Göbeklitepe is the oldest human-made site of worship yet discovered. It is so old that predates the history of settled human life. It is pre-pottery, pre-writing, pre-everything. Gobeklitepe temple complex predates (9,000 years before) the Pyramids of Giza and (6,000 years before) the Stonehenge. The site draws on questioning and rewriting the theory of human evolution.The astonishing discoveries at Gobeklitepe have long been a talking among academics.
Stratification layers suggests several millennia of activity, perhaps reaching back to the Mesolithic. Geophysical surveys indicate the existence of 16 additional structures. The site, currently undergoing excavation by German and Turkish archaeologists, was erected by hunter-gatherers in the 10th millennium BC (ca. 11,500 years ago), before the advent of sedentism.
Klaus Schmidt from the German Archaeological Institute, leading the excavations, downplays extravagant spiritual interpretations of Gobeklitepe. Such as the idea, made popular in the press, the site is the inspiration for the Biblical Garden of Eden. He also says that there is plenty of historical evidence to show that Gobekilitepe may be the Garden of Eden and that it was a sanctuary of profound significance in the Neolithic world. He considers it as a key site in understanding the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture, and from tribal to regional religion.
Yet there is plenty of historical evidence to show that the writers of the Bible, when talking of Eden, were, indeed, describing this corner of South East Turkey. Sanliurfa, a nearby city, is the Old Testament city of Ur. Harran, a town down the road, is mentioned in Genesis twice. Even the topography of Gobekli Tepe seems to be ‘correct’. The Bible describes rivers descending from Paradise. Gobekli Tepe sits in the ‘fertile crescent’ between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. The Bible also mentions mountains surrounding Eden. From the brow of Gobekli’s hills you can see the Taurus range.
Historians have long wondered if the Eden story is a folk memory, an allegory of the move from hunter-gathering to farming. Seen in this way, the Eden story describes how we moved from a life of relative leisure – literally picking fruit from the trees – to a harsher existence of ploughing and reaping. And where did this change take place? Biologists now think the move to agriculture began in South east Turkey. Einkorn wheat, a forerunner of the world’s cereal species, has been genetically linked to here. Similarly, it now seems that wild pigs were first domesticated in Cayonu, just 60 miles from Gobekli.