Three decades later, archaeologists found out that the site was one of the oldest known human-made religious structures. The site has been preserved and portions of it have been excavated since then.
However, the Neolithic site refuses to give up many of its secrets. One of the most mysterious aspects of the site is the more than 20 stone rings that have been buried at the location. Only four of those rings have been completely excavated and as each one was unearthed, they began creating more questions than they answered.
The stone structures are reminiscent of the world famous Stonehenge (which is about 6,000 years younger than Gobekli Tepe); however, Gobekli Tepe differs from Stonehenge in some key ways.
One of those ways is the fact that the every decade or so, the ancient builders would completely fill in a circle before constructing a new one. Curiously, the ancient people of the time saw it fit to construct a new structure time and time again.
This means that every decade or so the builders of Gobekli Tepe quarried large stones and transported them to the site more than 300 feet away. Furthermore, the stone was quarried with stone pick axes and then shaped with pointed flints.
Gobekli Tepe – Older than Stonehenge
Another major difference between the two ancient sites is that the pillars found at Gobekli Tepe are craved and show a considerable amount of craftsmanship; while Stonehenge consists of roughly hewed stone pillars.
The pillars at Gobekli Tepe are adorned with relief cravings of animals such as bulls, lions, foxes and birds. Even more impressive are the number sculptures of boars and foxes that have been found at the site, as well. These carvings were all made with the man-made stone tools.
Another interesting aspect of Gobekli Tepe is that only the stone tools used to carve the pillars were found at the site. Meaning no other tools were found there; no small figurines, no jars, no pottery of any kind.
Also, the site lacks any evidence of human occupation. Gobekli Tepe is devoid of cooking hearths, trash pits, or signs of farming and livestock.
This lack of evidence leads researchers to believe that the site was built by a hunter/gatherer society, which again goes against what most researchers would relate to a site such as this. Normally, large fixed structures are signs of an agricultural society.
This raises another question. Why would a hunter/gather society create such a vast and complex monument?
Gobekli Mysteries Linger
Even though only about 5% of the site has been excavated, many researchers believe that the hilltop location was a place of worship. Along with the idea that Gobekli Tepe was used for worship is that the animal carvings depict the gods that those people worshiped.
If this is the case, then Gobekli Tepe would be the oldest religious structure ever created.
However, not everyone is in agreement with this assessment. Some, such as Ted Banning, a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto in Canada, believe the site was inhabited.
He contends that the people of Gobekli Tepe lived and worshipped in the same local. He also states the lack of agricultural evidence may not really be lacking at all. He argues that many of the tools found in the area could have used for farming.
In addition, he states that it would be difficult to differentiate between early attempts at domesticating plants and animals and the wild ones of the area.
Nevertheless, mysteries still run rampant throughout the site. Archaeologists have known about the site for more than four decades and have been excavating and studying it for the past 18 years.
Yet, those researchers are still unclear on who built Gobekli Tepe? Why did they build Gobekli Tepe? How exactly did they build Gobekli Tepe?
References & Image Credits:
(2) Part 1: Mysterious 12,000-Year-Old Gobekli Tepe
(3) Global Heritage Fund: Göbekli Tepe, Turkey
(4) The World’s First Temple
(5) Gobekli Tepe: The World’s First Temple?
(6) National Geographic: Gobekil Tepe
(7) World’s Oldest Temple May Have Been Cosmopolitan Center