This Archaeological Site Is Rewriting Our Entire Understanding of Human History

Göbekli Tepe just doesn’t make sense. The neolithic archaeological ruins were first uncovered in the ’60s, but their significance wasn’t truly realized until 1994. The site is located in southeastern Turkey – although it predates the establishment of the country by a significant amount of time. In fact, Göbekli Tepe is so old and complex that it is rewriting our understandingof not just Turkish history, but the entire history of humanity. Based on everything we know about how modern civilization got its start, Göbekli Tepe should not exist. However, exist it does, and has for nearly 12,000 years.

Archaeological study of Göbekli Tepe has been going on for quite some time—even though the modern political climate in Turkey has made matters slightly more difficult. Some sections are even in the process of being restored. The site has become a tourist attraction and a source of local pride, and there are plenty of good reasons for that. Göbekli Tepe is, after all, the oldest site of significance created by human beings, and that makes it one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made.

Almost 12,000 Years Old, But Abandoned For 9,000 Years

Göbekli Tepe is notable for multiple reasons, but they all tie back in to its excessive ancientness. The construction at Göbekli Tepe dates back almost 12,000 years, placing it in a time period that is generally considered to be pre-civilization. It was built right around the same time that the last ice age ended. Göbekli Tepe then went on to be an active civilization for nearly three millennia before being abandoned under mysterious circumstances around 9,000 years ago.

Seems To Have Been Backfilled By Those Who Built It

Göbekli Tepe is a site that practically begs for archaeological study. The structures that make up the site are amazingly well-preserved, allowing archaeologists to study them in something similar to their original state. Part of the reason for the remarkable preservation of Göbekli Tepe is due to the climate in Turkey, but another major factor is the fact that many of the temple sites appear to have been backfilled before being abandoned.

This allowed the structures to remain protected from the elements as the centuries wore on, preserving their history for modern humans to discover.

Predates Stonehenge, Sumer, Writing By Over 6,000 Years

One of the best ways to comprehend just how ancient Göbekli Tepe is, is to compare it to other things that are considered incredibly ancient. Göbekli Tepe predates Stonehenge, one of the most famous prehistoric construction feats in human history, by over 6,000 years. The site predates the era of Sumer, considered one of the earliest true civilizations, and the invention of writing, by a similar, 6,000-ish year margin.

To really put things in perspective, there was about as much time between the construction of Göbekli Tepe and the construction of Stonehenge as there was between the construction of Stonehenge and today.

Architecture Far Ahead Of Its Time

The fact that Göbekli Tepe is so old isn’t the only significant thing about it. The skilled architectural style seen in the construction of its many “temples” is seriously impressive, and would be in any era. The combination of the site’s age and construction quality, however, is what makes it such an earth-shaking revelation for the archaeological world. The craftsmanship seen at Göbekli Tepe is thousands of years ahead of its time, and dates back to long before such construction should have been possible.

The manpower, engineering, and project managing required for such an endeavor all seem unfeasible, given where human civilization was understood to be at the time. The very existence of Göbekli Tepe has forced archaeologists to re-think the dawn of civilization.

The Effort Required To Build It Was Ridiculous

The sheer effort required to construct Göbekli Tepe made it a gigantic construction project even by modern standards. Hundreds of people would have been needed to erect the massive temples, and it would have taken them quite awhile, requiring the kind of social stability that just wasn’t expected of human life at that time. It also would have required some serious organization, which shouldn’t have been possible without a sophisticated social structure already in place. Humankind may, unfortunately, never know who the brilliant minds behind Göbekli Tepe actually were.

Not Discovered Until 1994, Site Had Been Ignored

The potentially world-changing discovery of Göbekli Tepe actually first occurred back in the ‘60s, but nobody recognized its significance at the time. In fact, it was wrongly assessed as being a “medieval graveyard,” and was subsequently ignored for half a century due to its apparent lack of potential. It was only when the site was “rediscovered” in 1994 that Göbekli Tepe’s true significance and most impressive traits – like its age, size, and construction quality – would be fully appreciated.

Klaus Schmidt, a German archaeologist, was the individual who decided to give it another look. Analysis of the site has been going on ever since, but archaeologists remain baffled by it to a large degree.

It’s Made Up Of A Series Of Temples, The Oldest Known Religious Structures

Most archaeologists believe that Göbekli Tepe was intended to be some sort of religious structure, although some also believe it may have been a burial site. This makes Göbekli Tepe the world’s oldest temple, a title it holds by quite a large margin. That the very first religious construction in the world that we know of is such a massive and elaborate creation seems strange, and only adds to the mystique of the site. The further study of Göbekli Tepe may teach us quite a bit about the origins of all human belief systems.

The Largest Top Stones Weigh Up To Ten Tons

At the center of the construction of the various temples in Göbekli Tepe are a series of massive pillars topped with heavy stone blocks. The pillars themselves weigh tens of tons, with estimates ranging between 20 and 60 tons – which would have made even bringing them to the central location a Herculean task. That’s to say nothing of placing large stone blocks on top of them.

The blocks themselves weigh up to ten tons, leaving archaeologists scratching their heads as to exactly how the ancient engineers building Göbekli Tepe got the job done.

The Pillars May Be Stylized Human Beings

The pillars, along with their topstones, that make up the temples of Göbekli Tepe might be hiding a design secret – and it’s one that some archaeologists think they have cracked. Some of the stone blocks on top of the pillars have what appear to be human faces carved into them, leading some to theorize that the pillars are actually stylized depictions of human beings.

And, if this is correct, then the covering of the human form with depictions of animals might be a clue into the belief system of the people who constructed Göbekli Tepe.

Many Of The Stones Are Ornately Decorated With High-Quality Animal Drawings And Carvings

The stones that make up the Göbekli Tepe temples are impressive both in their size and in the way that they were put together. However, many of the stones have significant artistic value as well. Most of the central pillars are decorated with elaborate drawings of animals, and some even have intricate animal statues carved right onto the pillar’s surface.

Even this quality of art appears to be ahead of its time, and it is certainly a step up from more common cave paintings.

Massive In Range, With Over 20 Individual Sites

At first, the site of Göbekli Tepe was thought to be a singular temple construction. However, over time, it has been discovered that the site is actually quite large and completely covered with temples. It seemed that everywhere archaeologists dug, another temple popped up. There are more than 20 individuals sites that have been uncovered, each of them constructed with a similar design, but with slightly differing qualities.

Some think that the large number of sites suggests some sort of trial-and-error process. On the other hand, the people who built the temples might have just felt the need to construct a couple dozen of them!

Built By Hunter-Gatherers At End Of Ice Age

Humanity was only able to leave behind a life of hunting and gathering for food when the last major ice age ended. Before that, food was too scarce to allow humans to live anything but a semi-nomadic lifestyle. That’s what makes the fact that Göbekli Tepe was constructed at the time of, or before, the end of the last ice age so remarkable. Mankind was almost certainly still hunting and gathering at that time, which means that a bunch of hunter-gatherers were somehow organized and stable enough to build the massive structures at Göbekli Tepe.

It Shakes Up Our Understanding Of The Beginnings Of Agriculture

The discovery of Göbekli Tepe has the potential to change much of our understanding of the dawn of civilization, and especially the role that agriculture played. It had previously been assumed that permanent human settlements first arose when humanity gained the ability to farm – which allowed them to live a more stable life than hunting and gathering did. However, the construction of Göbekli Tepe predates the development of agricultural practices by quite some time, suggesting that some humans had created permanent settlements long before they started farming.

It’s A Favorite Of The Ancient Aliens Crew

One of the most infamous programs on the History Channel is Ancient Aliens – a show that posits about different pieces of “evidence” that prove aliens interfered in humanity’s past. For obvious reasons, Göbekli Tepe is a favorite topic for the Ancient Aliens crew to discuss. Since the construction at Göbekli Tepe is so far ahead of its time, some would have you believe that the only possible answer to the mystery is that extraterrestrial beings had a hand in building it.

Of course, the people on Ancient Aliens feel the same way about every significant advancement in human history.

It’s In The Process Of Being Restored

Göbekli Tepe has quickly become one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, and that’s led to a decision to restore a portion of it. This will help draw in more tourists, as well as give a clearer picture of what the site would have looked like in its prime. Turkey’s modern political climate suggests that it might not be the best place to visit for most Westerners for now, but it should still be on any history fan’s bucket list. Few discoveries have proven more important to our overall understanding of human history than Göbekli Tepe.