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.
After leaving the site, I wondered if the location of the choice of rock was significant? Was the direction of the quarry from the main temple an indication of a tradition that existed as far back as 10,500 years ago? Andrew Collins and I discussed the possibility that, indeed, it could be the case, as bringing quarried stone from the west to the east may represent bringing it into the light (sunrise) from darkness (sunset). However, the remaining 14 ft pillar still on the eastern slope, had further avenues slightly further east of it, so again, it showed a possible west to east movement. Alternatively, it could also represent an east to west direction from the smaller quarry to the main enclosure. After searching through some Masonic texts, I found a reference to ceremony where the initiate has to ‘move’ in that direction – east to west. Why this is, perhaps could represent facing ones own death, as initiation rites such as these are often about facing deep-rooted fears. Whether this was on the minds of the builders of Karahan Tepe, we will never know, unless, of course, the site gets excavated and evidence emerges. For now, we can only speculate.
Another aspect that grabbed both mine and Andrew’s attention was the fact that the parallel rows appeared to be ‘serpent-like’, weaving up (or down) the main hill to (or from) the main enclosure. In his initial report, Andrew stated: “ It is even possible that the zigzagging pairs of stones making up the stone avenues located on the northern, eastern and southeastern sides of the tepe signify the paths of snakes, which are seen to descend, like living energy, into the valley below. This idea is given credence through the fact that carving on the stones seems directed up the hill, as if the direction of movement is downward through the various sets of gateways (after coming to this conclusion I actually dreamt of snakes, their tails tied together, each one trying to break free of its bondage, all of them writhing about in the process. With this dream came the impression that the snakes represented the containment, flow and energy of the stone avenues at Karahan Tepe—an interesting concept if nothing else)”(4). Earth energy springs to mind, as it has been found in Avebury, Brittany and Cornwall that stone avenues mark the path of telluric earth energy currents, with a crossing point often at the centre of the complex, which would naturally congregate on a hilltop. More research needs to be carried out to confirm this hypothesis, but with serpent symbolism at such a remote date, it could even reveal the origins of geomancy and earth energy science. When we go back in September, we will have some equipment to take readings and dowsing rods to find out if this is in fact the case.
Featured image: 18ft T-shaped pillar on west side of site. Credit: Hugh Newman
By Hugh Newman
(1), (2) Karahan Tepe: a new cultural centre in the Urfa area in Turkey by Bahattin Çelik, Documenta Prehistoric 2011 p242
(3), (4) EarthQuest-The Andrew Collins Newsletter - June 2014 – www.andrewcollins.com