Outrage as Concrete is Poured on World’s Oldest Known Temple at Göbekli Tepe
Archaeologists around the world have been left shocked and furious after the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry gave the go ahead for ‘conservation work’ at the ancient site of Göbekli Tepe, which has resulted in irreparable damage from heavy equipment and concrete being poured around the historically important.
Göbekli Tepe is an archaeological site located at the top of a mountain ridge in south-eastern Anatolia region of Turkey. Dating back at least 12,000 years, it is home to the oldest known temple in the world, comprised of numerous megalithic pillars weighing between 40 and 60 tonnes and T-shaped stelas with intricate depictions of bulls, snakes, foxes, lions and other animals carved into the stone.
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The whole area was filled with stones and dirt (CC BY-SA 3.0)
‘Careless Construction Work’
Hurriyet Daily News reports that heavy equipment is being used to construct a new visitor centre and a concrete walkway to assist the disabled and elderly, in order to improve chances of being included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, though some would say such actions are in direct opposition to the goals of UNESCO, which is to preserve ancient and historic sites.
“My sorrow is hard to articulate. Every time I visit there I see another fragmentation coming to light,” archaeologist Çiğdem Köksal Schmidt, the wife of the late Professor Klaus Schmidt, who previously led excavations at Göbekli Tepe.
“The construction work for the visitor center, as reflected in the media, looks like a disaster,” archaeologist Nezih Başgelen told Hurriyet Daily News. “They should have moved very sensitively in the protection zone but we can see heavy construction equipment used on the site. It is very worrying that the extraordinary Neolithic remains and the round temple site at the entrance have been exposed to such action. It is unacceptable that such careless construction work has damaged this extraordinary archaeological site.”
Ministry Defends its Actions
Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry is not concerned and has defended the actions of workers at the precious site, saying that restoration work is ‘proceeding well’.
Turkish news site, Yeni Safak, reports that archaeologists and cultural protection officials are supervising the work being undertaken. However, Schmidt, who visited the site last week, said that when she was there, not a single archaeologist, Ministerial Representative or Museum Officer were present.
Construction work being undertaken at Gobekli Tepe. Credit: Çiğdem Köksal Schmidt
Mahmut Kocamese, Deputy Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said at a media briefing: “I have to say that this road is already at a distance from the archaeological site and will end near it, but it doesn’t even touch the area" [via Yeni Safak].
Prof. Dr. Necmi Karul, a member of the science commission in Sanliurfa, told Yeni Safak that heavy roller machines were indeed being used at the site, but that the work was “protective and not destructive”.
Karul emphasized that there was no threat of harming the temple. However, Schmidt triggered outrage around the world after she shared photos and videos showing concrete and construction equipment on site.
The work on the new visitor center and walkway is due to be completed before the site is reopened to visitors in April.
Top image: Construction work being undertaken at Gobekli Tepe. Credit: Çiğdem Köksal Schmidt