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Unravelling The Oldest Temple In The World: Göbekli Tepe

Gobekli Tepe Temple
The Remains of Göbekli Tepe in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey
(Photo - Wikimedia Commons)

Religion is something that has always been a key part of man, right from the stone age days to the 21st century modern day age. Temples are places built or set up mainly for people to be able to go there freely and practice their religion in peace and after some in-depth archaeological research, it has been ascertained that the oldest temple in the world is the Göbekli Tepe (which is Turkish for Belly Hill). This ancient site is situated in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey and is not too far from the main city of Sanliurfa. The temple has an approximate height of 50 feet while being about 1000 feet in diameter.

Ancient Göbekli Tepe Temple

The temple is made up of various individual sites (with some yet to be uncovered) characterized by huge pillars (about 200 in number) with height of 20 feet and weight of nearly 20 tons each, buried into the floor with huge stones which harbor human and animal drawings on them, placed on the strong pillars. The art on the big block of stones could range from lions to scorpions to actual human drawings, showcasing how creative the ancient ‘cavemen’ were. The temple has been confirmed to be in existence via carbon dating experiments for about 12000 years but it was only discovered properly in Turkey in the year 1963 by a team of archaeologists led by American archaeologist Peter Benedict, who identified fossils and materials collected from the surface of the ancient site as properties of the Aceramic Neolithic. He also thought the big slabs of stone found on the site were grave markers thereby initially (and wrongly) affirming the archaeological site as a graveyard cemetery.

Gobekli Tepe Ruins 1
Göbekli Tepe Ruins 001
(Photo - Wikimedia Commons)

This misconception was widely accepted by people for a long while until 1994, when German Archaeologist Klaus Schmidt, who was previously working at the Nevali Cori (which is quite similar to the Göbekli Tepe), showed up at the site. He decided to review all the archaeological surveys and tests run on that particular site. After discovering similar structures to what he knows from his previous working site, Klaus decided to start excavating the site, and in no time, the first massive T-shaped pillars were found, confirming the prehistoric nature of the temple in general.

Radiocarbon dating tests were carried out on some charcoal samples found beneath the site, and these confirmed that the temple has indeed been in existence dating back to about 11500 years ago. This sole discovery changed a lot. This meant the Göbekli Tepe had been constructed far way before civilization began. This meant it had been erected way before even agriculture started, and it was generally believed that civilization of the early men kicked off alongside agriculture. Another thing that created confusion between archaeologists studying the case was how beautiful and exceptional the architectural techniques used in setting up the temple were. The craftsmanship seen at the temple was said to be way ahead of its time as it was believed to be impossible for cavemen with no solid technological foundation to come up with such a structure back then. To further reiterate how old this structure is, it was found to have predated the popular Stonehenge (one of the most famous prehistoric construction buildings) by over 6000 years. This means that there was just as enough time between the construction of Göbekli Tepe and the construction of Stonehenge as there was between the construction of Stonehenge and modern times of today.

Gobekli Tepe Ruins 2
Göbekli Tepe Ruins 002
(Photo - Wikimedia Commons)
Sculptures from Göbekli Tepe on display at the Sanliurfa Museum
(Photo - Wikimedia Commons)

Remarkably, the different structures which make up the Gobekli Tepe have been well preserved since Klaus Schmidt started working on the site in 1994, allowing him and his team to be able to carry out efficient archaeological work on the site. The favorable climate in Turkey is also another major reason for the good preservation of the solid remains of the temple.

Gobekli Tepe has managed to become, not just the oldest, but also one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world; therefore it acts as a tourist center for foreign people. This inspired the Republic Of Turkey Ministry Of Culture And Tourism, Global Heritage Fund, and some other partners to announce their plans to fully preserve the site over the coming years by restoring it back and building a museum or archaeological park somewhere around the site.

Jessica Cole

Jessica Cole

Freelance Writer
I'm a freelance writer, pro article writer and editor. I’m looking to boost my writing career through this platform because I have a passion for this.

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