2012-11-22

Archaeologists study possible Garden of Eden

An archaeological dig in Urfa could change the way human history is described, experts say.

By Ali Ciftci for SES Türkiye in Urfa and Ankara -- 22/11/12

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From Ephesus to Diyarbakir's basalt city walls, Turkey is full of ancient archaeological treasures. And although it only recently made its way into travel guides, Gobekli Tepe ("Potbelly Hill") in Urfa province may well come to top them all.

"All the evidence shows that this is the place where humanity was born," Klaus Schmidt, a German professor of archaeology who is leading the site's excavation, told SES Türkiye.

The 9-hectare dig site's importance was discovered one day in 1994, when a shepherd stumbled upon carvings on rectangular stones while grazing his herd in the Xirabres village about 17 kilometres north of Urfa.

Images of several figures, including animals and hunters, were identified on the 45 T-shaped stone structures that have been excavated to date. Each formation weighs between 40 and 60 tonnes, and archaeologists expect to discover hundreds more as the dig continues.

Historians have maintained that only advanced, sedentary civilisations based on agriculture were capable of building structures on such a scale. However, Gobekli Tepe appears to have been constructed and used as a place of worship thousands of years before the agricultural revolution.

The site is the first evidence that hunter-gathering societies built shrines before establishing permanent settlements, leading Schmidt and other experts to say it represents one of the most significant archaeological discoveries.

"First there was a shrine, and the city followed," Schmidt said as he summarised the finding.

The T-shaped stone figures are thought to portray stylized humans. Archaeologists haven't determined how the stones were carried and erected, considering that only primitive hand tools existed at the time. Nor is it clear how the stones were constructed in a hunter-gathering age.

The discovery, once it is explained, could prompt some changes to prevailing theories.

Ian Hoddler, an archaeology professor at Stanford University, has said that "Gobekli Tepe will change everything we know about history." David Lewis William, a retired archaeologist at South Africa's Witwatersrand University, said "Gobekli Tepe is the biggest archaeological discovery in history," according to media reports.

Schmidt told SES Türkiye that excavations at the site have already turned up significant findings.

"The discoveries we've made in Gobekli Tepe show that this shrine is the oldest and largest center of worship in the world," he said. "Our research here shows that people who lived in that era age tried but were unable to domesticate wild animals including cattle, lions and foxes."

Schmidt added: "The pictures and embossments found on the upright polls give us certain ideas about the arts and lives of people who lived in that age."

But Gobekli Tepe's significance goes beyond academic debates on ancient history.

"The 12,000-year-old Gobekli Tepe is actually the 'Garden of Eden' where Adam and Eve lived," Schmidt said, citing Biblical history, documents in the Torah, and Assyrian tablets.

Meanwhile, local officials hope Urfa's cultural richness could help raise the province's profile.

At a recent symposium on Gobekli Tepe, Urfa Governor Celalettin Guvenc said, "As citizens of Urfa, we're doing everything we can to ensure that people from Turkey and beyond appreciate the global heritage we have here."

Deputy Mayor of Urfa Fevzi Yucetepe described Gobekli Tepe as "ground zero of history."

"Just as people set their clocks according to Greenwich, they also need to orient their historical compass to the 12 thousand-year-old Gobekli Tepe," Fevzi told SES Türkiye.

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  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    Having seen this, I remembered the idea of re-building history. It is believed that man did not have any other needs than security, shelter and food in ancient times. However, people in Gobeklitepe built temples and drew figures. In other words, there are many findings related to arts and faith. It is an absolute must-see.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    I have no doubt that the city of prophets, Urfa is the Garden of Eden, where Adam came from. But it is a very dirty place to go with no accommodation, no toilets, no roads. I hope they would fix this.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    This site turns the entire human history upside down. I think, despite their ignorant way of living, people in Urfa are very lucky to have such a heritage. Humanity was born in Urfa.

  • Anonymous translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    The cradle of civilization, Turkish Anatolia offers a magnificent field of research for archeologists. We should know that it is very dangerous to let foreign people (especially German) dig this field. We should not forget how German teams stole many artifacts, especially in Ephesus. As a person, who saw Anatolian artifacts on exhibit in museums in foreign countries, I believe we should keep foreign archeologists, who participate in excavations in our country, under careful monitoring. I do not want to accept the fact that the excavation sites such as the one in Urfa are managed by Europeans who are famous for stealing our artifacts to make our museums rich. We have enough number of archeologists and therefore these excavations and assessments should be led by them. PATRIOT 61

  • Sungur translation missing: en_GB, datetime, distance_in_words, almost_x_years

    History is such a thing that nothing can be determined accurately. Everyday new findings come out and all our knowledge suddenly change.

  • Anonymous over 1 year

    I’m the son of that landowner. I don’t know whether some information had been written by mistake or deliberately but the name of the village and the name of the discoverer should be written correctly. For your information, it was the landowner, who discovered it, not a shepherd.

  • Anonymous over 1 year

    While the findings in Riha, the capital city of Mesopotamia, were considered the first signs of humanity, these new findings in Göbeklitepe will rewrite history.

  • Anonymous over 1 year

    I want to ask why criminals are supported in Turkey, but if crime is favored so much in this society as well, then I’m different from the rest of them. And this worries me even more. What do you think? I’m sorry, but what can we expect from people who don’t know their history? I sincerely support your researches.

  • Anonymous over 1 year

    I watched a foreign documentary about Urfa before. I am very happy and proud that Urfa is in Turkey. We love our Urfa, the cradle of civilization.

  • Anonymous over 1 year

    Our civilizations should not vanish.

  • Anonymous over 1 year

    If our state was a decent one, I could dig and find at least 10 similar ancient places for you. However, neither I am powerful enough to bring archeologists nor would I find it in my heart to ask them to come and dig here. No offense, but the way our state functions is wrong. All the riches we cannot unearth today will be smashed and blown by infidels in 2016 and they won’t even let us watch it. The guys even know all the details about places that belong to us. They come, update their information and leave. They are idolators working for the church.

Name: Anonymous - Have your comments posted immediately!


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