Cover picture © Credits to sezai sahmay
Cover picture © Credits to sezai sahmay

Göbeklitepe, the World's oldest temple!

3 minutes to read
This is the first human-built holy place.

...said Klaus Schmidt, a German archeologist, who has been working in Göbeklitepe for over a decade. Around 10 km away from Şanlıurfa, this German archeologist has made one of the most game-changing discoveries of the human history! Göbeklitepe is more than just a massive carved stone temple which was crafted by prehistoric people, whom had not yet developed metal tools or pottery! It is known that Göbeklitepe is 7000 years older than Stonehenge, and 7500 years older than the Pyramids of Egypt! This breathtaking archeological site has distinctive T-shaped pillars carved with images of wild animals, showing us what life was like about 11,500 years ago. It is located at the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent, which was the perfect place of settlement for prehistoric people. They had fruits, nut trees, fields of wild barley and wheat, flowing rivers and of course wildlife full of gazelles, ducks and more. "This area was like a paradise" said Schmidt but he found no evidence that people resided in here; in fact, he believes that Göbeklitepe was a place of worship, the first human-built holy place!

Picture © Credits to sezai sahmay

But what do we know about Göbeklitepe?

We all know that Turkey has a great history when it comes to civilizations. Göbeklitepe was first examined by the Istanbul University and the University of Chicago anthropologists in the 1960s. During the sweeping, they found broken slabs of limestones, which they considered parts of a medieval cemetery. After posting an article about what they thought they found in this region, in 1994, Klaus Schmidt, who was working on his own survey of the prehistoric sites, decided to visit this place. The very first moment he saw it, he knew that he was looking at a gigantic Stone Age site.

Picture © Credits to sezai sahmay

Göbeklitepe hosts monumental circular and rectangular megalithic structures interpreted as enclosures, which were erected by hunter-gatherers in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic age between 9,600 and 8,200 BCE. Thanks to Schmidt, we now know that they were used in connection with rituals, most likely of a funerary nature. The weird part of this story is that the temple was buried 1000 year after its building.

Schmidt thought that Göbeklitepe was a pilgrimage destination attracting worshippers, and therefore he also referred to this place as a "cathedral on a hill". They also found bones of deers, gazelles, pigs etc. which might have been used in the ceremonies. The carvings on the T-shaped pillars and on the stones represent a cult of the dead to protect the dead. It is recorded that, they didn't find any tombs but they located 20 temples of which, only 6 came to the light. They believed that these T-shaped pillars represented humans.

Göbeklitepe has a great importance for humans because it has changed the understanding of a crucial stage in the development of the human society. We knew that humans settled down after farming, but Göbeklitepe showed us that, they settled on a land after they built a temple. As Schmidt said;

First came the temple, then the city.

Sadly, Klaus Schmidt passed away after having a heart attack in 2014. In 2018, the site was designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site! If you are interested you can check out the site or you can visit the Şanlıurfa Museum to admire the steles and sculptures of Göbeklitepe!

Göbeklitepe
Göbeklitepe
Dağeteği Mahallesi, 63290 Haliliye/Şanlıurfa, Türkiye
Şanlıurfa Archaeology and Mosaic Museum
Şanlıurfa Archaeology and Mosaic Museum
Haleplibahçe Mahallesi, 63200 Eyyübiye/Şanlıurfa, Türkiye

If you want to visit Göbeklitepe, get inspired by itinari now!


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The author

Alara Benlier

Alara Benlier

My name is Alara Benlier, I am Turkish but currently living in Germany! I share my experiences in Germany, Turkey and the Netherlands!

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