Göbeklitepe is located 20 km northeast of the city centreof Sanliurfa, in the easternmost part of Germüş mountain chain. Recorded for the first time by the archaeologists in 1964, the escavations started by the German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt in 1995, at the time of the rescue excavations of Atatürk Dam. In the first surface research, numerous Palaeolithic hand tools made from flint stones were found. Schmidt attention was attracted by the factthat, while the hills around the site were covered with hard rocks, Göbeklitepe was, on the contrary, covered with superimposed soil. Later on, when the upper part of one of the T shaped pillars was found among the stones cleaned from the fields by the villagers the archaeologist decided to start excavating thefull area. The first excavations was carried out between 1995-1998, and the archaeologist Klaus Schmidt understood immediately the importave of the place that was disoivered: the world’s oldest monumental temple.
Radio carbon analyses were conducted showing that Göbeklitepe dated back to 9600 BC meaningat least 12,000 years old: 6000 years older than Stonehenge of Great Britain, and 7000 years older than the Egyptian Pyramids. When Göbeklitepe was built, human beings were still foragers. According to the analyses carried out on the collected animal bones, there wereno domesticated animals, apart from dogs: this means that no draft animals, which could carry the columns from the quarry, were utilised.The most technological tool used during the construction of Göbeklitepe, were flint stone toolsused for sculpting of limestone columns, whose weight could reach up to 7 tons. The Iron Agewas not started yet and the local inhabitants did not know yet how to use metals.
Klaus Schmidt claims that theellipticalstructure is a kind of a temple. He states that semi-forager groups living around came together here in specific periods of the year, performed religious ceremonies, made vows, and executed various rituals. However, with theexcavations which followed, it was demonstrated that people also settled in Göbeklitepe. It is thought that the climate of was more appropriate and the area was more well-watered.
During the excavations carried out so far, structures built in the shape ofellipsis were unhearthed. However,the researches conducted through the underground monitoring technologies,show that, below the uhearted one, there are 20 more similar structures under the ground. The elliptical structures are surrounded by 12 T-shaped pillars, engraved with many reliefs of wild animals. In the middle, thetwo bigger pillars show human abilitiesin their shape:their appearances remind us of two people holding their hands on their bellies. Klaus Schmidt interpretsthat these two columns are the representation of women and men. Thereliefs on the T pillarsrepresent: fox, wild boar, deer, lion, leopard, spider (with 6 legs, while normal spiders have 8 legs), chicken, crane, vulture, duck, wild ass, wild cattle, snake, millipede, chevrotain / mouflon, H-shaped signs, human hands and arms, and horizontal and vertical semilunar. These symbols seem to have the repertoire and content of an unknown hieroglyphic writing. With the discovery and escavationof Göbeklitepe, theories about civilization start to be reviewed. Beforeits discovery, it was claimed that foragers did not have any belief and that the religion appeared later with the aim of dominating people and as the result of sedentarysm and class organizations. The studies of Göbeklitepe confuted to a large extent these claims demonstating that first the beliefs started and then the worshippers, still foragers, built a sophisticated religious centre such as Göbeklitepe.
Notwithstanding, the technology the buidersused and their way of organization were much more complex that what it had been thought:cutting and carving theT shape pillarsweighting 7 tons each, carrying the the pillars for 500 meters,from the stone quarry to the site, engraving, and erecting them requiredcomplicated organization skills.
Researches demonstrate thet, after being used for about 1000 years as worship place, Göbeklitepetemple was covered with earth. This was understood by studying the earth cover which preserved the site until our days,12,000 years later: no negative natural and human cosequences, in fact, affetcted the site. It is stillunknown whether it was consciously covered or covered by natural causes: this mystery is still one of the biggest secrets of Göbeklitepe.
Göbeklitepe is not only an archaeological area but it is also a mystic place. Sitting under the mulberry tree on top of the hill dominating Şanlıurfa Plain, many questions can be asked to ourselves about the history of humanity, civilization, and belief.
Göbeklitepe is included in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List sincespring 2018. Turkey isnow the only country in the world that has two of the oldest UNESCO Cultural Heritage Areas (Göbeklitepe- 9600 BCand Çatalhöyük- 7400 BC) in the world.
An interactive state of the art visitors’ centre, coffee-tea hosuse and restaurant, souvenir and book shop, parking lot, and toilets are available. Admission to archaeological site is charged 20TL per person. The site is open for visit every day between 08.00 – 19.00 in summer, and between 09.00 – 17.00 in winter. Transportation to Göbeklitepe is possible by private car or taxi.