Recent excavations at the Göbeklitepe archaeological site have revealed that ancient people living there 12,000 years ago engaged in agriculture, processed leather, made sculptures and rock accessories and possessed a significant belief system.
The site in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa includes important information on the people 12 millennia ago, said Assistant Professor Cihat Kürkçüoğlu of the local Harran University.
Göbeklitepe includes many temples and archaeological works from the Neolithic era. Kürkçüoğlu evaluated the excavation, which is being carried out by Prof. Dr. Klaus Schmidt from the Berlin Germany Archaeology Institute.
The latest remains and excavations showed that those people had a culture and a belief system, said Kürkçüoğlu.
The excavation project has changed many perceptions about the site, he said, adding that ancient people processed wheat and knew about agriculture. “All this information came from the remains.”
The most important information that the team found was that the people had a belief system. “Those people made the first temple in the world and created the first monumental work of the world,” said Kürkçüoğlu.
Göbeklitepe society also had a concept of art, he said.
“Those people created beautiful artwork with stones,” he said, adding that there were serpent and bird figures in the rocks. “This is a very important milestone to learn that these people had an art and aesthetic knowledge.”
A leopard relief found on one of the rocks was a unique piece, according to Kürkçüoğlu. “This might be the oldest relief in the world,” he said, adding that the rock and the figures on it show that the Göbeklitepe people had artistic vision. “Those people are not hunters or nomads.”
Leather cultivation was an important activity among the people of Göbeklitepe because they knew how to cultivate leather, he added.
“The unearthed remains show a relief of fox leather on a man’s body,” said Kürkçüoğlu, adding that the cultivation of leather, engraving rocks, agriculture and architecture were very important developments for the archaeological world. “We believe that these discoveries will attract lots of people to Şanlıurfa.”
The monumental buildings of Göbeklitepe might be temples, according to Kürkçüoğlu. “However, we are not sure about this information,” he said.
Göbeklitepe is located in southeastern Turkey. It was first noted by a survey conducted by Istanbul University and the University of Chicago in 1964, which recognized that the hill could not entirely be a natural feature, but assumed that a Byzantine cemetery lay beneath. The survey noted a large number of flints and the presence of limestone slabs which were thought to be Byzantine grave markers.
In 1994, Schmidt visited the site and recognized that it was in fact a much more ancient Neolithic site. Since 1995 excavations have been conducted by the German Archaeological Institute’s Istanbul branch and the Şanlıurfa Museum under Schmidt’s direction.
Prior to the excavation, the hill had been under agricultural cultivation. Generations of local inhabitants had frequently moved rocks and placed them in clearance piles which likely destroyed archaeological evidence. Scholars from the Hochschule Karlsruhe began documenting the architectural remains. They soon discovered T-shaped pillars, some of which had apparently been smashed by vandals.