Göbekli Tepe: the ancient temple that changed our view of the beginning of civilization

On a dusty hilltop in southwestern Turkey is an ancient temple that shouldn’t exist.

In 9,000 BC, people set up a series of round buildings decorated with giant “T”-shaped pillars carved with pictures of animals and humans. The buildings are 10-30 meters in diameter with a taller pair of pillars in the center and smaller ones at regular intervals around the circumference. The pillars range from 3-6 meters tall and weigh 6-10 tons each.

The hauling, cutting, and setting up of the pillars would have taken a huge amount of work, especially considering that 11,000 years ago people had no metal tools, no agriculture, not even any pottery. The temple at Göbekli Tepe has taught us that people were setting up major buildings before they even lived in towns. It’s turned out idea of prehistory upside down.

Now Göbekli Tepe is undergoing conservation by the Global Heritage Fund in order to preserve it for future study and protect it from looters.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Göbekli Tepe is that only about 5 percent of the site has been excavated. Who knows what this temple, built by hunter-gatherers 6,000 years before Stonehenge, will teach us next?

[Both images courtesy Wikimedia Commons]