--- Gobekli Tepe Temple ---
Stone circles at the edge of the ice age

In a hot, barren area of south Turkey, not far from the border with Syria, stands a small hill long known as Gobekli Tepe (Göbekli Tepe), "Potbelly Hill" to the local people. A survey by archaeologists in 1964 concluded the hill was man-made but it was assumed to be an ancient fort, a thousand years old or so. The large flat stones found in the area were thought to be tombstones.

All this speculation evaporated within minutes when German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt, Ph.D, first saw the place in 1994. The area was littered with neolithic stone tools, far more of them than any other site he had ever seen. Klaus reportedly told himself that if he did not walk away immediately he would spend his lifetime there.


Gobekli Tepe Archeological site
Excavation at Gobekli Tepe, Turkey



He was correct about his destiny but he could not have imagined what lay under his feet. Science knew the people of the neolithic could work stone, neolithic means "new stone" age, after all, but the belief was that they were simple hunter-gathers living in small groups. Gobekli Tepe is a complex of stone enclosures that, by ground penetrating radar, is now known to cover about 20 acres (10 hectares) and include over 200 finely cut stone pillars weighing many tons each. Further exploration raises the possibility of hundreds of circles. The cooperation and skill needed to build this site is so far advanced from the known abilities of the people of the time that it forces a major reconsideration of ancient history.

Carbon in charcoal found at the site has dated it to at least 9000 years ago, although most of the site is still unexcavated and earlier sections may yet be uncovered. This is often blurred by claims that Gobekli Tepi is 12,000 years old. That is an important time point, because the last ice age ended about then. Sea level rose 200 feet with the melting of the glaciers and, in legend, Atlantis was destroyed.

Gobekli Tepe is twice as old as the early civilizations of Egypt and Sumer. Twice as old. Its' people had no known writing, had no clay pots or metal tools. This area of southern Turkey is where a major species of wheat was first farmed. The genetic forebears of this wheat still grow there. Goats also were first domesticated here. The time of the beginning of agriculture here coincides with the dating of Gobekli Tepe, bringing speculation that the many people required to build and support this temple denuded the resources of the area and caused the birth of agriculture.

Gobekli Tepe consists of over twenty circles cut into the bedrock with flat floors of burnt lime. Two large, flat limestone pillars stand near the center and a circle of slightly smaller pillars surround them, about 30 feet (10 meters) in diameter. In some cases a second pillar circle surrounds the first. The pillars have been reported as much as 19 feet (6 M) tall, but in photos appear to be more like 10 feet (3 M). Lower walls of undressed, loose stones mark the enclosures.


Gobekli Tepe Pillar
A central pillar at Gobekli Tepe shows a human arm
in a protective gesture over a small animal


Many of the pillars are carved with animals and an occasional human, the concept and execution are extraordinary. A number of free-standing sculptures have also been found in the enclosures. The carvings of animals are mostly of predators, many appear mythical. This would suggest shamanic use, perhaps something like an American Indian Kiva.

Another mystery is that the entire complex was carefully buried by the ancients, a task nearly as laborious as building it in the first place. This is immensely valuable to us, as it preserved the site in incredible condition, but it is difficult to understand why? Klaus Schmidt believes the whole complex was open for perhaps a thousand years before it was all covered and abandoned, but this theory relies on two different dating methods. Long use would show as wear on floors and parts of the pillars likely to be touched. Such wear does not appear in photographs such as the mythical animal below. The narrow, loose stone enclosures also do not appear to have been built for long use.

It may be that each enclosure was built for a specific purpose, perhaps an astrological event, then covered afterwards so as not to dissipate the magic. The next event saw a new structure built. The carvings would be relevant to the particular celebration, and they might eventually provide the key to understanding this strange place.


Gobekli Tepe mythical animal
Another pillar at Gobekli Tepe,
carved with a mythical animal


Gobekli Tepe is certainly not proof of the existence of Atlantis, but the greatest scientific obstacle that lay before such proof, the existence of highly organized society in ancient times, has been bridged. Atlantis, in some form, is no longer scientifically inconceivable.
photos from Wikipedia and Smithsonian.



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