Tick Gobekli Tepe off your bucket list
In south-east Turkey, a part of the country lesser visited by most tourists, stands the captivating and somewhat mysterious ancient temple site of Göbekli Tepe. It is an incredible site, worthy of a place on any archaeological traveller’s bucket list – and we can take you there.
On a Göbekli Tepe tour, you will admire the T-shaped anthropomorphic pillars – some as high as 5.5m – carefully arranged at the centre and around the edges of the sunken, circular enclosures and generally vividly carved with bas relief animals and birds, which are visually stunning. What makes this site truly awe-inspiring is the fact that it was built over 11,000 years ago. This UNESCO World Heritage Site even predates Stonehenge by a staggering 7,500 years. We can take you to explore the archaeology in Göbekli Tepe in the company of an expert guide, who will illuminate it even further.
Our 14-day Turkey: From Çatal Hüyük to Göbekli Tepe tour includes a visit to this incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is situated on top of a rounded hill in the anti-Taurus mountains a few miles northeast of Şanlıurfa.
Terry Richardson, our Turkey expert and esteemed Guide Lecturer, told us that “the constant reinterpretation of evidence and formulation of new hypotheses is just one reason why Göbekli Tepe has so caught the imagination of archaeologists and enthusiasts around the world,” and it is a site that simply has to be on your must-visit list.
Terry Richardson also wrote a piece for us about Göbekli Tepe, which you can read below.
“I don’t believe in this temple hypothesis”. With this bold statement, made at the beginning of his presentation to the Anglo-Turkish Society in London in 2019, Lee Clare challenged the popular view that the series of circular enclosures found at Göbekli Tepe, constituted, as National Geographic trumpeted back in 2011, “the world’s first temple”. Lee Clare has every right to question, as he has been the coordination and research director at the “Hill of the Navel”, an artificial mound perched atop a 770m-high rounded limestone hill overlooking the scorched flatlands of the Mesopotamian Plain in southeast Turkey, since 2014.
Although Lee, who showed us around the site on Andante’s last trip out there in 2014, may not believe they were temples as such (officially they are now described as “The earliest human-made megalithic buildings worldwide”), he is prepared to concede that they were multi-functional structures with a ritual component.
Lee’s predecessor, Klaus Schmidt, who helped first uncover the site in 1995 and made it his life’s work until he tragically passed on in 2014, was convinced that the people who carved the pillars and constructed the enclosures between 9,600 and 8,200 BC (a pivotal period when humankind was making the transition from a hunter-gatherer to a settled agricultural society), did not live around the site. His reasoning was that his team had not uncovered any evidence of settlement in almost two decades of excavation – and the fact that an exposed hilltop was not the usual choice of location for the rudimentary settlements of the period.
I’m not sure what the enthusiastic and pioneering Klaus, who gave up much of his valuable time to the Andante groups who visited the site between 2007 and 2013, would make of the recent discovery of eight dwellings complete with hearths and middens. Nor the find of human skulls, detached from the skeleton and deliberately scored and drilled – possibly for ritualistic purposes.
It’s likely that more new finds will be made that throw into question the validity of previous hypotheses, and even when (if!) the excavations are completed, there’ll be plenty of room for archaeologists and the lay man to reinterpret the evidence from this hugely significant and endlessly fascinating site. And that’s without getting on to the rash of nearby prehistoric sites, the further excavation of which will surely shed more light on the enigma that is Göbekli Tepe.
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