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Göbekli Tepe - Early Cult Center in Turkey


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Gobekli Tepe: Background and Context
Gobekli Tepe - Overview of the Site Excavations in Turkey

Gobekli Tepe - Overview of the Site Excavations in Turkey


Göbekli Tepe (pronounced Guh-behk-LEE TEH-peh and meaning roughly "Potbelly Hill") is a remarkably early, completely human-built cultic center, first used by residents of the Fertile Crescent in Turkey and Syria some 11,600 years ago. The Pre-Pottery Neolithic (abbreviated PPN) site is located on the top of a limestone ridge (800 amsl) in the Harran Plain of southeastern Anatolia, in the southern Euphrates river drainage approximately 15 kilometers north of the city of Sanliurfa, Turkey. It is an enormous site, with accumulated deposits of up to 20 meters (~65 feet) high within an area of approximately nine hectares (~22 acres). The site overlooks the Harran Plain, springs at Sanliurfa, the Taurus mountains and the Karaca Dag mountains: all of these areas were important to Neolithic cultures, cultures who would within a thousand years begin to domesticate many of the plants and animals that we rely on today. Between 9500 and 8100 cal BC, two major building episodes occurred at the site (roughly assigned to PPNA and PPNB); the earlier buildings were purposefully buried before the later buildings were constructed.

The June 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine, available on news stands beginning May 30, features Göbekli Tepe, including a good article written by science writer Charles Mann and numerous photographs by Vincent Muni. In the run up to the publication, National Geographic provided me access to some of their photos, so how could I resist? This photo essay, based on my independent library research on Göbekli Tepe and using a few of Muni's photographs, includes information derived from recent archaeological studies at the site, and is intended as archaeology-heavy context to Mann's article. A bibliography is provided on page 6. Mann's article includes an interview with excavator Klaus Schmidt and a discussion of V.G. Childe's role in understanding Göbekli, so don't miss it.

Alternative Interpretations

A 2011 article in Current Anthropology written by E.B. Banning, counters that Gobekli was not simply a cultic center. Banning's interpretations are of interest to anyone thinking about Gobekli Tepe, so I've added comments on the following pages which reflect some of the pieces of Banning's argument. But don't take my word for it--Banning's article (plus commentary by several PPN scholars) is well worth reading in full.

Banning EB. 2011. So Fair a House: Göbekli Tepe and the Identification of Temples in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of the Near East. Current Anthropology 52(5):619-660. Commentary from Peter Akkermans, Douglas Baird, Nigel Goring-Morris and Anna Belfer-Cohen, Harald Hauptmann, Ian Hodder, Ian Kuijt, Lynn Meskell, Mehmet Özdogan, Michael Rosenberg, Marc Verhoeven and a reply from Banning.

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