Immersed in rural Turkey, in Kurdish territory, on the border with Syria, the site of Gobekli Tepe, with its mysterious megaliths, is incredibly ancient: the carbon dating of the organic materials found on the stones show that the complex dates back to 12,000 years ago and therefore built around 9-10,000 BC.
Before the discovery and dating of Gobekli Tepe, the oldest megalithic complex was believed to be that of Malta, which dates back to 3,500 BC while the more famous Stonehenge was built only around 2,000 BC.
Gobekli Tepe would even precede the settlement of men, it tells us that part of history in which man was hunter and gatherer and would be the demonstration that, in this region of Turkey, this civilization not yet dedicated to agriculture, was much more advanced than it was believed.
According to some scholars, Gobekli Tepe would be the place where man chose to become a resident, to reunite in community, to transform himself from hunter into farmer.
The Stonehenge of Asia
Gobekli Tepe houses the oldest megalithic monumental sanctuary that has ever been unearthed, a place of worship presumably erected between the end of the Mesolithic and the early Neolithic.
The area had already been reported by a team of scholars in 1963 for the abundant presence of flint fragments but the greatest archaeological discovery of the last 50 years is due to a local shepherd who, in the summer of 1994, noticed of some anomalous stones protruding from the ground.
The excavations began in 1995 under the direction of Klaus Schmidt, by the Sanliurfa museum and the Germanic Archaeological Institute in Istanbul, but since 2006 the task has been entrusted to the universities of Heidelberg and Karlsruhe.
It turned out that the strange, flat, oblong stones, that had caught the shepherd's attention, were the tops of large, ocher-colored, T-shaped megaliths.
For the most part, they show strange and refined bas-reliefs, mainly depicting animals. Among the recurring motifs are birds, wild boars and ducks, hunting and game scenes and snakes, some of the megaliths show shrimps or lions.
Someone speculates that the stones themselves are a stylized representation of human figures: some have arms sketched along the sides. According to Schmidt, they were likely to represent individual participants in solemn group assemblies, ceremonies or rituals.
Currently, 45 limestone megaliths, one to four meters high, each weighing over 10 tons, have been unearthed, arranged in circles with a diameter of five to ten meters. Around the circles there would be benches carved into the rock, small niches and walls made of dried mud bricks. geomagnetic surveys of the artificial hills of Gobekli Tepe have found that there are at least another 250 stones to be exhumed.
Gobekli Tepe could have performed the dual function of a sacred place for shamanic cults similar to those widespread in Mesopotamia and of a funerary site. The multiple finds of human bones would indicate that the hunters of the time probably brought the bodies of the dead there to deposit them in open niches near the stones, leaving them to wild animals.
There was very little talk of the Kurdish site until the English journalist Sean Thomas, following a visit to the excavations, drew inspiration for the novel, 'The Genesis Secret', signed under the pseudonym of Tom Knox: Gobekli Tepe not only revolutionized the usual perspective in which human history and the origin of religion were looked at but it would also embody the truth about the garden of Eden.
Is Gobekli Tepe really the 'Garden of Eden temple'?
The idea that the story of Eden in the Bible is an allegory referring to the transition from hunters and gatherers to farmers has long been the subject of study for many writers and thinkers: in addition to the findings indicate that Eurasian agriculture as well as the first herds of domesticated animals were born in these areas, there would be a series of "strange coincidences".
- in the Book of Genesis it is indicated that Eden is west of Assyria and Gobekli is in that position.
- The biblical Eden is crossed by four rivers, including the Tigris and the Euphrates and Gobekli lies between two of these.
- In the vicinity of the site there are also the city of Sanliurfa (probably ancient Ur) and villages mentioned in ancient myths or biblical stories, such as that of Harran where Abraham would have lived.
- In ancient Assyrian texts, mention is found of a 'Beth Eden', a small kingdom 50 miles from Gobekli Tepe.
- The Old Testament speaks of the 'children of Eden, who were in Thelasar', a town in northern Syria, near Gobekli.
- The lonely mulberry at the top of the Gobekli Tepe hill, considered sacred by the current inhabitants of the region, closely resembles the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
- The word 'Eden' comes from Sumerian and means 'plain': Gobekli is located in the plain of Harran.
But if this were true, how is it possible that an area described as fertile and luxuriant appears today deserted and arid?
According to scholars, the action of man and his transition from nomadic hunter and settled farmer has inevitably changed the landscape and the climate.
Another surprising detail has emerged from the excavations: around 8,000 BC, during the transition to agriculture, Gobekli Tepe was deliberately buried by human hands, the hills of Gobekli Tepe are indeed artificial. The former hunters decided to bury the whole temple but no one knows why.
The Göbekli Tepe temple may have been erected following a precise architectural plan based on geometric motifs.
The analysis technique based on spatial algorithms to measure the architectural plan of Göbekli Tepe, used by archologists of Tel Aviv University revealed that the three main structures of the complex, the enclosures B, C, D, are "linked" by a precise geometric pattern: their centers form a practically perfect equilateral triangle, although the dimensions and positions of the enclosures are apparently random.
According to the report released by archaeologists Gil Haklay and Avi Gopher, walls and pillars would have been arranged according to a unitary project and erected at the same time: the three enclosures would have been designed as a single unit and most likely built at the same time.
How did cavemen build something so ambitious?
It would seem that that the builders of Göbekli Tepe had greater knowledge, a much more complex social structure than previously thought, and that they mastered geometric principles thousands of years before the invention of the wheel, applying them to their construction plans and using planning techniques commonly considered impossible for the time.
“We are used to things starting out small and simple and then progressing--evolving--to become ever more complex and sophisticated, so this is naturally what we expect to find on archaeological sites. It upsets our carefully structured ideas of how civilizations should behave, how they should mature and develop, when we are confronted by a case like Göbekli Tepe that starts out perfect at the beginning and then slowly devolves until it is just a pale shadow of its former self.”
― Graham Hancock, Magicians of the Gods: The Forgotten Wisdom of Earth's Lost
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