Göbekli Tepe: The World's Oldest Temple
A wall in an ancient temple displays an incredibly high level of sophistication in a Stone Age culture. Photo credit: Berthold Steinhilber.
The recent discovery of an intricately built ancient temple called Göbekli Tepe, known as "Potbelly Hill" in southern Turkey , is regarded as an archaeological discovery on the same level of Tutankhamen and as important as Stone Henge. According to lead archeologist, Dr. Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute, Göbekli Tepe (pronounced Guh-behk-LEE TEH-peh) is a new and early milestone marker in our previously unknown history.
The evidence at Göbekli Tepe, verified through carbon dating and years of study, means that sophisticated human civilization dates back to the end of the most recent Ice Age, The Quaternary Period, at 11,000 BC.
11,000 BC is 2,000 years sooner than anyone has been able to establish this level of sophistication. In fact, the Neolithic Revolution was thought to have begun between 12,000 and 11,000 BC - yet we have evidence of a sophisticated society occurring at that exact time. This evidence predates the oldest tales in the Old or New Testament. It is not mentioned in any accounts of the explorers of ancient Greece, just across the Aegean Sea from modern Turkey, whose own civilization began circa 3200 BC.
To compare Göbekli's age, the sites excavated at Jericho (500 miles south of Turkey) suggests that the first permanent settlements weren't built there until between 10,000 and 9000 BC. The early structures at Jericho were crude huts and wooden buildings not monumental stone architecture. The architecture found at Jericho are without of the artistic merit or the large-scale sculpture that is found in abundance at Göbekli Tepe.
Perhaps this lack of relics is due to the fact that Jericho has been continuously inhabited for 10,000 years and is one of the oldest cities in the world. Civilizations destroy much of their environments and if there are older sites beneath modern Jericho they are very hard to discover and excavate.
Yet, even when compared to ancient Jericho, Göbekli is still older.
The society that built the Göbekli Tepe structures used stone-working tools in use for hundreds of years, raised animals like deer and goats and stored grains and cereals to feed large constructions crews.
The temple is actually a series of buried structures that have been stacked directly on top of each other in three layers. The first excavation site revealed an ancient temple that was built 8,000 years before the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egpyt (2560 BC). This site places our roots as a modern civilization much deeper than ever guessed at by any scholar or historian who had previously believed the first modern human societies formed around 9,000 B.C. in the Fertile Crescent near an area encompassing Jordan, Israel, and Iraq.
The shocking discovery of Göbekli Tepe displaces all modern understanding of how and where civilization evolved past a nomadic existence of hunting and gathering. The temples of Göbekli were created by a culture that had clearly mastered masonry. That society developed a culture sophisticated to feed and house generations of workers. And this was all done well before the societies within the Fertile Crescent or Greece. It places society's beginnings nearer to 10,000 B.C. or 12,000 years ago in Turkey.
This discovery single-handedly and profoundly revolutionizes our understanding of a crucial stage in the development of human society in the Neolithic Era by predating the Fertile Crescent by a two thousand years and originating from outside of it.
The prehistoric temple of Göbekli Tepe is large, intricately adorned - with sculpture and carved stone fashioned in a time when mankind was traditionally assumed to be nothing more than a handful of nomads with no great religious inclination with little to no education and no skilled trades abilities at all.
Yet, these ruins are amazing - the result of a highly sophisticated culture. The temple is made up of colossal T-shaped limestone pillars that are 10 to 20 feet tall each and weigh upwards of 40-60 tons. To put that into perspective, the largest standing stones at Stonehenge (Stonehenge Phase 3) weigh in at 25 tons and are 24 feet tall - making the Göbekli Tepe's monolithic pillars twice as heavy and nearly as tall. And, like Stonehenge, the creation of the temple is lost to history.
Two teams of archeological researchers remain hard at work at the site today. Recently they have uncovered, through use of ground penetrating radar, even more of this historical find. A whopping 300 meter wide area (984 feet) of the hill and surrounding area contain layers of temples. Some these deeper temples may be even older than 13,000 years - predating all historical information we have on our own history as a species.
 = Gobekli Tepe is located in an arid, dry region 9 miles northeast of the town of Şanlıurfa, Turkey.
 = For more on the Neolithic Revolution please read the article at Wikipedia.
= Age of Jericho according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
 = Video of the actual site can be found here at YouTube.
National Geographic, Göbekli Tepe Excavation
Göbekli Tepe, Archeological Site Info
Worlds First Temple, Movie/Gallery