Göbekli Tepe

Description: Göbekli Tepe is the oldest known man-made structure and is located in southeastern Turkey. It was first noted in a survey conducted by Istanbul University and the University of Chicago in 1964, which recognized that the hill could not entirely be a natural feature and posited that a Byzantine cemetery lay beneath. The survey noted a large number of flints and the presence of limestone slabs thought to be Byzantine grave markers. In 1994, archaeologist Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute of Istanbul visited the site and recognized that it was in fact a much older Neolithic site.

Recent archaeological studies have dated the structure to about 12,000 years old, 7,000 years older than it was thought that man was capable of such construction.

Originally thought to be religious structure, Archaeologist Ted Banning of the University of Toronto argues that the buildings found at Göbekli Tepe may have been houses for people, not the gods.

The site, located on a hilltop, contains 20 round structures which had been buried, four of which have been excavated. Each round structure has a diameter of between 10 and 30 meters (30 and 100 ft) and all are decorated with massive, mostly T-shaped, limestone pillars that are the most striking feature of the site. The limestone slabs were quarried from bedrock pits located around 100 meters (330 ft) from the hilltop, with neolithic workers using flint points to carve the bedrock. The majority of flint tools found at the site are Byblos and Nemrik points. That neolithic people with such primitive flint tools quarried, carved, transported uphill, and erected these massive pillars has astonished the archaeological world, and must have required a staggering amount of manpower and labor.

Two pillars are at the center of each circle, possibly intended to help support a roof, and up to eight pillars are evenly positioned around the walls of the room. The spaces between the pillars are lined with unworked stone and there are stone benches between each set of pillars around the edges of the wall.

Many of the pillars are decorated with carved reliefs of animals and of abstract enigmatic pictograms. The pictograms may represent commonly understood sacred symbols, as known from Neolithic cave paintings elsewhere. The reliefs depict lions, bulls, boars, foxes, gazelles, donkeys, snakes and other reptiles, insects, arachnids, and birds, particularly vultures.