Göbekli Tepe is a site in South-East Turkey, just north of the Syrian border near the town of Sanliurfa that has been excavated for the past 15 years. The Smithsonian.com website noted(be) that “Gobekli Tepe was first examined—and dismissed—by University of Chicago and Istanbul University anthropologists in the 1960s. As part of a sweeping survey of the region, they visited the hill, saw some broken slabs of limestone and assumed the mound was nothing more than an abandoned medieval cemetery.”
The site work has been led by the German archaeologist, the late Klaus Schmidt, who has dated the site to 9600 BC, eerily coinciding with Plato’s apparent date for the war with Atlantis. In fairness to those who accept Plato’s date, the existence of the monuments at Göbekli Tepe at such an early date at least indicates the possibility, of Plato’s date being correct. However, I am not altogether happy with the date assigned to the site, as I cannot imagine how the stones were carved to such a high standard without metal tools, a development still some thousands of years in the future. Dating details are available online(ar).
There is now a claim that another site, Körtik Tepe, may even be older(av), with a suggested date of 12,500 to 11,700 years ago! Furthermore, another site, Boncuklu Tarla, located about 300 kilometres east of Göbekli Tepe is also believed to be older(br).
A paper by Schmidt on the development of agriculture at the time of Göbekli Tepe is freely available online(ao)
Sanliurfa mentioned above was ancient Urfa and is suggested by David Rohl as the original Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.
The site consists of megalithic stone circles with T-shaped uprights on some of which are carved a variety of animals. What is most peculiar is the fact that these monuments were completely buried after hundreds of years of use. One suggestion is that the site is pre-diluvian and was buried by the biblical Flood!
A paper by Alastair Coombs entitled The Atlantis Twins offered further thoughts on possible prehistoric references, including a suggested link with Göbekli Tepe. This was expanded and retitled as Göbekli Tepe & the Atlantis Twins and later published on Graham Hancock’s website(aq)(bx)*.
Schmidt was convinced that this site marked the transition from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural society. An interesting article is to be found in the March/April 2009 issue of Saudi Aramco World and on its website(a).
The consensus now is that Göbekli Tepe is the oldest known temple in the world, predating the temples of Malta by an astonishing 4,000-5,000 years. This, of course, is based on the dating offered by Schmidt, which may require revision. Further north is the ancient site of Kahin Tepe considered to be the oldest temple site in the Black Sea region. The remains of structures there have been identified as belonging to the Aceramic Neolithic Period, which dates back as far back as 12,000 years ago(bf).
However, Adam’s Calendar(c) in Mpumalanga, South Africa, has been dated to over 70,000 BC, which, if true, would throw an even greater number of theories onto the scrap heap. However, such dates are highly speculative and, at this point, without any scientific basis.
An imaginative article by Tom Knox, in the UK’s Daily Mail Online, suggested that Göbekli Tepe may be connected with the Garden of Eden(bd). Klaus Schmidt commented that ‘Gobekli Tepe is not the Garden of Eden: it is a temple in Eden.’
However, the idea that Göbekli Tepe is a temple site has been challenged by Professor Ted Banning at the University of Toronto, who has claimed(j) that it was ‘one of the world’s biggest garbage dumps’ suggested by the amounts of bones, tools and charcoal found there. Instead, he claims that the structures were homes, I find this unconvincing. Needless to say, Schmidt was also unhappy with Banning’s contention and was writing a rebuttal of his claim, which I’m not sure if it was completed or published.
Readers might be interested in comparing the monuments of Gobekli Tepe with the taulas of Menorca(d) at the far end of the Mediterranean. Some of which are also to be found in clusters.
Studies have confirmed astronomical alignments at these sites(i). A German site has highlighted a possible connection(ac). The most extensive publication on the subject of taulas was published in 1995 by Hochsieder & Knösel, in French.
A 2020 paper by Gil Haklay & Avi Gopher has concluded that their “architectural formal analysis (and the central points calculated) has brought to light an underlying geometric pattern based on an equilateral triangle and a set of main perpendicular axes that ties together Enclosures B, C and D under a single, rather complex geometric design. This suggests a new understanding of what has been initially planned and then built in the enclosure’s system of the main excavation area. It offers an answer to questions on the chronological relationships between the three enclosures, and it evokes insights regarding the architectural design process and how such architectural complexity could have been achieved.” (bv)
National Geographic magazine published a leading article on the site in June 2011, which can be read online(e). A new website devoted to Göbekli Tepe with more images is worth a visit(f). Another well-illustrated site(k) has drawn attention to the possibility that the animal images at the site match constellations at the time they were carved. It will be interesting to see how this particular investigation proceeds.
Nevertheless, another temple site 30 km to the northwest, Nevali Çori(g), dated to 6,000 BC also has T-shaped pillars but in my mind, it raises the question of how the same form of the monument would still be in use three and a half thousand years later. I would expect some stylistic evolution unless, of course, the dating of the two sites should be closer.
Another large site designated as Karahan Tepe(t), which is 63 km east of Sanliurfa is ‘reported’ to have hundreds of pillars, many T-shaped(h). In September 2019, a start on the excavation of the site was announced(aw). Work continued through 2020 and is expected to restart in 2021(bg). The suggestion now is that Karahan Tepe may be older than Göbekli Tepe(bq). Andrew Collins has written a paper entitled Karahan Tepe: Göbekli Tepe’s Sister Site—Another Temple Of The Stars?(bj)
A Norwegian website(l) has some little-seen images of the Göbekli Tepe site.
A new suggestion has now emerged linking Easter Island and the ongoing discoveries at Göbekli Tepe. This seems to date back to early 2010(m) and has now been given greater prominence in Robert Schoch’s most recent book, Forgotten Civilization. A 2013 article(n) by Schoch includes a report of a recent visit by him to the site.
In July 2013 a paper(o)(p) by Giulio Magli explores the possibility that Göbekli Tepe had been constructed to “celebrate and successively follow the appearance of a new, extremely brilliant star in the southern skies: Sirius.” Sirius is the brightest star and had significance for ancient Egyptians and Greeks and features in Robert Temple’s theory regarding the astronomical knowledge of the Dogon people of Mali.
Magli’s suggestion has been dismissed in a paper(q) by Andrew Collins and Rodney Hale, who have made the alternative proposal that if there was an intended astronomical orientation, a more likely candidate was the star Deneb in the Cygnus constellation. Collins has already explored the significance of that constellation in the ancient cultures of America, Egypt and Britain in The Cygnus Mystery.
Nevertheless, Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore have written(bi) about the Cygnus Constellation and a possible link with Ireland’s Newgrange .
In 2014, Collins devoted an entire book to the Göbekli Tepe discoveries with the publication of Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods. In it, he refers briefly to Atlantis commenting that “Plato’s account of Atlantis might well be based on some kind of historical reality” (p.168). This seems to lack the certainty he showed in his best-selling Gateway to Atlantis. Collins and Rodney Hale have published a paper in which they discuss the possible astronomical value of ‘Pillar 43’ at Göbekli Tepe(bw).
Additionally, Collins has produced a 68-minute video entitled Gobekli Tepe and the Watchers of Eden, referencing his earlier work(w). A preview(y) of Genesis of the Gods has been published on several websites including Academia.edu and Graham Hancock.com. Collins’ book has been heavily criticised as pseudoscience(an) by at least one reviewer on ‘goodreads’.
Hugh Newman, author and self-confessed ‘megalithomaniac’ has now proposed links between Göbekli Tepe and ancient Peru. He has also managed to include Göbekli Tepe in his theory of earth grids(r). Another writer, Trebha Cooper, claims a link between France and Göbekli Tepe(x)!
The unexpected death of Klaus Schmidt (1953-2014) took place on Sunday, July 20th 2014 and was announced shortly afterwards(s).
In September 2014, archaeologists on the site were describing it as “the oldest known sculptural workshop on the planet.”(v)
The excellent The Stream of Time website from ‘antiquated antiquarian’ has a couple of well-illustrated blogs relating to Göbekli Tepe(z) and the region generally.
In April 2015, the Ancient Origins website published a two-part article(ag) by Ozgür Baris Etli, a Turkish scientist, in which he discusses the most recent discoveries on the site. The article(aa)(ab) is well illustrated as the author reviews the carvings there and their possible relevance to the early development of religion. In a 2016 article(ah), on the same site, he has drawn attention to the similarity of the position of carved hands at Göbekli Tepe, Easter Island as well as some other sites around the world where the hands are shown meeting at the navel. The significance of this, if any, is not known.
What has been identified as possibly the earliest pictograph in the world has now been revealed at the Göbekli Tepe site(ad). Andrew Collins also claims(ae) to have found the earliest depiction of Göbekli Tepe in the museum at Sanliurfa. Not unexpectedly Jason Colavito has a few words to say on the matter(af). Colavito also has a critical view(ai) of the recent Turkish documentary, supported by the government, which claims that Göbekli Tepe was built by Telah, Abraham’s father, and destroyed by Abraham. So who built Nevali Çori?
A 2016 paper(bm) by J.A. Belmonte, et al offers a review of recent archaeoastronomical studies in the Eastern Mediterranean including Göbekli, the Hittites and the Egyptians.
The March 2017 edition of Mediterranean Archaeology & Archaeometry (Vol.17, No.1, pp 233-250) includes a paper(aj) by M.B. Sweatman & D. Tsikritsis of the University of Edinburgh. In it they claim that the animals carved on the Göbekli Tepe pillars represent asterisms and that they found “compelling evidence that the famous ‘Vulture Stone’ is a date stamp for 10950 BC ± 250 yrs, which corresponds closely to the proposed Younger Dryas event, estimated at 10890 BC.” Understandably, their claims have been met with stony scepticism(ak). Sweatman has expanded his ideas further in Prehistory Decoded .
Shortly after Sweatman & Tsikritsis (S&T) published their paper, a number of the archaeologists who have excavated at the site quickly published, in the same journal, several critical comments relating to the methodology and conclusions of S&T(bn).
The interpretation of the carvings has exercised the imagination of various researchers such as Graham Hancock, Andis Kaulins, and Paul Burley, as well as Sweatman and Tsikritsis, but no consensus has emerged, apart from an element of an agreement that some form of zodiacal representation is involved. The range of decipherments is discussed in detail in a paper by Edmond Furter who is disinclined to accept the zodiac explanation(bl).
In an August 2019 article on Graham Hancock’s website(at) Sweatman ventures further into the realms of wild speculation with the suggestion that Göbekli Tepe should be considered the world’s first ‘university’. This obviously had Jason Colavito spluttering into his cereal bowl, prompting him to apply his literary scalpel to the idea(au).
Constantinos Ragazas has produced a paper(am) in which he argues against the early date ascribed to Göbekli Tepe by Schmidt and others. He ponders on “How a Date can go wrong: Were Göbekli Tepe built 600 BC by Babylonians/Assyrians, no one would flinch a thought. It is the Date that makes Göbekli Tepe an enigma. The great dilemma for archaeologists is reconciling the date with the people that built Göbekli Tepe. Either the date is wrong or our theories of prehistoric people are wrong. And prehistoric people were more capable 12,000 years ago than all our other evidence tells us. Archaeologists trust their data over their understanding of prehistoric people. I argue the date is wrong. And prehistoric people were as we have always thought.” While this is controversial enough, Ragazas goes further and claims that Göbekli Tepe is, in truth, the site of the ‘Hanging Gardens of Babylon’!
However, Ragazas’ reservations regarding the early dating of Göbekli Tepe were given further support in an extensive 2016 paper(ap) by Dimitrios Dendrinos of the University of Kansas.
In March 2019, a paper by Roger M. Pearlman put forward another radical idea, namely, that Göbekli Tepe had been founded by Noah (Noach) and his sons(as).
There was further excitement at Göbekli Tepe in September 2019 when Andrew Collins was removed from the site and his book, From the Ashes of Angels, banned in Turkey and Collins himself may be subject to a ban. It seems that he may have expressed pro-Kurdish sentiments, which is a big no-no with the Turkish authorities. It is also speculated that some of Collins’ historical views run counter to some extreme Islamic interpretation of the past!
2019 produced another radical theory from A.Refik Kutluer, a Turkish tourism executive, who proposed in an interesting article(ax) that Göbekli Tepe was a site of ritual sacrifice. He suggests the possibility that “Men tried to placate the gods to avoid their anger and to keep them satisfied. As the gods punished them with natural disasters taking many lives when they became angry, men sought a way to mollify the gods, killing some of their own to ward off the gods’ rage, thinking that the gods were satisfied when these people or animals were sacrificed.“
2019 also saw reports(ay) of a ‘mini’ Göbekli Tepe in the Mardin Province of southeast Turkey and dated to 11,300 years ago.
In 2019, Robert Schoch in a paper(ba) written with Manu Seyfzadeh claimed that the “world’s first known written word at Göbekli Tepe on T-Shaped Pillar 18 means God”. In a recent Lost Origins podcast, Schoch repeated this claim, which led Jason Colavito to attack its credibility(bb), finding it “remarkable that he (Schoch) can translate a heretofore unsuspected system of writing in a 10,000-year-old language no one alive has ever heard. After all, several writing systems from historic times, such as linear A, related to languages that were only spoken a few thousand years ago, remain largely unreadable. We can’t even read Etruscan fluently, and yet Schoch has supposedly learned to read an Ice Age language! Think about that. For example, Old English is largely unintelligible to modern English speakers, while the Ice Age is removed in time from us by a factor of twenty times that chronological distance. The unlikeliness of Schoch’s claim boggles the mind.”
There are now regular updates available regarding the ongoing work at the Göbekli site, with contributions from members of the Göbekli Tepe Archaeological Research Project(az).
In 2020, Stone Age rock tombs were excavated not too far from Göbekli Tepe at the Kizilkoyun Necropolis area, adding to the importance of the region(bc).
Also, in April 2020, Haaretz published a report that “a discovery by Israeli archaeologists suggests the Göbekli Tepe construction project was even more complex than previously thought and required an amount of planning and resources thought to be impossible for those times.”(bh)
In June 2021, “Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy told reporters gathered in the southeastern Turkish city of Sanliurfa that several new sites had been found in the vicinity of Göbeklitepe.” and “We have [discovered] 11 more major hills on a 100-kilometre line around Göbeklitepe,” Ersoy declared. “Here, we will give the details for the first time, and now call it 12 hills.” In fact, Ersoy offered few details about what had been found at these new sites. He explained that a “major study” was on the verge of being completed and said the results of that study would be released in September 2021.”(bk)
Graham Hancock visited the Karahan Tepe site in 2020 and found a team of Turkish archaeologists well-advanced with their excavations. As their findings were unpublished until now(bp), Hancock refrained from offering his observations(bo). The enclosure revealed a carved human head protruding from the bedrock as well as a number of pillars that appeared to represent phalli! Hancock echoed Minister Ersoy’s comments noting that “a dozen other sites of similar antiquity are under excavation in the so-called “Stone Hills” area, a zone of intense interest to archaeologists extending for 100 square kilometres around Gobekli Tepe.”
A travel site has a useful article that should be read by anyone intending to visit Gobekli Tepe. This was last updated in August 2022(bt).
The World History Encyclopedia offers further interesting information regarding the discoveries at the site(bu).
Fortunately, no damage was reported at Gobekli Tepe following the 2023 earthquakes in Turkey and nearby Syria.
(h) Wayback Machine (archive.org) (new link)
(bm) (99+) (PDF) J.A. Belmonte, A.C. González García, A. Polcaro, A. Rodríguez-Antón, M. Schaltout, ORIENTATIO AD SIDERA (OAS): HIGHLIGHTS OF A DECADE OF ARCHAEOASTRONOMICAL RESEARCH IN THE MEDITERRANEAN REGION AND BEYOND, in Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, 16/4, 2016, pp. 93-101. | Andrea Polcaro and A. Cesar Gonzalez-Garcia – Academia.edu
(bo) https://www.cnnturk.com/amp/turkiye/gobeklitepe-gibi-12-buyuk-kesif-daha-geliyor-insanligin-sirrini-taslarin-dili-anlatacak; and https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-10050217/Stunning-carvings-human-figures-heads-uncovered-Karahantepe.htm.
(bx) Archive 3642 *