Tag Archives: Worlds oldest temple

The worlds oldest stone temple, Gobekli Tepe.

Gobekli Tepe has been dated to about 11,500 years old, and is located in Urfa, Sothern Turkey, quite close to the border with Syria. It’s believed that the temples were built by the last hunter gatherers before the conversion to agriculture. It’s quite possible the people that built these temples were the first ever wheat farmers as recent DNA analysis of modern domesticated wheat compared with wild wheat has shown that its DNA is closest in structure to wild wheat found in a mountain (Karacadağ) 20 miles away from the site, leading one to believe that this is where modern wheat was first domesticated. Domesticated rye 13,000 years old has been found just to the South in Syria, and the domestication of sheep goats and cattle is known to be atabout the 11,000 to 12,000 year mark in the Zagros, so it’s entirely possible these people were the early Turkish farmers and not hunter gatherers.

Excavations began there in 1994. The massive sequence of stratification layers suggests several millennia of activity, perhaps reaching back to the Mesolithic. The oldest occupation layer (stratum III) contained monolithic pillars linked by coarsely built walls to form circular or oval structures. So far, four such buildings, with diameters between 10 and 30m have been uncovered. Geophysical studies suggest 16 further structures.

The walls are made of unworked dry stone and include numerous T-shaped monolithic pillars of limestone that are up to 3 m high. Another, bigger pair of pillars is placed in the centre of the structure. The floors are made of terrazzo (burnt lime), and there is a low bench running along the whole of the exterior wall.

The reliefs on the pillars include foxes, lions, cattle, wild boars, herons, ducks, scorpions, ants and snakes. Some of the reliefs have been deliberately erased, maybe in preparation for new pictures. There are freestanding sculptures as well that may represent wild boars or foxes. As they are heavily encrusted with lime, it is sometimes difficult to tell. Comparable statues have been discovered in Nevalı Çori and Nahal Hemar. The quarries for the statues are located on the plateau itself, some unfinished pillars have been found there in situ. The biggest unfinished pillar is still 6.9 m long, a length of 9m has been reconstructed. This is much larger than any of the finished pillars found so far. The stone was quarried with stone picks. Bowl-like depressions in the limestone-rocks have maybe been used as mortars in the epipalaeolithic already. There are some phalloi and geometric patterns cut into the rock as well, and their dating is uncertain.

 Only a few of human figures have been recovered so far. The man is the worlds oldest statue, the 13,500 year old, 2m tall Balıklıgöl Statue. The lady is a smaller figurine.


Below is a montage of pictures. Top is a reconstruction of the site.

The oldest known city in Turkey is Catal Hoyuk, and this temple is about 2,000 years older than that. Domesticated grain made it down into Syria by about 13,000 years ago, so I’m guessing there are probably older cities buried in Turkey that no-one has dug up yet.

This would make it unlikely that the Natufians were actually the very first farmers, the ancient Anatolians seem to have discovered that.

This is an excellent site for information on Gobekli Tepe, partly in Turkish.