Category Archives: TURKEY

Israeli Archaeologists Find Hidden Pattern at ‘World’s Oldest Temple’ Göbekli Tepe

Israeli Archaeologists Find Hidden Pattern at ‘World’s Oldest Temple’ Göbekli Tepe

Archeologists believe the neolithic hunter-gathers who built huge monoliths in central Turkey 11,500 years ago had knowledge of geometry and a much more complex society than previously thought, archaeologists say.

Cryptic carvings at Gobekli Tepe, ‘world’s oldest temple’

Since their discovery in 1990. The mysterious monoliths constructed at Göbekli tepe some 11,500 years ago have been confusing archeologists and challenging preconceptions of prehistoric culture.

Chiefly, how could hunter-gatherers with a supposedly primitive societal structure build such monumental stone circles on this barren hilltop in what is today southeastern Turkey? 

Now, Israeli archaeologists, Gil Haklay and his PhD advisor Avi Gopher, of Tel Aviv University , have published a new study in the  Cambridge Archaeological Journal  providing a set of observations suggesting this prehistoric building project was “much more complex than previously thought”, and that it required planning and resources to a degree thought of as being impossible for those times.

At this world-renowned archaeological site several concentric stone circles feature massive T-shaped pillars that reach almost 6 meters (20 ft) in height with animals and anthropological motifs carved in relief.

But this new study focuses on the arrangement and positioning of the three oldest circular stone enclosures at Göbekli Tepe and the researchers claim that underlying the entire architectural plan of these three structures is “a hidden geometric pattern,” which they describe as being “specifically an equilateral triangle.”

Close-up of a stone pillar at Göbekli Tepe with an intricate relief carving

Until these new observations, most archaeologists had assumed that the circles at Göbekli Tepe had been built gradually, over a long time period, possibly by different cultural groups, and that older circles were covered over with the new. Never was it considered that all three enclosures might have been constructed “as a single unit at the same time,” said the researchers.

Researcher Haklay told Haaretz that while the initial discovery of the site was a big surprise for the archaeological world, his new research confirms its construction was even “more complex than we thought.”

The new study focuses on enclosures B, C, and D, which have been dated to slightly older than enclosure A, and Haklay, who was previously an architect, applied a method of interpretation known as “architectural formal analysis” to retrace the ancient builders planning principles and methodologies.

Using an algorithm, Haklay identified the center points of the three irregular stone circles, which fell roughly mid-way between the pair of central pillars in each enclosure.

The eureka moment came when the three central points were found to form a nearly perfect equilateral triangle, so accurate in measure, that the researchers say the “vertices are about 25 centimeters (10 inches) away from forming a perfect triangle with sides measuring 19.25 meters (63 ft) each”.

The Göbekli Tepe site in central Turkey.

And for those readers thinking this occurrence might be a coincidence, Haklay told reporters at Haaretz  that the enclosures “all have different sizes and shapes” and he says the odds that the three center points would form an equilateral triangle by chance, “are very low.”

This complex abstract floor design underlying the arrangement of Göbekli Tepe, is presented in the new paper as evidence of a “scaled floor plan,” possibly achieved using reeds of equal length to create a rudimentary blueprint on the ground, Haklay suggests.

The archaeologist also thinks each enclosure subsequently went through a long construction history with multiple modifications, but that in the initial building phase “they started as a single project.”

If the underlying geometric pattern is indeed evidence that the three structures at Göbekli Tepe had been built in one ancient engineering project, the feat was three times larger than previously thought, requiring a similar multiplication of hunter-gatherer builders, resources and effort. Gopher suggests maybe “thousands of workers marked” what he called the birth of a more stratified society, with a level of sophistication equatable with much later sedentary groups of farmers.

In conclusion, while the two researchers are convinced their discovery proves the three stone circles had been built contemporaneously, many readers will at this moment, like me, be struggling with a contrasting proposition. What if the earliest builders erected a stand-alone circle then a later culture built another one, randomly positioned, beside the first with no geometric correlation.

Then the third set of builders, perhaps 2000 years later, decided to build their circle equidistant from the previously unrelated first two circles, resulting in an equilateral triangle by independent, although connected design thinking, or even dare we say, by chance?

Earliest Mosaic in the World Found in Turkey

The oldest known polychrome mosaic floor dating to the second-millennium bc has been discovered at the Hittite settlement of usakli hoyuk Turkey.

An Italian-Turkish team has unearthed the world’s oldest-known polychrome mosaic floor at Usakli Hoyuk, a Hittite settlement in central Turkey.

The partially preserved mosaic measures 23 feet by 10 feet and once adorned an open courtyard belonging to a building that archaeologists believe was a second-millennium B.C. temple.

The mosaic, which was set into a beaten-earth surface, consists of more than 3,000 multicolored stones arranged in rectangular frames, each with three rows of alternating white, red, and blue-black triangles. Stone pavements served a practical function in Hittite architecture.

The mosaic was unearthed during a planned excavation at Uşaklı Höyük in central Turkey, some 14 miles (19km) north of Yozgat.  

It was “occupied from the end of the 3rd millennium, during the Middle Bronze and Paleo-Hittite phases (18th-16th centuries BC),” according to The Archaeological Project at Uşaklı Höyük. 

The stone Bronze Age mosaic floor is in the foreground.

Since 2008, the Anatolian Archaeological Project in Central Anatolia has been revealing the ancient town’s long history. They have found fragments of cuneiform tablets indicating that it was once a major Hittite center.  Dr. Anacleto D’Agostini of Pisa University, who took part in the mission, wrote that the site may be the “lost Hittite city of Zippalanda,” according to Haaretz.

Unusual Bronze Age Mosaic

During work on the site, a large building on a terrace, which dated to the Late Bronze Age , was found. This had the characteristics of a building that was constructed during the Hittite period. It was believed to be a temple that was possibly dedicated to the Storm God, a very important deity for the Hittites and other populations. 

Near this possible temple, a courtyard was located, and it was here that archaeologists made the remarkable discovery of a mosaic.  The experts found a paved floor that measured about 20 ft by 9 ft (7m by 3m), which was poorly preserved.

The floor was paved with some 3000 pieces of stone, that appeared to have been roughly shaped and cut. Haaretz quotes D’Agostini as saying that “the mosaic was framed with perpendicularly positioned stones in white, black-blue and white again”. 

Closeup of the Bronze Age mosaic at Usa̧klı Höyük. 

Unlike later mosaics, it was not made out of smooth and small stones.  All the stones that were found were cut in irregular shapes and the floor would not have had a smooth finish.

According to Haaretz “one wonders how comfortable it was to walk on and one envisions a lot of twisted ankles.” However, the mosaic was possibly deliberately made to be uneven so that slippery mud would not form on its surface.

A Bronze Age Mosaic for Gods

The stones have been clearly set to produce geometric patterns using divergent colors reports Antiquity. The mosaic is divided into three distinct areas, and each one contains a number of triangles. It is discerned to have been created at the same time as the Hittite temple because it is closely aligned with its eastern wall.

D’Agostino is quoted by Haaretz as saying that the “building and mosaic are characterized by ‘high-status architecture’” and this lends credence to the theory that indeed the unearthed structure was the Temple of the Storm God.

Art of Mosaic Making

The discovery of this Bronze Age mosaic at a Hittite site is astonishing. Flagstone and cobblestone, often painted, have been found at sites associated with this Bronze Age culture.  They have been found in temples and even private rooms. However, no decorative mosaics have been found ever, until this one at Uşaklı Höyük.

“The technique of making mosaic floors using different colored pebbles is well known during the Iron Age ,” according to the report in Antiquity. 

There are many examples of checkerboard mosaic floors from the Iron Age. But until the discovery at Uşaklı Höyük, the earliest known mosaic had been found in southern Anatolia at the 9 th century BC Phrygian Gordion citadel.

Aerial shot of the excavation area shown, including the Storm God Temple and the Bronze Age mosaic are (highlighted in yellow).

World’s Oldest Mosaic

However, the discovery of a Bronze Age mosaic floor at Uşaklı Höyük is considerably older than anything yet found. Moreover, the design of the mosaic was much more complex than anything found from the time. Antiquity reports that the find “provides the first evidence of a polychromatic mosaic floor with clear patterning.”

It is possible that the mosaic may represent an older tradition from Anatolia. Antiquity reports that the pavement “could represent a Late Bronze Age Anatolian forerunner for later polychromatic mosaic floors.”

The discovery may indicate that the art of mosaic making developed much earlier than widely believed and this could provide new clues into its stylistic development.

The find may result in the experts re-writing the history of images made out of polychromatic stones, an art-from that reached its zenith in the Classical Period in the Mediterranean. 

Graves of Ottoman Soldiers Unearthed Near Istanbul

Remains of Ottoman soldiers unearthed after 108 years

The corpses of 30 Ottoman soldiers are discovered in Istanbul’s neighborhood. Rahmi Asal of the Istanbul Archeology Museums Department said the men had served in the Balkan War’s 86th Ottoman Army Battalion.

A mass grave belonging to soldiers who died while serving in the Ottoman Army’s 86th Regiment in what is today an Istanbul suburban district during the Balkan War has been unearthed.

Thirty soldiers ‘ graves were discovered in Çatalca during excavations carried out prior to the “Martyrdom Museum” project proposed by the Istanbul Archeology Museums Directorate.

The names of five of the Ottoman seals on the soldiers who were buried with their clothes were identified.

Museum director Rahmi Asal said dead soldiers were hidden in their belts with spoons and pouches. The remaining items from the soldiers were classified by the museum directorate.

These findings include officer seals with many uniform buttons and belts, belt buckles, one compass, many tobacco layers and cigarette holders, bayonets, many mirrors, and two rings.

Some names were also reached from the seals that came out of five of the soldiers determined to be the officers of the 86th Regiment from their collar numbers.

Mehmet Nuri, Necmettin and Osman Binveli, three of the dead soldiers, are believed to have been officers in their division.

The two killed soldiers buried a little away from others were Daniel and Avedis, non-Muslim Ottoman officers who fought against Bulgarian soldiers.

In the Balkan War in 1912, the Ottoman state entered the war against the revolting states of Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, and Montenegro.

As the invaders advanced to Çatalca, soldiers from all over the country started fighting to stop them. The soldiers who set out from the southern province of Antalya’s Alanya district also walked on the roads for days and joined the troops on the front.

Alaiye (Alanya) Reserved Battalion, consisting of Alanians from the 86th Regiment, repelled the enemy and began to rest by deploying in positions around Dağyenice village.

Bulgarian soldiers infiltrating the positions attacked the Alaiye Battalion and slaughtered 657 Ottoman soldiers overnight. After this painful incident that occurred on the night of November 17, 1912, this hill started to be known as “Alaiye Martyrdom.”

Archaeologists in Turkey Discover a Mysterious Ancient Kingdom Lost in History

Archaeologists in Turkey Discover a Mysterious Ancient Kingdom Lost in History

In Southern Turkey Last Winter, a local farmer stumbled over a large stone half submerged in a canal of irrigation with mysterious inscriptions.

A local farmer discovered this stone half-submerged in an irrigation canal in Turkey. Inscriptions on the stone, dating back to the 8th century B.C. told the story of an ancient lost civilization in Turkey.

Accordingly to new discoveries, the stone revealed the existence of an ancient, lost civilization that might have defeated King Midas’ kingdom of Phrygia in the late eighth century B.C., according to new findings.

The farmer tipped the nearby archaeologist to the presence of the stone a few months after this discovery.

“Right away it was clear it was ancient, and we recognized the script it was written in: Luwian, the language used in the Bronze and Iron Ages in the area,” James Osborne, an archeologist and assistant professor of Anatolian Archeology at the University of Chicago, said in the statement. With a tractor, the farmer helped the archeologists pull the heavy stone block, or stele, out from the canal. 

The stele was covered in hieroglyphs written in Luwian, one of the older Indo-European languages, according to the statement. The written language, made up of hieroglyphic symbols native to ancient Turkey, is read in alternating sequences from right to left and left to right.

The newly discovered city likely had its capital located at Turkmen-Karahoyuk, an archeological mound in southern Turkey (shown here).

“We had no idea about this kingdom,” Osborne said. “In a flash, we had profound new information on the Iron Age Middle East.” The stone tells the story of an ancient kingdom that defeated Phrygia, which was ruled by King Midas. According to Greek mythology, Midas turned everything he touched into gold. 

A symbol on the stone indicated that it was a message that came directly from its ruler, King Hartapu. One part of the stone read, “The storm gods delivered the [opposing] kings to his majesty.”

The lost kingdom likely existed between the ninth and seventh centuries B.C. and at its height, it likely covered around 300 acres (120 hectares). Though that sounds tiny compared with modern cities, it was actually one of the largest settlements to exist in ancient Turkey at the time. 

The name of the kingdom is unclear, but its capital city was likely located at what is now the nearby archeological site of Turkmen-Karahoyuk.

The Konya Regional Archaeological Survey Project had identified this settlement as a major archeological site in 2017, and Osborne and his colleagues had been excavating there at the time when the stone was discovered.

This inscription isn’t the first mention of King Hartapu. Just under 10 miles (16 kilometers) south, archeologists previously discovered hieroglyphic inscriptions on a volcano that referred to King Hartapu. That inscription didn’t reveal who he was or what kingdom he ruled, according to the statement.

Ruins of a 3000-year-old Armenian castle found in Lake Van – Turkey

Ruins of a 3000-year-old Armenian castle found in Lake Van – Turkey

The 3,000-year-old remains of an ancient fortification have been discovered at the bottom of Turkey’s largest lake. The underwater excavations were led by Van Yüzüncü Yıl University and the governorship of Turkey’s eastern Bitlis Province.

The castle is said to belong to the Iron Age Armenian civilization also known as the Kingdom of Van, Urartu, Ararat and Armenia. The lake itself is believed to have been formed by a crater caused by a volcanic eruption of Mount Nemrut near the province of Van. The current water level of the reservoir is about 150 meters higher than it was during the Iron Age.

Divers exploring Lake Van discovered the incredibly well-preserved wall of a castle, thought to have been built by the Urartu civilization. Experts had been studying the body of water for a decade before it revealed the fortress lost deep below its surface.

The 3,000-year-old remains of an ancient fortification have been discovered at the bottom of Turkey’s largest lake. Divers exploring Lake Van discovered the incredibly well-preserved wall of a castle, thought to have been built by the Urartu civilization
Underwater Fairy Chimneys in Van lake.

The discovery was made by a team of researchers, including Tahsin Ceylan, an underwater photographer and videographer, diver Cumali Birol, and Mustafa Akkuş, an academic from Van Yüzüncü Yıl University. 

Legends among the area’s population spoke of ancient ruins hidden in the water, and the Van team decided to investigate. Over the course of ten years, they captured images of pearl mullets, microbialites, corals and even a sunken Russian ship, but their prize remained elusive.

Medicines for the expedition were bought online on the website, where you can get a good discount on Cialis.

Their search has now paid off, uncovering castle stonework that has been protected from the ravages of time by the lake’s highly alkaline waters. It is thought the stone structure was built by the Urartians, as the rocks used were favoured by civilization. 

The castle, as well as a number of villages and settlements in the area, were built at a time when water levels were much lower than they are today.

Speaking to Hurriyet Daily News, Mr. Ceylan said: ‘Many civilizations and people had settled around Lake Van.

‘They named the lake the “upper sea” and believed it hid many mysterious things.

‘With this belief in mind, we are working to reveal the lake’s secrets.

‘It is a miracle to find this castle underwater.’

The Kingdom of Urartu was an ancient country in the mountainous region southeast of the Black Sea and southwest of the Caspian Sea.  Today the region is divided among Armenia, eastern Turkey, and northwestern Iran.

Mentioned in Assyrian sources from the early 13th century BC, Urartu enjoyed considerable political power in the Middle East in the 9th and 8th centuries BC.

The Urartians were succeeded in the area in the 6th century BC by the Armenians. Urartu is an Assyrian name and the people called Urartians called their country Biainili. Their capital Tushpa was located at what is now known as Lake Van.

Most remains of Urartian settlements are found between four lakes: Çildir and Van in Turkey, Urmia in Iran, and Sevan in Armenia, with a sparser extension westward to the Euphrates River.

Map of historic Armenian with Lake Van at its center.

Set of 5000-year-old board game pieces discovered in Turkey

Set of 5000-year-old board game pieces discovered in Turkey

Within the scope of Ilısu Dam rescue excavations, the missing pieces of a historical play set, which was found in 2012 in the southeastern province of Siirt’s Başur Mound, have been unearthed.

Rescue excavations have been completed in Başur Mound, which is shown as one of the most important archaeological works of the last 10 years by Artnews, a visual arts magazine published in the U.S.

Missing pieces of the ancient game set found

Speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency, the head of excavations and Ege University Faculty of Letters Department of Archeology lecturer, Haluk Sağlamtimur, said that the excavations started in 2007 within the scope of Ilısu Dam and the hydroelectric plant (HES) project reached important data on Mesopotamian history.

Stating that during the excavations in 2012, they found play set pieces that were thought to have been played in a cemetery 5,000 years ago and they identified it as the world’s oldest figurative game set, Sağlamtimur said that they were delighted to find the missing stones of the game in recent excavations.

“A few parts of the game were missing, we unearthed them in the recent excavations, and we completed the set.

This game set is very important, it is the earliest game set that can be dated in a wide region covering Mesopotamia and Anatolia.

These are dated between 3,100 and 2,900 B.C. This is probably a grave gift. This game set does not seem to be played too much; there is no wear on it. It is important in this respect. We found the missing figures in the last excavations and we are really happy,” he said.

Stating that the game set was defined as “the ancestor of chess” and similar games were also found in Egypt, Sağlamtimur explained, “Unfortunately, we could not find the board of this game set.

It was probably inside the grave, but it decayed. If we found its board, we could understand how to play it. Games like this continue, they have similar ones in even in Egypt.

The game set consists of colored stones, something must be related to the color in the game.

The two main animal figures that gave the game its name are pigs and dogs. So, we named this game as ‘pigs and dogs’ because the games that were found later were named as such.

When we consider the shapes and numbers of the stones, we estimate that the game is based on number four. For now, these are the earliest game stones in the world in figurative terms and are exhibited at the Batman Museum. Anyone can see this game set.”

Ege University rector Necdet Budak also stated that these finds are very important for the history of archeology and congratulated Sağlamtimur and his team for their successful work.

Unknown ancient god with astral symbols discovered on a stele at a cult site in Turkey

Unknown ancient god with astral symbols discovered on a stele at the cult site in Turkey

In an ancient sanctuary in Turkey, Münster archeologists excavated a unique Roman relief depicting an unknown god.

According to a first assessment, the one and a half meter (five feet) high basalt stele which was used as a buttress in the wall of a monastery shows a fertility or vegetation god, as classical scholar and excavation director Prof. Dr. Engelbert Winter and archaeologist Dr. Michael Blömer of the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” said after their return from the sacred site of the god Jupiter Dolichenus close to the ancient city of Doliche in Southeast Turkey.

“The image is remarkably well preserved. It provides valuable insights into the beliefs of the Romans and into the continued existence of ancient Near Eastern traditions. However, extensive research is necessary before we will be able to accurately identify the deity.”

In the field season 2014, the 60-strong excavation team uncovered finds from all periods of the 2,000-year history of the cult site, such as the thick enclosing wall of the first Iron Age sanctuary or the foundations of the main Roman temple of the god Jupiter Dolichenus, who became one of the most important deities of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century A.D.

His sanctuary is situated close to the town of Gaziantep on the 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) high mountain of Dülük Baba Tepesi. The archaeologists found the stele in the remains of the Christian monastery, which was erected on the site of the ancient sanctuary in the Early Middle Ages.

Bearded deity with astral symbols

Archaeologist Blömer described the depiction: “The basalt stele shows a deity growing from a chalice of leaves. Its long stem rises from a cone that is ornamented with astral symbols. From the sides of the cone grow a longhorn and a tree, which the deity clasps with his right hand.

The pictorial elements suggest that a fertility god is depicted.” There are striking iconographic details such as the composition of the beard or the posture of the arms, which point to Iron Age depictions from the early 1st millennium B.C.

Stele featuring the unknown god.

The new find, thus, provides information about a key question of the Cluster of Excellence’s research project B2-20, the question of the continuity of local religious beliefs.

According to Prof. Winter, “The stele provides information on how ancient oriental traditions survived the epochs from the Iron Age to the age of the Romans.”

This year’s excavation activities concentrated on exploring the medieval monastery of Mar Solomon (St. Solomon). “The well-preserved ruins of the monastery complex permit numerous conclusions regarding life and the culture in this region between Late Antiquity and the time of the crusaders,” according to Prof. Winter.

Until 2010, when the international team discovered the remains of the monastery, experts had known of it from written sources only.

According to the archaeologist Blömer, “All finds from this year’s excavation season are important pieces of the puzzle, contributing to the knowledge concerning every phase of the long history of this holy place.”

The history stretches from the early Iron Age and the Roman sanctuary known throughout the empire to the long utilization as a Christian monastery, which still existed at the time of the crusaders.

Preparing the excavation site for tourists

Work on an archaeological park is in progress which is to make the outstanding temple complex and the monastery ruins accessible to the public at large.

The monastery ruins were preserved and encased with special fleece material. The complex protection measures were made possible by cooperation with the Turkish Zirve University in Gaziantep, which provided about 200,000 Euros for three years.

Ruins at the site of the Christian monastery of St. Solomon.

For the digital documentation of the area, the team uses a quadrocopter, a remotely piloted vehicle with a 3-D camera, developed by the Institute for Geoinformatics of the University of Münster. A visitors’ trail signposted in three languages, which was completed in 2013, leads to central areas of the excavation site. An initial large protective shelter was erected.

Supported by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft, DFG), the University of Münster’s Asia Minor Research Centre has been conducting excavation work at the main sanctuary of Jupiter Dolichenus under the direction of Prof. Winter since 2001.

So far, the international group consisting of archaeologists, historians, architects, conservators, archaeozoologists, geoinformation scientists and excavation workers uncovered foundations of the archaic and the Roman sanctuary, as well as of the medieval monastery of Mar Solomon.

The Cluster of Excellence’s project B2-20, “Media Representation and Religious ‘Market’: Syriac Cults in the Western Imperium Romanum,” is interlinked with the excavations.

8,500 Years Older Than the Pyramids; This is the Oldest Temple Ever Built on Earth

8,500 Years Older Than the Pyramids; This is the Oldest Temple Ever Built on Earth 

Göbekli Tepe is a center of faith and pilgrimage during the Neolithic Age and is situated 15 km from the Turkish town of Sanlıurfa and added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2018.

The monumental structures, which stand as testaments to the artistic abilities of our ancestors, also offer insights into the life and beliefs of people living in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period (10th-9th millennia BC).

It was not the grandeur of the archeological wonder that dominated my mind, when I stood beneath a 4,000-square-foot steel roof erected to protect the oldest temple in the world in Upper Mesopotamia.

It was how humans of the pre-pottery age when simple hand tools were yet to be discovered, erected the cathedral on the highest point of a mountain range. 

Known as “zero points” in the history of human civilization, southeast Turkey’s Göbekli Tepe pre-dates the pyramids by 8,000 years, and the Stonehenge by six millennia. Its discovery revolutionized the way archaeologists think about the origins of human civilization.

“The men, who built the temple 11,200 years ago, belonged to the Neolithic period,” Sehzat Kaya, a professional tourist guide, tells me, “They were hunter-gatherers, surviving on plants and wild animals. It was a world without pottery, writing, the wheel, and even the most primitive tools. In such a scenario, it’s incredible how the builders were able to transport stones weighing tonnes from a quarry kilometers away, and how they managed to cut, carve and shape these stones into round-oval and rectangular megalithic structures.”

Located fifteen kilometers away from the Turkish city of Sanlıurfa, Göbekli Tepe, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2018, is believed to be a center of faith and pilgrimage during the Neolithic Age. Since the site is older than human transition to settled life, it upends conventional views, proving the existence of religious beliefs prior to the establishment of the first cities. It altered human history with archaeologists believing that the site was a temple used to perform funerary rituals.

Klaus Schmidt, a German archaeologist and pre-historian, who led the excavations at the site from 1996, noted in a 2011 paper that no residential buildings were discovered at the site, even as at least two phases of religious architecture were uncovered. Schmidt discarded the possibility that the site was a mundane settlement of the period, and insisted that it belonged to “a religious sphere, a sacred area.”

“Göbekli Tepe seems to have been a regional center where communities met to engage in complex rites,” Schmidt, who led the excavations until he passed away in 2014, wrote, “The people must have had a highly complicated mythology, including a capacity for abstraction.”

In speaking of abstraction, Schmidt was referring to the highly-stylized T-shaped pillars at Göbekli Tepe, which means “belly hill” in Turkish. The distinctive limestone pillars are carved with stylized arms, hands, and items of clothing like belts and loincloths.

The largest pillars weigh more than 16 tons, and some are as tall as 5.5 meters. Schmidt believed that there was an overwhelming probability that the T-shape is the first-known monumental depiction of gods. Some researchers have also revealed that the site might be home to a “skull cult”.

The unique semi-subterranean pillars carry three-dimensional depictions – elaborate carvings of abstract symbols as well as animals: Scorpions, foxes, gazelles, snakes, wild boars, and wild ducks.

The unique semi-subterranean pillars carry three-dimensional depictions – elaborate carvings of abstract symbols as well as animals: Scorpions, foxes, gazelles, snakes, wild boars, and wild ducks. The monumental structures, which stand as testaments to the artistic abilities of our ancestors, also offer insights into the life and beliefs of people living in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period (10th-9th millennia BC).

“Göbekli Tepe is an outstanding example of a monumental ensemble of megalithic structures, illustrating a significant period of human history,” UNESCO noted in 2018, “It is one of the first manifestations of human-made monumental architecture.

The monolithic T-shaped pillars were carved from the adjacent limestone plateau, and attest to new levels of architectural and engineering technology. They are believed to bear witness to the presence of specialized craftsmen, and possibly the emergence of more hierarchical forms of human society.”

Perched at 1000 feet above the ground, Göbekli Tepe offers a view of the horizon in nearly every direction. The site was first examined in the 1960s by anthropologists from the University of Chicago and Istanbul University. Dismissed as an abandoned medieval cemetery in 1963, the first excavation started in 1996 when Schmidt read a brief mention of the broken limestone slabs on the hilltop in the previous researchers’ report. His findings changed long-standing assumptions.

“It (Göbekli Tepe) is the complex story of the earliest large, settled communities, their extensive networking, and their communal understanding of their world, perhaps even the first organized religions and their symbolic representations of the cosmos,” Schmidt wrote.

Schmidt’s discoveries received wide international coverage. The German weekly, Der Spiegel, went a step ahead, suggesting that Adam and Eve settled at Göbekli Tepe after being banished from the Garden of Eden.

The journal based its suggestion on the coincidence that the land surrounding Göbekli Tepe is proven to be the place where wheat was cultivated for the first time, and the Bible says that Adam was the first to cultivate the wheat after he was banished. Another noteworthy aspect of the discovery is that Göbekli Tepe has also questioned the conventional belief that agriculture led to civilization.

Until the discovery, it was widely believed that complex societies came into being after hunter-gatherers settled down, and started growing crops. But the early dates of the temple’s construction proved the opposite was true – the vast labour force required to build the temple pushed humans to develop agriculture to offer food to the workers.

“The communities that built the monumental megalithic structures of Göbekli Tepe lived during one of the most momentous transitions in human history, one which took the civilization from hunter-gatherer lifeways to the first farming communities,” the UNESCO notes, “The monumental buildings at Göbekli Tepe demonstrate the creative human genius of these early (Pre-Pottery Neolithic) societies.”

Aydin Aslan, Culture and Tourism Director, Sanliurfa tells me that the site hosts over 20,000 visitors every week. The megalithic structures have largely retained their original form, offering unforeseen insights into the life of early humans. “The current site is only one-tenth of the marvels that lie hidden under the hill,” says Aslan.