The Forgotten Stones of Karahan Tepe, Turkey
Read Part 2 – The Forgotten Stones of Baalbek, Lebanon
Karahan Tepe is the sister site to the enigmatic Göbekli Tepe, that sits around 23 miles southeast of Göbekli, upon an elevated limestone ridge. It has many striking similarities to Göbekli. Firstly, it consists of T-Shaped pillars - 266 of them that mostly form parallel rows. The pillars have relief carvings, and the site appears, like Göbekli, to be deliberately buried under a great artificial mound, although this could be natural, as after 10,500 years the accumulation of dirt, combined with high winds, could have covered it back up. The comparisons do not end there. It also has serpent relief carvings, strange rock indentations, large cup-marks, porthole stones, and an unfinished T-shaped pillar still in the quarry - the focus of this article.
T-Shaped Pillars at Karahan Tepe
I visited this unexcavated site after our Göbekli Tepe visit in June 2014 on the ‘Origins of Civilization’ tour, so was intrigued by the similarities. Karahan Tepe was first discovered in 1997, and was surveyed in 2000 and again in 2011. Like Göbekli Tepe it is located within the boundaries of Sanliurfa (ancient Edessa - the birthplace of Abraham) around 30 miles from the city.
Map of Karahan Tepe in relation to other sites (Courtesy of www.humanjourney.us)
It is not an officially recognized tourist site, so we had to plan the trip there carefully as it is on private land upon the Tektek Mountains. Fortunately, a well-placed (probably modern) standing stone marked the entrance to the track that led to the farm that it is located behind. When Andrew Collins visited there in 2004, the person who showed him around was warned he would get a beating if they found that anyone had visited there. Ten years later, and the owners welcome the occasional visitor with tea and information. No beatings entailed, just sweet, hot beverages and conversation after our morning visit.
Cup-marks similar to those at Gobekli Tepe
The dating of the site is impressive as it is dated to 8,500 BC, contemporary with the now submerged Nevalı Çori, and the later stages of Göbekli Tepe. There are obvious similarities to these and other sites in the vicinity, but I’d read that there was a quarry on-site where an unfinished T-shaped pillar still sits within the bedrock. Kevin Fisch and I diligently searched for it with only one clue, that it was directly to the west of the main enclosure, as mentioned in the 2011 report (1). Kevin and I eventually converged at the impressive monolith. It lies on a rock face sloping at 30 degrees towards the setting sun. At 18ft long, it would have probably been the largest monolith at the site (the site is not excavated yet, so this cannot be confirmed), and weighs in at around 30-40 tons. It’s downward angle on the slope, on a natural exposed rock face, may have been why this was a preferred spot to quarry from. As archaeologist Bahattin Çelik explains” “ This is a quite practical technique, with roughly chiseling on the side of the rock to produce a T-shape, whilst carving the other side 40cm wide and 1m deep. The solid pillar separated from the bedrock with this technique can easily be removed from the quarry also with the help of a slope. ” (2).
Hugh & Kevin Fisch at 18ft Monolith on west slope of Karahan Tepe
Andrew Collins decided to measure it and discovered it was indeed 18 feet (5.5 metres) in length with a maximum width of 6.6 feet (2 metres) across its T-shaped head. This is similar in size to the twin monoliths at the centre of Göbekli’s Enclosure C and D. (3). The weathering was vey bad, much like the exposed parts of the pillars on the main hill. However, what lies underneath could be as well preserved as Göbekli Tepe.
14ft pillar on east side of Karahan Tepe
There was further evidence of another unfinished T-shaped pillar on the eastern slope, next to other carvings, and what looked like a water channel leading through the bedrock. This pillar was smaller, perhaps 12-14ft long, and was more difficult to discern to the naked eye. As with Göbekli Tepe, there are cup-marks all over the bedrock, which indicates this was in use long before the cup-mark phenomenon began in Britain, and could have even been the inspiration for it. Altogether, Karahan Tepe is a fascinating site that begs excavation, as the significance of the nearby Göbekli Tepe has now hit the headlines.