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Göbekli Tepe - Early Cult Center in Turkey


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Animal Carvings at Gobekli Tepe
T-Top Pillar at Gobekli Tepe

This T-Top pillar has a relief sculpture of a reptile carved onto it.


On the faces of many of the pillars are relief carvings representing a wide variety of animals: foxes, wild boars, gazelles, cranes. Occasionally the lower portions of the pillars are illustrated with a pair of arms and hands. Some abstract parallel grooves are seen on some lower portions as well, and the excavators suggest that these lines represent stylized clothing. Some of the scholars looking at the pillars think that they represent some kind of deity or shaman.

In the center of each of the enclosures are two free-standing huge monoliths, up to 18 meters tall, better shaped and decorated than the wall pillars. The Vincent J. Musi National Geographic photograph on the next page is of one of those monoliths.

If it was shared, and that seems to be the case, Göbekli Tepe is evidence of broad-based links between communities throughout the Fertile Crescent as long ago as 11,600 years.

Alternative Explanations

Banning's Current Anthropology article argues that the relief carvings on pillars have also been found at other PPN sites, albeit in less frequency, at "ordinary houses". Some of the pillars at Gobekli do not have carvings, either. Further, at Level IIB at Gobekli, there are unassuming ovoid structures that are more similar to early buildings at Hallan Cemi and Cayonu. They're not well-preserved, and Schmidt hasn't described them in detail, but Banning argues that these represent residential structures. Banning wonders if carving wasn't necessarily done at the time of building erection, but rather accumulated over time: thus, multiple carvings might mean the structures were used for a longer period of time, rather than particularly special.

Banning also argues that there is ample evidence for residential structures in the fill within the buildings. The fill includes flint, bones and plant remains, surely debris from some level of residential activities. The location of the site on top of a hill with the closest water source at the foot of that hill is inconvenient; but doesn't exclude residential activities: and during the occupation period, the more humid climate would have had water distribution patterns significantly different from those of today.

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