Göbekli Tepe: UNESCO World Heritage Site
Sanliurfa, or ‘Urfa’ as it is known to the locals, is one of the earliest occupied regions on Earth. Urfa’s history is vast and home to civilisations predating agriculture. Göbekli Tepe is a prime example of this. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a 12,000-year-old temple northeast of the city. Discovered only in the last 60 years, Göbekli Tepe is said to be older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids in Egypt!
When Klaus Schmidt made one of the most startling archaeological discoveries of our time, who knew it would be, according to Schmidt, the oldest temple on the planet. He said, “This is the first human-built holy place.”
Göbekli Tepe, 15km northeast of Urfa, is a historical site that is estimated to have been built around 9,500 BC, predating hieroglyphics. It also predates farming and settlements, revealing that religion was around before establishing villages and towns. It is still an excavation site in which only about 5% of the ruins have been uncovered.
Limestone pillars engraved with the shapes of animals
This place is still relatively unknown to the world, as it doesn’t get the widespread mentions like the Pyramids or Stonehenge does. I certainly didn’t know about this place until I was told I must put it on my list of places to visit without fail when I was in Turkey. “This area was like a paradise,” something Schmidt reiterates.
You will see tall rectangular limestone pillars at the site, engraved with the shapes of animals. They are also arranged in circular formations. What is impressive is that these massive pillars, weighing several tons each, were carved before any metal tools or pottery were developed. This captivating temple is changing how archaeologists understand history
However, archaeologists have yet to find evidence of a permanent settlement at Göbekli Tepe. There has been a suggestion that the site was a regional gathering place.
The thoughts of the German archaeologistJens Notroff
Jens Notroff, a German archaeologist who has worked on the site, said, “Back then people would have met regularly to keep the gene pool fresh and exchange information,” He said:“It’s a landmark. It’s no accident they gathered there.”
In fact, there have been more miniature versions of the pillars, symbols and architecture carved found in settlements up to 125 miles away. Hunter-gatherers may have travelled from afar to meet, worship and help build new impressive formations, sponsoring meals to demonstrate their income. “The feasting aspect was the easiest explanation for attracting a labour force to construct the enclosures,” Notroff said.
The first tourist in over a week
Turkey hopes to boost tourism at the site in a region where tourism has declined. This is because of the nearby Syrian border. There have been conflicts between the Turkish and the Syrian refugees. I didn’t witness anything like that when I was there; however, that is not to say it doesn’t go on. One tour guide told me, “The first tourist to visit my town in over a week.” He said that was because governments worldwide advise people not to travel to the region because of the conflict. All the Syrians I met were some of the nicest people I have ever met in my life.
Göbekli Tepe, I know it will become a place tourists around the world will put on their bucket list. It hasn’t quite had the attention yet from the mainstream media. Or even been made into an Instagram spot. But I certainly think it will happen in the near future. One of the new wonders of the world.
Author: Shebs Alom