Anatolia, the lands where thousands of civilizations were born and destroyed, the lands were believed to be the first human stepped on, the first plow was used, and the first university of the world was founded astonishes us by uncovering yet the unknown ones. The excavation which is still being carried on since 1995, has revealed a very ancient temple which dates back to 12.000 years ago, older than ruins of Sumerians, Urartus, Hittites or Assyrians in Anatolia, and older than England’s Stonehenge, Malta temple and Egyptian Pyramids. I have been to the Aegean, Mediterranean and European regions of Turkey many times, but in June 2018, it was my first southeast Anatolian trip when I visited Sanliurfa. I want to tell you about Göbeklitepe, this ancient temple was found in the southeast part of Turkey, in Sanliurfa province, on a hill viewing the Harran plains; the fertilized lands where the first agriculture began between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. Let me introduce you the geography shortly and Turkey’s location, for readers who haven’t visited yet or don’t know much about Turkey, to revive it better.
Anatolia is the intersection of the Silk Road and Mesopotamia
Do you know which land is called Anatolia? This unique land is the very western part of Asia, it is also called minor Asia. Its borders are the Black Sea in the north, the Mediterranean Sea in the south, the Aegean and the Marmara Seas in the west, and eastern borders of contemporary Turkey in the east. Mesopotamia’s upper northern part is also included in it; the fertilized region between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. Both rivers born in eastern Turkey and flow into the Persian Gulf in the south. Anatolia was also on the trade route of the historical Silk Road from China to Southern Europe. So, commonly Anatolia is called the Asian part of Turkey, separated from its European ” Thrace” lands by Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait if we consider it to be the border between Europe and Asia with the Dardanelles, both straits have more like a uniting meaning rather than separating, with all their international transits.
The oldest temple Göbeklitepe is in Sanliurfa Province
Sanliurfa province is in the southeast region of Turkey, with the first step you’ll recognize its authentic cuisine at restaurants and colorful traditional dressings of local people. The rich history which is the base of many sacred stories makes it be called “the city of prophets”. This richness and colorfulness display the multiculturalism of Turkey in yet another beautiful corner of it. I should write about this province and its indigenous culture individually in a different article. After a 17 km road trip from the city center, you’ll come to see this archeological site. Göbeklitepe sits on a hill, no new settlement around, so not stuck between buildings. This solitude adds a value to archeological sites when you find them alone in a veld or valley because it’s there untouched since thousands of years waiting to put you in a time machine. After parking, we had taken a light climb to the hill and up there the view was stunning. I felt tranquility and mystical vibes with the wind on my face when I stood up there on the hill gazing upon the immense Harran plain of Mesopotamia. This spectacular view enchants you, imagine how gazelles and people were wandering around here thousands of years ago. There you see the archeological site where circular structures are surrounded by rectangular stones. This World Heritage of UNESCO dates back to the Neolithic age, with archeological calculations of 12.000 years ago. Nearly 20 pillars were detected but yet only 6 is uncovered, the works are still being carried on. Each has different animal reliefs commonly like wild boars, foxes, bull, lion, crane bird, bald ibis, and wild duck figures.
All theories about human residing changes
Well, until now we knew that settlement of human was depending on agriculture, however, Göbeklitepe changes all that you know about the settlement history of human. It is the production of hunting men. All findings show that these circle constructions and pillars were made for faith rituals. No evidence that people permanently resided on the hill was found, so it proves that Göbeklitepe was a worship place that had led hunting men to construct before residing. 7000 years older than England’s Stonehenge, and 7500 years older than Egyptian Pyramids, Göbeklitepe’s construction dates back to 10.000 BC when there was no ceramics and textile production, no agriculture. So, it invalidates all previous theories about the residing history of human, reveals that the first reason of building was worship rather than residing.
Mystery of Göbeklitepe
-How these tons of pillars were moved from rocky areas and placed, in a time when there were only primitive hand tools, there were no wheelbarrows or load animals? -Archeologists another question is that after nearly 1000 years of its construction this site seems to be covered totally by tons of soil and flint, why it was buried? -When hunting humans were so far to residing, agriculture and building, how did they come to design and build? -What was the meaning of these circle constructions with nearly 30 m diameters, animal reliefs, abstract symbols and human arm descriptions on T shaped pillars? -Who were those people before Hittites, Sumerians that designed and built this temple? How were they organized? You will find yourself adding more questions to this list when you go there, for example, sperm cell-like reliefs bring on mind about their baby wish or could it be a snake figure when you think that cell morphology is too advanced to know in that time.
Why so unique?
-It is approved to be the first temple of the world. The archeological findings prove that it is older than Stonehenge, Egyptian pyramids and Malta temple. -One of the most important results is that hunting man had built temples before cities in a transition of human resident life. -Since the area remained untouched in its natural environment for 12.000 years, it is very well preserved under the soil. -Revealed that the first building reason of people was worship rather than settlement, so it invalidates all previous theories about the residing reason In the future maybe we will get the answers by new findings and will be enlightened… and definitely will need to think more about human history. I can give you some tips about what to eat.
Don’t miss to see in Sanliurfa city center the Balıklıgöl (Lake with fishes) which has a sacred story, Archeology and Mosaic museums, caves, especially Prophet Ibrahim cave, historical bazaar. Halfeti and Harran antique cities are also worth to see. I highly recommend you to eat eggplant kebab or Urfa kebab and cig köfte as a must, in Sanliurfa city center. “Çiğ köfte” is the signature food of Sanliurfa made by very high quality, fat-free beef processed tediously by bulgur and spices. And coffee lovers may experience the bitter “Mırra” coffee of the minor Arabian inhabitant culture which is served in tiny cups. But, note that it is so strong bitter. Go and see, go and eat you won’t regret! The ethnical mosaic is amazing, you’ll see how different cultures are combined. It is 1 hour 45 minutes away from Istanbul to Sanliurfa by plane, it is possible to hire tours to Göbeklitepe with different travel agencies, or you may create your individual tour. There are nice cafe and gift shop designed suitably to the historical texture at the entrance of the archeological site. The best times to visit is autumn and spring times, since summers are so hot in Sanliurfa, over 40 degrees and winters are cold.