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Ancient mini Göbekli Tepe discovered in Turkey. Source: Cumhuriyet Gazetesi / Facebook

11,300 Year-Old Mini Göbekli Tepe Unearthed In Turkey

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Archaeologists have unearthed a Neolithic-era temple with three almost-intact stelae similar in form to the famous and controversial Göbekli Tepe.

The ancient temple was unearthed in the Ilısu neighborhood of Dargeçit in southeastern Turkey’s Mardin province and archaeologists estimate that it was built 11,300 years-old. Dr. Ergül Kodaş of Mardin Artuklu University’s Archaeology Department is the scientific counselor to the excavations at the Boncuklu Tarla (Beaded Field) site, which is the earliest known human settlement in the city. He told press that this ancient spiritual center was active in the same era as the famous Göbekli Tepe which is considered the birthplace of early civilization and the oldest temple on earth.

Earliest Known Settlement at the Mini Göbekli Tepe

Dr. Kodaş and his team of archaeologists discovered that the 11,000 year-old temple walls were made of rubble and held in place with a hardened clay base, but they haven’t yet reached the base of the structure. It is estimated that it might take at least a month to reach into the sacred building’s foundations. According to a report in Daily Sabah , within the excavation site, the archaeologists found four stone stelae, three of which were described as being “very well preserved” but “no figurative inscription” were found on any of the four stelae.

Four stelae were found at the Mini Göbekli Tepe discovery. (Diren arkeoloji / Facebook)

This 861 square foot (80 square meter) temple shares certain features with Göbekli Tepe and a Hürriyet report says “intense work” has been carried out in a large area which also includes the site known as Boncuklu Tarla (Beaded Field), the earliest known human settlement in Mardin which was discovered in 2008 during a field survey.

Ancient Finds In The Beaded Field

Erdoğan said that it was in the Aceramic Neolithic period that the “first sedentary society” emerged and that artifacts from this phase have been found in only a handful of places in Anatolia with “ stone or bone tools and weapons, ornamental items, and the first resident villages”. However, there are further ancient sites which when interpreted with the new discovery reveal the building traditions of the ancient architects .

The mini Göbekli Tepe site is only one of a few similar sites. (Musa Kılıç / Facebook)

The mini Göbekli Tepe site is only one of a few similar sites. (Musa Kılıç / Facebook)

A 2017 Daily Sabah article says archaeological excavations conducted by Mardin Museum Director Nihat Erdoğan and his team in the Boncuklu Tarla settlement uncovered the buildings, cultures, social lives, and burial traditions of the people who lived in northern Mesopotamia during the Aceramic Neolithic period between 10,000 BC to 7,000 BC. And just like this new discovery, their buildings had “rubble stone walls with foundations hardened by clay”.

Göbekli Tepe: Crown Of The Ancient World

While the discovery of this new temple adds volumes to our understanding of the religious and spiritual traditions of our forebears, it falls short of the mystique contained within Göbekli Tepe , the most ancient temple structure ever discovered. This ancient site in southeastern Turkey is changing the way archaeologists think about the origins of human civilization and within its circular structure of elaborately carved T-shaped pillars dating to over 12,000 years ago, it is not only older than the invention of pottery, but it was built before agriculture was even conceived.

According to National Geographic the early dates associated with Göbekli Tepe “have upended the idea that agriculture led to civilization” because scholars had long thought hunter-gatherers had settled and began growing crops providing food surplus”, making it possible for complex societies to emerge, but no evidence of a permanent agricultural settlement at Göbekli Tepe has ever been discovered. This leads many scientists to settle on the idea that because the temple is situated on the top of a hill commanding views southwards over plains, it was “a regional gathering place”.

A Cathedral Of Deep History?

Jens Notroff, a German Archaeological Institute archaeologist who works at Göbekli Tepe , says “back then”, 12,000 years ago, people would have to meet regularly to keep “the gene pool fresh” and to exchange information. Now, with smaller versions of the pillars, symbols, and architecture of Göbekli Tepe being found , does this mean Göbekli Tepe was similar in function to Ness of Brodgar on Orkney; a vast Neolithic cathedral serving regional churches ( temples)?

Archaeologists believe the mini Göbekli Tepe was used as a meeting place. (Düzgün Avseren / Facebook)

Archaeologists believe the mini Göbekli Tepe was used as a meeting place. (Düzgün Avseren / Facebook)

Forgetting Ness of Brodgar was built around 3,000 BC while Göbekli Tepe was active before 12,000 BC, both buildings were early spiritual landmarks, spiritual sentinels, and organized spaces in wild and unpredictable landscapes. Maybe the most successful hunter-gatherer groups met at Göbekli Tepe on key dates through the year, with each one having its own local monumental structure for feasts and to display the first excesses resources - wealth.

Top image: Ancient mini Göbekli Tepe discovered in Turkey. Source: Cumhuriyet Gazetesi / Facebook

By Ashley Cowie

Comments

Terry Edwards's picture

There is no need to wonder whether civilization or agriculture came first. There were likely areas with enough natural grain and game where hunter-gatherers just stayed and harvested. The rest followed.

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