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The world’s oldest religious sanctuary, excavated on its own distinctive ‘pot-bellied’ hilltop, which predates the earliest city by 3,000 years.
‘First came the temple, then the city’.
These are the words of the German excavator in charge, Dr Klaus Schmidt. Pre-dating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, Göbekli Tepe is a remarkable site, enclosing the world’s oldest known temples, and it has turned our perceptions of man’s early history upside down. The world’s earliest known city, Çatalhüyük, also in eastern Turkey, has been dated to 6000BC, a full 3,000 years later.
Although excavations started in 1994, and have continued every year since, only 10% of the site has so far been uncovered. It is likely to stay that way for some years to come, as Dr Schmidt has said he will leave the rest of the site for future generations since there is more than enough to keep him busy for the rest of his life in what he has already discovered. Schmidt happened upon the site in 1993 after he had been working on the Neolithic site of Nevalı Çori before it was lost to flooding – the result of the Ataturk Dam being built on the Euphrates. He currently works on the site from February to June, and late September to early December, making these the best times to visit, both to coincide with the excavations and the cooler weather.
(Photo: A rock carving at Göbekli Tepe © Teomancimit, Wikipedia)