Göbekli Tepe

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Göbekli Tepe (Turkish "Hill with a belly") is the site of an important shrine or a sanctuary in present-day Turkey, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Discovered in 1960 and excavated since 1996 by German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt, Göbekli Tepe has been claimed on the basis of radiocarbon dating to have been built in the 10th millennium BC, ca 11,500 years ago. Carbon dating, like other radiometric dating methods, requires certain assumptions that cannot be scientifically proved. These include the starting conditions, the constancy of the rate of decay, and that no material has left or entered the sample. Thus, any definite claims as to the age of a sample made on this basis are unreliable.

Still mostly submerged, the massive Göbekli Tepe complex consists of as many as 20 buildings, which themselves consist of 12 16-foot T-shaped pillars (similar in shape to those of Stonehenge) arranged in circles. Several of the pillars are carved with pictures of animals. According to Schmidt, the numerous animal bones and lack of plant material found at the site indicate that the humans who used the complex were hunter-gatherers. Mysteriously, the entire site was apparently deliberately buried.

This discovery, Schmidt claims, contradicts the claims of anthropology that hunter-gatherers would not have had the organizational skills to build such a massive structure. Schmidt believes that the evidence found here, as well as the nearby site Nevalı Çori, suggests that a massive organization was required to build this complex, and that this social organisation preceded the advent of agriculture, not the other way around as anthropological experts had assumed.

Bibliography

Andrew Curry, "Goblecki Tepe: The World's First Temple?," Smithsonian (November 2008).
Klaus Schmidt, Göbekli Tepe and the rock art of the Near East, TÜBA-AR 3 (2000) 1–14.

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