Archive for April 26th, 2008

The oldest temple in the world

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Stone circle at Gobekli TepeSeven thousand years older than Stonehenge, Gobekli Tepe is a ring of standing stones built by hunter-gatherers in what is now Turkey.

This is a huge deal because before it was discovered in 1993, archaeologists thought that temple complexes came after agriculture.

Compared with Stonehenge, they are humble affairs. None of the circles excavated (four out of an estimated 20) are more than 30 metres across. T-shaped pillars like the rest, two five-metre stones tower at least a metre above their peers. What makes them remarkable are their carved reliefs of boars, foxes, lions, birds, snakes and scorpions, and their age. Dated at around 9,500BC, these stones are 5,500 years older than the first cities of Mesopotamia, and 7,000 years older than Stonehenge.

Lion relief carving on standing stoneNever mind wheels or writing, the people who erected them did not even have pottery or domesticated wheat. They lived in villages. But they were hunters, not farmers.

What’s even more remarkable is that the temple is in fantastic condition. The builders seem to have covered it completely in tons of soil soon after they built it.

For more information on the excavation, see the Gobekli Tepe page on the German Archaeological Institute website.

Share