Turkey covers an enormous amount of land, 783,562 km² to be exact. Many empires throughout history have existed within the boundaries, so obviously, thousands of historical sites have been uncovered and it seems every month; a new and exciting discovery sends international and domestic history experts into a joyful frenzy.
As the central hub between East and West, Turkey is a playground for historians and a treasure trove for archaeologists. It can make-or-break careers depending on discoveries made and theories proved
The ancient site of Göbekli Tepe temple in Sanliurfa Turkey was a pivotal moment in the career of Klaus Schmidt, a German archaeologist who was desperate to lead his own team, in uncovering ancient sites in Turkey.
Discovery of Göbekli Tepe Temple
In 1994, Klaus Schmidt reviewed documents written in 1963, about a small hill, near Sanliurfa, that was possibly hiding artefacts dating from the Neolithic period, also known as the last days of the Stone Age.
Other archaeologists considered the site to lack importance. They assumed the only artefacts to be found, were farming tools, of which thousands have already been unearthed, and are sitting in museums all over the world.
Klaus ignored the advice of his colleagues and in 1995, his team started digging. Instead of farming tools, he uncovered large T-shape pillars in circular shapes that suggested a form of religious practise.
On the pillars, he saw deep engravings of animals, that were traditionally hunted for food and on one pillar, was a depiction of a headless man with a large erect penis. The discovery of animal bones also suggested group sacrifices.
The discovery of this man-made construction, built during the Neolithic period, not only threw the history world into chaos, but religion as well. All previously published documents stated Neolithic man was nothing but a fierce hunter before downing his killing tools, to be farmers.
No proof had ever been found to suggest, man was using religion during this era.
Gobekli Tepe disputed everything we knew about human evolution and anyone who claimed the Bible said the world was approximately 6000 years old just had their theory completely blown out of the water.
Gobekli Tepe Theories: Aliens and the Garden of Eden
Gobekli Tepe is the crème de la crème of historical discoveries. Some labelled it the Turkish Stonehenge, although it is 6000 years older than its UK counterpart and 7000 years older than the pyramids.
- National Geographic called it the “Birth of Religion”
- The New Scientist publication suggested it was built to worship Sirius, the Dog Star in the sky
- Other experts insisted Neolithic tools, were not strong enough to make the carvings on the pillars, therefore alien technology was used.
- Some religious experts claimed it could be the “Garden of Eden”
- Other enthusiasts suggested there was a lost civilization that we knew nothing about
Further excavations did not reveal any signs of habitation by man at the site, no source of water, crop growth, or living structures. This boasted the suggestion that Gobekli Tepe was the world’s first religious temple and the estimated date of construction, between the 10th and 9th century BC, ensured it trumped and outshone the historical mysteries of the pyramids and sphinx of Egypt.
Visiting Gobekli Tepe Temple in Sanliurfa, Turkey
All the hype about the ancient site encouraged me to visit it so while staying in the city of Sanliurfa, we hired a car and set out to find it, by driving along deserted and winding roads.
We reached it in remarkably quick time but to my astonishment, I saw no one else apart from two young lads on a motorbike. The site was eerie and quiet, with no crowds or large coaches full of chattering tourists with cameras.
By the entrance, in front of a small table filled with guidebooks, was an old, scruffy man. He said not many people came to visit it anyway but after the start of the Syrian war, foreign tourists have dwindled in numbers.
Great, I thought. More space and time for me.
We walked up to the remains at the top of the hill. A wooden pathway constructed around the excavations allowed us to view the stone pillars from all sides. With the zoom of my camera, I saw the intricate carvings and signage gave the same information that I had previously read on the Internet.
All the speculation regarding the origin of Gobekli Tepe, perhaps lessened the “Wow” factor for me but I wanted to see more. Where is the rest of it, I asked?
That is it, replied the old man. It had taken approximately 30 minutes and I was more impressed with the landscape views than the actual site itself. Feeling immensely disappointed, we left and drove back to Urfa.
Why did Gobekli Tepe Temple disappoint me?
My disappointment with Gobekli Tepe baffled me. Since I started writing, my interest has veered more towards historical sites and I was eager to see the discovery that turned the international history world on its head.
In many destinations, I have often left friends sitting in restaurants while I head off to the nearest archaeological find or historical building. I thrive on educating myself about the history of these lands. So why was I not impressed?
- Should I have gone with a knowledgeable guide?
- Am I placing more emphasis on its small size rather than its significance?
- Did my extensive research before visiting, actually result in information overload?
I have read articles by other travel writers and bloggers and their praise of Gobekli Tepe astonishes me. In fact, I have held back on writing this article for many months, because I felt intense shame at my lack of enthusiasm for the site.
So, I am probably going to be shot down in flames for writing this, but I would not recommend making a special trip. If you are in the region of Sanliurfa, then go, otherwise leave it until more of the site has been excavated.
That is of course, unless I am missing something. If you have been to Gobekli Tepe and can tell me anything that will turn my disappointment to respect, I am more than willing to listen.