The guard of Göbeklitepe, humanity’s ‘ground zero’

The guard of Göbeklitepe, humanity’s ‘ground zero’

The guard of Göbeklitepe, humanity’s ‘ground zero’

Twenty-three years ago, Mahmut Yıldız and his father found stones in Göbeklitepe, an 11,000-year-old site believed to be home to one of the earliest civilizations in the world in southeastern Turkey, while plowing their field. 

Yıldız, now 66, owned the land before it became a site frequented by archaeologists and tourists. He now serves as a security guard for the ancient temple complex. 

When Mahmut Yıldız and his father İbrahim Yıldız found stones at the site they took them to a museum. But little did they know their findings would be infinitely important. Works were then initiated in Göbeklitepe, and since then archaeological excavations have been continuing in the Neolithic-age settlement. 

Yıldız worked for the excavations, headed by the late German Professor Klaus Schmidt, for 20 years. In 2005, he retired due to old age. But he couldn’t disconnect himself from the site, where he now serves as a security guard. 

He also voluntarily serves as a guide for locals and foreign tourists who come to see Göbeklitepe. Thanks to his traditional clothes, Yıldız is among the most popular people in the ancient settlement.

A world heritage 

Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Yıldız said that before the archaeological excavations began, the ancient site was considered sacred by locals who used to use it as a place for sacrifice and make wishes. 

Yıldız said he takes pride in being from Göbeklitepe, as he had the chance to meet people from all over the world. 

“Whatever people do, they should do something useful for the society. They should leave memorable artifacts behind. Honesty is important here. We left a heritage to the world; therefore we are happy. I hope more findings will be revealed here,” he said.


Located in the Örencik neighborhood, 18 kilometers from the city center in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, Göbeklitepe has been undergoing archaeological excavations since 1995 in collaboration with the Şanlıurfa Museum and the Berlin Archaeology Institute. 

Neolithic-era T-shaped stones with wild animal figures and various artifacts have so far been unearthed in the ancient site. 

Göbeklitepe was included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List five years ago and will be one of Turkey’s nominees to enter the Permanent List during the 42nd World Heritage Committee from June 24 to July 4 this year.

Final preparations are currently underway for the UNESCO bid. The construction of a 4,000-squaremeter protective roof, which cost 6.6 million euros, aims to support the application. The roof will facilitate the long-term preservation of the ancient settlement.

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