The ruins of Göbekli Tepe, circular building C with two layers of circular walls around
Stonehenge, one of the earliest known structures of the ancient world, was built 6,500 years ago. Göbekli Tepe, discovered in the 1990s in a remote part of present-day Turkey, is even older. The massive megalith is around 11,000 years old–the oldest known significant site created by humans. Its purpose is still undetermined, but Stone Age masons created 20 circles of tall rock pillars weighing up to 20 tons.
Some of the T-shaped pillars are nearly 16 feet high and boast carved reliefs of foxes, bulls, boars, reptiles, scorpions, vultures and other creatures twisting up their broad sides. Other pillars have human arms that have led experts to believe the horizontal tops might represent human heads.
Excavations indicate that in the early 8th millennium B.C., the megalith seemed to lose its importance. But the complex was not simply abandoned and left to the elements. The enclosures were deliberately buried under refuse consisting of small limestone fragments, stone vessels, and stone tools. Many animal and human bones have also been found in the fill.
Göbekli Tepe has yet to yield definitive answers to the many questions swirling around it. Serif Yenen, a Turkish travel specialist, writer, and filmmaker tells the story of this magnificent built environment and what we can glean about the people who lived in a place once assumed to predate civilization.
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