Turkey Gbekli Tepe Temple Was Built 11,600 Years Ago 05.25.11   Search

Cleanly carved stone temple predates Giza by 7,000 years

National Geographic Magazine

The mysterious structures unearthed at Gobekli Tepe in Southeastern Turkey may have been planned and constructed with the help of ancient aliens or some as-of-yet forgotten/undiscovered technology used by humankind in our distant past. Scientists have excavated less than a tenth of the site -- enough to convey the awe it must have inspired 7,000 years before Stonehenge. Massive stone pillars arranged into a set of rings, are mashed up against the next. Known as Gbekli Tepe (pronounced Guh-behk-LEE TEH-peh), the site is vaguely reminiscent of Stonehenge, except that Gbekli Tepe was built much earlier and is made not from roughly hewn blocks but from cleanly carved limestone pillars with carvings of animals.


It was built some 11,600 years ago, seven millennia before the Great Pyramid of Giza. It contains the oldest known temple, the oldest known example of monumental architecture—the first structure human beings put together that was bigger and more complicated than a hut. When these pillars were erected, nothing is known of a comparable scale that existed in the world. These megaliths are not just random stones, but rather shaped and sculpted into pillars pointing toward the sky.

temple tower

At the time of Gbekli Tepe's construction the human race lived in small nomadic bands that survived by foraging for plants and hunting wild animals. Construction of the site would have required more people coming together in one place than had likely occurred before. Amazingly, the temple's builders were able to cut, shape, and transport 16-ton stones hundreds of feet despite having no wheels or beasts of burden. The stones are carved with animals. Gbekli Tepe may be the first religious center on Earth, but who inspired its creation? It is interesting to note much older structures are found on Mars.

temple animal

Archaeologists are still excavating Gbekli Tepe but it has already overturned earlier ideas about our species' deep past. Just 20 years ago most researchers believed they knew the time, place, and rough sequence of the Neolithic Revolution that took Homo sapiens from scattered groups of hunter-gatherers to farming villages and from there to technologically sophisticated societies with great temples. Gbekli Tepe has begun forcing archaeologists to reconsider.

At first the Neolithic Revolution was viewed as a single event—a sudden flash of genius—that occurred in a single location, Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now southern Iraq, then spread to India, Egypt, and beyond. Most archaeologists believed this sudden blossoming of civilization was driven largely by environmental changes: a gradual warming as the Ice Age ended that allowed some people to begin cultivating plants and herding animals in abundance. The new research suggests that the "revolution" was driven by religion. Most of the world's great religious centers, past and present, have been destinations for pilgrimages—think of the Vatican, Mecca, Jerusalem, Bodh Gaya (where Buddha was enlightened), or Cahokia complex in Illinois. What it suggests is that the human sense of the sacred—and the human love of a good spectacle—may have given rise to civilization itself.

Klaus Schmidt, a researcher at the German Archaeological Institute, spent the autumn of 1994 looking for another place to excavate in southeastern Turkey. The town nearby is Anlurfa, the place where the Prophet Abraham supposedly was born. These are the foothills of the mountains that run across southern Turkey, source of the famous Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

Thanks to George Filer and the National Geographic Magazine


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