General Information About Gobeklitepe

A brief travel information about Gobeklitepe, online maps, videos, tourist attractions, museums,  mosques, historical sites, old churches, sightseeing places and more...

Before the great monotheistic religions, before the Greek gods, before ancient Egypt, before the Hittites, there was one place in the world that formed the earliest known religious spot. The earliest known temple complex, the earliest known pilgrimage site.

That place is Göbekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe is an archaeological site in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Şanliurfa.  The site was first noted in a survey conducted by Istanbul University and the University of Chicago in 1963.  American archaeologist Peter Benedict identified lithics collected from the surface of the site as belonging to the Aceramic Neolithic, but mistook stone slabs (the upper parts of the T-shaped pillars) for grave markers, postulating that the prehistoric phase was overlain by a Byzantine cemetery.

In 1994, Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute, who had previously been working at Nevalı Çori, was looking for another site to excavate. He reviewed the archaeological literature on the surrounding area, found the 1963 Chicago researchers’ brief description of Göbekli Tepe, and decided to reexamine the site. Having found similar structures at Nevalı Çori, he recognized the possibility that the rocks and slabs were prehistoric.

Göbekli Tepe goes all the way back 12,000 years ago! 10,000 years before Jesus walked the Earth, pilgrims were flocking from all over Mesopotamia to visit the massive temple complex erected at Göbeklitepe.

This coincides with the first time in human history that we moved from hunter-gatherer societies to more settled agricultural societies, again around 12,000 years ago. As humans learned to use and grow wild cereals (again, in the Levant and Mesopotamia. In fact, nearby Karaca Dağ is the location that many geneticists believe the first ever grains were cultivated!) (Isn’t this region just fascinating!), they were forced to leave behind their previously nomadic lifestyle for a life of farming. This led to the first permanent cities and towns, and it appears to have rapidly led to the first ever permanent religious complex in Göbeklitepe..

What do we know about Göbeklitepe and how do we know it?

We know the dates of over 200 T-shaped megaliths in about 20 circles. Each pillar is absolutely massive – 6 meters tall and up to 10 tons. They were fitted into sockets carved right out of the bedrock, all fairly impressive feats of engineering for a society previously thought to be capable of little more than cave painting. Carved into the pillars and other rock in the complex are loads of animal figurines.

These pillars date to the 10th millennia B.C., but there’s even evidence that it may have been a spiritual center even before that, which would literally change what we know about the nature of hunter-gatherer societies and their transformation to agricultural societies.

But it’s not just the existence of these pillars that is fascinating, but the fact that there appears to be just about no residential element to the complex. This suggests that, rather than an imperial capital of some sort, Göbeklitepe was a sacred ceremonial temple, a pilgrimage site where people came from all over Mesopotamia to worship. Isn’t that amazing?

This is even in line with ancient Sumerian beliefs, which speak of the sacred mountain Ekur, inhabited by various deities.

Archaeologists have intentionally excavated only around 5% of Göbeklitepe, waiting until new techniques are invented and the area can be completely excavated without any chance of damage. All of the motifs of animals carved into the pillars suggests animals were immensely important to the belief structure, and there is evidence of bones having been ritualistically carved. Some archaeologists believe that further excavation will reveal mass animal burial grounds with ritualized objects.

Either way, what we do know indicates that Göbeklitepe is indeed the “zero point in time,” the beginning of what we know today as modern civilization. Now it’s open to visitors, it’s time to discover your own history and visit this incredible spot!


Gobeklitepe Map

Gobeklitepe / Sanli Urfa Travel Activities

Eastern Turkey by Plane - Cappadocia - Nemrut - Urfa - Gobeklitepe (5 Days-4 Nights)
Flights from / to Istanbul, hotel transfers, all tours with English speaking guides,  all connecting transfers, accommodation at 3 / 4 star hotels, some meals, all tickets for museums and archaeological sites which will be visited.

Eastern Turkey by Bus - Cappadocia - Nemrut - Urfa - Gobeklitepe (5 Days - 6 Nights)
Discover the best of eastern Turkey. 4 guided day tours with meals, all bus tickets and transportation, hotel transfers, 4 nights hotel accommodation at 3 star hotels, all tickets of museums and sights that will be visited, professional licensed tour guides.

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