"Potbelly Hill"

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Barely known until recently, the archaeological sites at Göbeklitepe, near Şanlıurfa, hit the big-time in February 2010 when it featured in Newsweek as “the Rome of the Ice Age” according to Klaus Schmidt, the German archaeologist who had been working here for 12 years until his death in 2014.

This astonishing site in the middle of nowhere appears to have consisted of a series of circular temples filled with T-shaped pillars, some of them carved with arms and hands, others decorated with images of animals.

To glimpse them is to think immediately of the great statues on Easter Island, but the amazing thing about Göbeklitepe is that it appears to date back 11,500 years which would make it probably the earliest building ever found and certainly the earliest temple (in contrast the Easter Island statues are only around 1,000 years old).

No evidence of a settlement has been found near the site which has led Schmidt and others to suggest turning received wisdom on its head.

Until now archaeologists assumed that settlements preceded organized religious worship, and that hunter-gatherers settled down and became farmers before thinking about creating temples. In Schmidt’s view, however, Göbeklitepe might suggest that hunter-gatherers came together to create places of worship before starting to build towns and villages.

No written records have been found here which leaves the field wide open to interpretation, but it seems rather odd to think that one site on its own could prove such a theory in the absence of other supporting evidence.200 DSC09729

But whatever the truth may or may not be the undamaged state of the pillars seems to suggest that the temples were deliberately covered up again some 10,000 years ago. Why that would have been is also open to speculation, although it’s often the case that when people of a new religion take over an area they destroy or alter the structures of the existing religion.

There are those who believe that the descendants of the people who built the temples eventually grew disillusioned with their gods and so filled them in again.

Like Stonehenge, Göbeklitepe will probably continue to exist in a swirl of conflicting theories. Although it appears to be the most impressive such settlement in the area there are apparently other local sites that also feature the same T-shaped pillars.

In late 2013 the site was being roofed over to protect it, a development which some might wish had not happened.


The nearest decent choice of places to stay is in Urfa although you could also visit from the home-stay village of Yuvacalı.

Transport info

There is no public transport but local tour companies in Şanlıurfa should be able to organize a trip to Göbeklitepe.

Read more about Göbeklitepe: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-330318-stone-circles-stone-domes-the-mysteries-in-urfas-backyard.html

Now read what National Geographic had to say: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/06/gobekli-tepe/mann-text 

Comparatively speaking...

Göbeklitepe is:

  • 10,000 years older than the Belkis-Zeugma mosaics
  • 7,500 years older than the Pyramids
  • 7,000 years older than Stonehenge
  • 6,000 years older than the Megalithic temples on Malta



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