According to some, it is the first abode of Adam and Eve; for others, giving them offerings to celebrate the occasion: Gobeklitepe. Accompanied by interesting details and some academic tips, we, among other circles, also wanted to draw attention to this historical archaeological site in Sanliurfa that put its mark on 2019 after having faced the risk of slipping into oblivion.
Having been dug for 25 years now, Gobeklitepe, which is to us a heritage from the Stone Age and Neolithic Age, became this year the focus of Turkish cultural tourism on a government level. Launched through the joint effort of Harald Hauptmann and the Sanliurfa Museum Directorate in 1995, the excavations were carried out under the supervision of the master archaeologist Klaus Schmidt who died in 2014. Following the loss of Schmidt five years ago, the initiative is still being continued by the combined effort of the German Archaeological Institute and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
On the other hand, Gobeklitepe, which lies 3 km northeast of the Orencik (Karaharabe) Village, which itself lies 17 km east of the Sanliurfa City Centre, is named after the sepulchres of saints in the region. The region was first discovered by Prof. Halet Cambel, Head of the Prehistory Department at Istanbul University, and Prof. Robert Braidwood from the University of Chicago in 1963 as part of the ongoing surveys within the context of the “Southeastern Anatolia Region Research Project” launched jointly by the Universities of Istanbul and Chicago. (1) The results of the expedition were published by Peter Benedict in 1980.
WHEN THE ONE CLIMBING THE WISH-TREE IS AN ARCHEOLOGIST
According to another perspective, the destiny of Gobeklitepe (5) changed as follows:
In 1994, the American archaeologist Henry T. Wright discovered the vast Neolithic settlement of Gurcutepe, which had so far been unknown to the human eye. Climbing the wish tree on the Gobekli Tepe during his visit in the same year, Klaus Schmidt noticed that the ruins lying around him bore similarities to those seen in “Nevali Cori”, and reasoned that this place must also be from the Neolithic age. After these remarkable discoveries, investigations were made in these two areas and it was concluded that some digging work was necessary. Thus, with a protocol signed with the ministry, the Urfa Project, which includes Gurcutepe and Gobekli Tepe, was launched. Having worked as the field manager of the excavation work conducted around Gobekli Tepe and Gurcutepe since 1995, Klaus Schmidt continued to lead the Göbekli Tepe excavation until the end of his life after Professor Hauptmann’s retirement in 2003.
This archaeological site, which is included in the World Cultural Heritage list by UNESCO is located 1.5 km from the Orencik village, the closest human settlement, and 18 km from Sanliurfa. The Gobeklitepe excavation site has roughly the size of 12 football fields, which corresponds to a width of approximately 90 thousand square metres.
Known for the “T” shaped standing stones of various sizes that it contains and the carved embossments upon them, Gobeklitepe stands in a unique position in comparison to the cultural heritage sites of the world in terms of its age. For instance, when this ancient site hailing from 10000 B.C. is compared to the Pyramids (2600 B.C.) and the Stonehenge standing stones (2500 hundred B.C.), it offers us a great opportunity to rethink human history and habits, aesthetic and mystical values, traditions and practical possibilities and presents an extraordinary case of uniqueness for Turkey. (3)
THEY NUMBER 100 IN TOTAL
Located in an area of long elevations in the south of the Euphrates, which borders the Harran Plain to the north, the largest ring of standing stones found in the “D” structure” of Gobeklitepe, which boasts a command of the surrounding scenery (2), bring together two structures parallel to each other, they essentially consist of horizontal and vertical columns / masses and reach up to five metres in height. While on the perimeters of the wall surrounding it, there are 10 to 12 similar structures / columns which are centrally and peripherally located. It is known that in this sense there are about 100 standing stones with a length varying between 1.5 and 5m in this area where the stones are described as being “anthropomorphic”. These stones contain various visual representations ranging from reptiles, birds, foxes, bulls, wild boars, cranes, storks, desert monitors, spiders, scorpions to snakes, wild sheep to depictions of human beings with their heads eaten and male figures with exaggerated male genital organs. Also, an “H” and “U” shaped symbol (5) also appears on the stones.
AN AREA OF FAITH TOURISM, GOBEKLITEPE
Gobeklitepe, currently known as the oldest and first religious temple, brings to mind the old topic of Faith Tourism with its location in the city of Sanliurfa, also known as the City of Prophets. In a way, Gobeklitepe stands as proof of the fact that throughout history civilizations, cultures and trade patterns created by religion throughout has transformed the political and social agenda of the world and even its borders.
Some experts regard this region as an area where hunter-gatherer communities worshiped, offered sacrifices to gods, and staged religious festivals and feasts during certain periods of the year, revering it as a temple where the gods lived, and as a sacred place where they experienced the Divine. (4)
In that respect, in an area at least 11 thousand and 6 hundred years old which is still being dug, there is a “circle” of stalagmites with a diameter ranging between 10 to 30m that is still waiting to be unearthed. The surveys indicate that these stone masses, with an average weight of 15 tons, were moved to the ritual area for at least 300 to 400m. And our knowledge of history and the experts tell us that the wheel had not been invented at that time.
Roughly speaking, there are currently a series of 20 “round temples” on the plateau in Gobeklitepe and above it. Another feature of the archaeological site, which contains many eaten animal bones, is that no single human skeleton was found during the excavations. Besides, these mystical structures have no door and according to some comments, there is a maze effect in all formations. In this aspect, four distinct historical layers have been discovered in the region, with the first top layer revealed to have been used as agricultural land. The remaining layers refer to the Neolithic Period when humans had not yet started using earthenware. In this context, the first section of the second layer consists of “Square Structures with Standing Stones” (8 to 9 thousand BC ), the second intermediate section has the “Round – Oval Structures”, and the third and the final section contains circular structures with standing stones (9 to 10 thousand BC ). (2)
ALSO LIE HERE THE ORIGINS OF WHEAT
Furthermore, the author David Rohl makes an interesting reference to Gobeklitepe, for which a large-scale tourism campaign was launched by the President’s Office, following in the footsteps of Canakkale – Troy, which also had once become a popular beer brand:
The British author David Rohl claims in his work Legend that Adam and Eve met at Gobeklitepe after being expelled from Paradise. According to him, the fallen couple started their lives here and began to till the land marking the first step towards the transition to an agricultural society. (1)
“WE SHOULD LOOK BEYOND GOBEKLITEPE”
While all this is being discussed and debated, Dr. Lee Clare, the Gobeklitepe Research and Excavation Coordinator and the German Archaeological Institute Fellow , made the following important statements in his recent interview with “Arkeofili” (on 28 January 2019) (6), one of the reliable sources of archaeological journalism:
“The emergence of the Neolithic life forms is a process that began before Gobeklitepe spreading over a few thousand years. Indeed, long before the removal of the standing stones from the limestone plateau to build the first monuments in Gobeklitepe, there were settled hunter-gatherer groups harvesting weeds and cereals in the Near East. And it does not end there; so far, there has been no definitive evidence put forward with regards to the existence of grown plants or domesticated animals in Gobeklitepe, with things still in a wild state, so to say. Once again, no matter how impressive Gobeklitepe is, I feel that the big picture is ignored just to promote an archaeological site.”
SCHMIDT’S VISION CHANGED HISTORY
Another interesting work concerning the topic belongs to the historian and researcher Andrew Collins, who also lives and works in England. In his book, first published in 2014 and translated into Turkish three years later (7), the author relates why we owe so much to Schmidt for all that we know about Gobeklitepe by making references to his own book on the site:
“Schmidt quickly realized that megalithic structures were built not only in one part of this region, but across the entire site. He thought that these structures served a function in connection with rituals known to have been associated with nature. He even thought that the structures in Gobeklitepe would reflect the same cult influences as those in Cayonu and Nevali Cori. Schmidt, who decided that he had studied the region sufficiently, came to a frightening conclusion; if he did not leave immediately, he would have to spend the rest of his life there. But he was destined, so to say, to stay there and devote himself to the excavations being conducted in the area. We should be grateful for the decision Schmidt made. Because it appeared that this hill was about to be declared a quarry for the construction of a new highway between Gaziantep and Mardin, and this decision was only rescinded upon the discovery of the importance of this archaeological site. Therefore, without the intervention of this witty German archaeologist, we would not have had the opportunity to see the world’s oldest stone temple. “
NETFLIX TO LAUNCH A NEW SERIES ON GOBEKLITEPE
In view of all that has been said and written, it would not do without awaking in you some sensation of curiosity with regards to Gobeklitepe, humanity’s first belly-button, which is to some the first abode of Adam and Eve and to others the oldest rendezvous point where people used to meet with the gods and celebrate the occasion with meat and alcohol. In the meantime, let us regale you with another piece of exciting news.. According to Arkeofili, the cut and slit skulls found on the site indicate a new sort of ritual … So the embossments on the stones depicting cut-off heads do not seem to have been made for nothing.
A magazinish note:
If the rumours on social media are to be believed, Netflix is looking at making a new series about Gobeklitepe with Beren Saat playing the lead character.
(3) Bilim ve Teknik Dergisi, volume 2014 July, promotional text and images signed by Dr. Emine Sonnur Özcan.
(7) ‘Tanrilarin Dogusu: Gobeklitepe’ ,Alfa Yayınları, Trans. Leyla Tonguc Basmaci, p.50-51