Göbekli Tepe – The Oldest Known Place of Worship in the World

Goebekli Tepei

Aerial view of the excavation site near Sanliurfa in Anatolia. © Deutsches Archäologisches Institut N. Becker

Göbekli Tepe is one of the most fascinating Neolithic sites in the world. It is a tell, an artificial mound dating to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic. It was not used for habitation; it consists of several sanctuaries in the form of round megalithic enclosures. The site is located about 15km north-east of the Turkish city of Sanliurfa, at the highest point of an extended mountain range that is visible from the surrounding planes (pic 1). Its enormous deposition of layers, up to fifteen meters high, have accumulated over several millennia in an area of about nine hectares. Even today, the place has lost nothing of its magic appeal. For example, a wish fulfilling tree which stands on top of the ridge is still sought out by the residents of the surrounding area (pics 2&3).
Archaeologists found an important piece of the puzzle in the early history of humanity at the site, which contributes to a completely new understanding of the process of settling and the beginning of agriculture. The hill, which is strewn with countless stone implements and large-format, regular-shaped ashlars, revealed its secret as a result of the excavations carried out since 1995 by the German Archaeological Institute in cooperation with the Archaeological Museum in Sanlıurfa (Klaus Schmidt 1995).

 An article by German chief excavator Klaus Schmid, in Actual Archeology Magazine 2012

Most of the excavated areas are now protected with roofs and fences. Photography is difficult. But the wish fulfilling tree is still easily accessible. I sat there and imagined myself as one of my ancient forefathers thousands of years ago.