Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gobekli Tepe -- the first great human monument

I am not teaching ancient history this year but I am still very interested. It's hard to imagine anyone with a feeling for any sort of early history not being fascinated by this one.

Archaeologists working in that part of the fertile crescent which is now located in Turkey have found a huge hill which seems to be the remains of late Stone Age temple building on a grand scale at a place now called Gobekli Tepe. The great stone structures date to long before Sumer -- as one archaeologist says, there is more time between Gobekli Tepe (9000 BC) and Sumer than there is between Sumer and us -- and in fact before agriculture was invented. Somehow hunter gatherers mustered the resources to build what was not a town or settlement or fortification but simply an immense complex of stone monuments.

Smithsonian Magazine has a very good article, the best part of which for me is the speculation by the archaeologists that it was the demand for resources to build such a site that made necessary agriculture and domestication of animals. For a very long time historians have been telling students and the general public and each other that it was the invention of agriculture which made possible big projects like Gobekli Tepe; but maybe it's the other way around.

Thanks to Phil Paine and Skye Sepp for drawing my attention to this.

Image: Gobekli Tepe from Smithsonian Magazine. This is just one of a collection of amazing pictures at the Smithsonian site.


  1. wow, things like that just get my imagination racing!
    I wonder what kinda people built it and why, maybe there is another lost civilization in the mid east?

    Thanks for posting it:)

  2. Anonymous4:47 am

    I first became aware of Gobekli Tepe a couple of years ago through Dr. Nigel Spivey's excellent BBC TV series 'How Art Made the World'. I tried to find out more and was surprised at how little was written about such an important site. There are now 65,000 refernces to Gobekli Tepe on the web! I am sceptical of Dr. Spivey's premise that the complex was made as a venue for art(as much as I would like to belive it!) but I am convinced that this important site has many more things to teach us about our collective past, and therefore, give us an incite to who we are now.

  3. Anonymous9:25 am

    Fascinating discovery, the picture of what is described as a human arm looks a lot more like a plow or hoe of some kind.
    Were these people that organised this the watchman. Dead people being consumed by vultures....then they ascend into heaven.
    A sedantary lifestyle decreases human life...

    I think they have found the origins of the story of genesis, watchman, shamans dressed up as birds, spreading knowledge, creating kingdoms, and well...civilization. All created and controlled by secrets, lies, some truths and enforced by fear, ignorance and enslavement.

    The story telling indoctrinations continues to this day. Kudos to the earliest slave people that revolted, gained back there freedom and buried this; what must of been to them an evil site.