known man made structure for prehistoric worship was discovered in 1994 by German archeologist, Professor Klaus Schmidt and portions of the excavation are now open to the public. In 1963, Gobekli Tepe or Pot Belly Hill was initially dismissed as a relatively recent medieval cemetery, but Professor Schmidt had a hunch that this soft round mound, 300 meters in diameter, was an artificial, man-made hill on top of a huge limestone ridge, and would be worth excavating. The result was likely the most important discovery of all time, of a gigantic megalithic complex. In “The Birth of Religion”, Charles C. Mann said that “Gobekli Tepe was like finding that someone had built a 747 in a basement with an X-Acto knife”. (National Geographic Magazine, June 2011). Built 6000 or more years earlier and fifty times larger than Stonehenge and even older than the pyramids at Giza, this astounding find is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Gobekli Tepe is located in the southeastern Anatolian region of Turkey, within the upper arc of the Fertile Crescent. There are forested mountains to the north, and the biblical plain of Harran to the east, extending on toward the historically rich lands of Mesopotamia. Gobekli Tepe is only 12 km from Urfa, now Sanlurfa, the legendary birthplace of the biblical patriarch Abraham; and also believed to be the site of the sufferings of Job. On a clear day you can see Syria from the summit, which also makes this a dangerous place to visit. (worldhertitagesite.org)
Initial excavations by Professor Schmidt and others from the German Archeological Institute, revealed open air, semi-subterranean circular enclosures, with an astronomical north/south alignment, thick interior walls with twelve T shaped, finely polished pillars evenly set into a substance similar to concrete; giving the appearance of a stone circle .The number twelve, along with snake, bull, and scorpion imagery, may or may not have zodiacal associations.This is expectedly controversial and more research is clearly indicated. Many of these giant pillars, quarried from nearby crystalline limestone and believed to be somewhat humanoid, are gracefully carved in low and vivid three dimensional high-relief, with wild animals, insects and abstract symbols. Some pillars have highly stylized long thin arms, crooked at the elbow, finely carved human hands with long fingers which come together on the abdominal area, a distinctive belt and animal pelt loin cloth. In the center of this circle, two of the largest pillars about 20 feet high and weighing 20 to 30 tons each, stand facing one another. (Klaus Schmidt, TEDx, Prague, July 8, 2014)
With ground penetrating radar geological surveys, it now appears that the entire site may be as large as 30 hectares, with 18 circles still buried, and only five percent having been uncovered. For enigmatic reasons, these massive circular enclosures were deliberately buried in 8000 BC, effectively creating a time capsule into life 12,000 years ago; a time of the late Upper Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) hunters and gatherers; undisturbed by later cultures. Until the discovery of this entombed complex, it was believed that these early groups did not possess the skill or social organization to be able to construct anything like a star temple aligned with several constellations in the sky. (Andrew Collins, Gobekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods, 2014)
Professor Schmidt and others hypothesize that Gobekli Tepe was built by hunters who met to build a complex religious community and that the site was a kind of “Pre-historic Rome”,
where people came from near and as far as 160 km in order to worship. While many stone and flint tools have been found, there is neither a local water source nor evidence of domestic animals, pottery or ongoing habitation. At this point, it seems likley that this site was a hunter’s sanctuary and spiritual center, given the large number of wild animal bones buried nearby. The T shaped pillars hum when struck with an open palm and one could imagine an amphitheatrical effect of chanting and dancing under the starry firmament, with firelight casting shadows of animal totems and perhaps an aroma of roasting game. A preponderance of vulture imagery suggests that this site may also have had an excarnationary function, a post-mortem practice across Central Asia which survives today in Tibet’s sky burials. In such earlier cultures it was believed that these high flying carrion birds transport the flesh of the dead up to the heavens. Gordon White, Star Ships: A Pre-History of the Spirits, 2016)
While the temple was apparently built by Stone Age hunters and gatherers, Graham Hancock, author of Magicians of the Gods, (2017), has suggested that there might have been a techological transfer offered by survivors of a more advanced culture fleeing a global cataclysm. He bases this speculation on the fact that Gobekli Tepe arose at exactly the same time that Plato placed the destruction of Atlantis. While this does seem plausible, and if this is true, I am puzzled by a lack of any evidence of writing. Then again, since only five percent of these vast temple complexes have been uncovered, there may well be many more surprises in store.