If you’re a regular reader of my blog, especially lately, you’re probably already aware that I have a thing for ancient archaeological sites, particularly megaliths. I find them fascinating and am in awe of the historical beauty and engineering mystery that they embody. Were I financially independent, I would likely spend my time visiting the many hundreds of Neolithic sites around the world.
Today though, I’m interested in one site in particular, a site that, according to some, is the most important archaeological site ever discovered, if not the oldest.
Up until 1964, it was widely believed that the earliest megalithic constructions dated from around the 7th millennium BCE, and those sites were pointedly primitive and unrefined. More sophisticated megalithic examples, such as Stonehenge in Wiltshire England, didn’t start popping up in our culture until 3000-2000 BCE. One possible explanation for the emergence of such constructions is the free time afforded to our early ancestors by the advent of agriculture. Now, not to lead you astray, by free time I don’t mean that they spent their days sitting on a rock doodling messages for their friends, 140 pictographs long. I mean simply that the demands on their time shifted from seeking food and resources to cultivating them, thereby allowing the first inklings of social culture to creep into their days.
A survey conducted by the Istanbul University and the University of Chicago shattered that belief however. That survey marked the discovery of Göbekli Tepe, a Neolithic settlement in the Southeast Anatolia Region of Turkey, some 15 kilometres northeast of the town of Şanlıurfa, one that contains the oldest known human-made religious structure in the world.
What’s special about this location is the fact that researchers have found that the religious monument was built in the 10th millennium BCE, a full 2000-3000 years before any other similar construction.
The site, located on a hilltop known as “Potbelly Hill”, contains 20 round structures which had been buried, four of which have been excavated. Each round structure has a diameter of between 10 and 30 meters (30 and 100 ft) and all are decorated with massive, mostly T-shaped, limestone pillars that are the most striking feature of the site. The limestone slabs were carried from bedrock pits located around 100 meters (330 ft) from the hilltop, with Neolithic workers using flint points to carve the bedrock.
A few humanoid figures have surfaced at Göbekli Tepe, they include the engraving of a naked woman posed frontally in a crouched position that archaeologist Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute of Istanbul likens to the Venus accueillante figures found in Neolithic North Africa, and a decapitated corpse surrounded by vultures in bas-relief. Other carvings, of animals, and of human hands and stylized arms are thought to give the entire site an anthropomorphic identity.
Göbekli Tepe is regarded as an archaeological discovery of the greatest importance since it could profoundly change our understanding of a crucial stage in the development of human societies. It suggests that this type of construction was available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors, rather than exclusively to the more sedentary farming communities. To quote Schmidt: “First came the temple, then the city.”
That explanation sits well, as long as you buy the idea that it was our ancestors who built these megaliths. Not to doubt the good Doctor Schmidt but some ancient alien theorists are quite sure that Neolithic man lacked the tools, both physical and mental, to build such things. Opting instead for the somewhat fanciful idea that aliens or inter-dimensional beings were responsible. Despite the fact that all current information points to this being a man-made structure, there does exist the possibility however unlikely.
Beyond the question of who is why and there again, the ancient alien theorists have their hand up. Mainstream researchers are confident that Göbekli Tepe was built for religious worship, likely of shamanistic gods, and that the settlement was constructed after the temple, possibly indicating that the site was initially the destination of a desert pilgrimage and later became home to hundreds. This reasoning isn’t really in question, what the AAT’s (ancient alien theorists) believe that those shamanistic gods weren’t the focus of Göbekli Tepe. They claim that this site, among many others, was a place for worshiping the sky gods, or in other words…ancient astronauts.
Whatever you believe, whether aliens, Mothman or Bigfoot were responsible for building Göbekli Tepe, it remains an interesting topic, and the repercussions of its excavation could be far reaching in the academic world, not to mention the world of ancient alien theory.
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