Göbekli Tepe

An early Neolithic mountain sanctuary in the foothills of the Taurus in southeast Turkey

Der mit 15 m Schichtmächtigkeit gewaltige, rein steinzeitliche Siedlungshügel von Göbekli Tepe bei Urfa wird seit 1995 systematisch erforscht. Herausragend sind die monumentalen, mit Skulpturen und Reliefs ausgestatteten Kreisanlagen aus der Zeit um 9000 v. Chr. Sie kennzeichnen den Göbekli Tepe als rituelles Zentrum und als Kommunikationsplattform für eine offenbar großräumig vernetzte jägerische Bevölkerung. Diese Monumente stellen damit eine weltweit einzigartige Quelle zur Geschichte des Umbruchs von jägerischen Gesellschaften zum Bauerntum dar und lassen diesen Wandel in gänzlich neuem Licht erscheinen. Der Göbekli Tepe belegt, wie andere zeitgleiche Plätze der Region auch, daß Seßhaftigkeit und Ortsbindung nicht zwangsläufig mit produzierendem Wirtschaften zusammengehen müssen. Da sich östlich von Göbekli aber die Vulkanlandschaft Karacadağ erstreckt, die mit Hilfe naturwissenschaftlicher Untersuchungen als Heimat später kultivierter Getreidearten bestimmt werden konnte, stellt sich u. a. auch die Frage, ob die in erster Linie jägerisch geprägte Kultgemeinschaft des Göbekli Tepe nicht doch die Kultivierung von Wildgetreide initiiert haben könnte; jedenfalls gehört dieser Problemkreis zu den zentralen Fragen, die die Forschungen an diesem Ort verfolgen.



37° 13' 23.6712" N, 38° 55' 20.5104" E

The early Neolithic Göbekli Tepe, a mound some 300 m in diameter with an accumulation of 15 m, is situated on the highest point of a mountain ridge. It stands out from afar, a feature dominating the landscape. From the site one can see the great Taurus range and Karadağ to the north and the east, and to the south the Harran Plain stretching away to Syria. Only in the west is the horizon blocked by high spines that rise nearer by, cutting Şanlıurfa off from the Euphrates Valley further westward.

History of Research

As early as 1963 Göbekli Tepe had been pinpointed as an archaeological site in the course of a Turkish-American survey, and in 1980 appeared Peter Benedict's report on the mound. The full significance of the site, however, was not yet apparent. The flanks of the rise, strewn with large cut blocks of masonry as well as countless implements of chipped stone, certainly did not bring to mind an establishment from mankind's earliest period of settlement, i.e. from the time the Paleolithic/Mesolithic hunters were first shifting to a sedentary life of farming. Only further investigation would reveal the special significance of this mound, which gradually rose layer upon layer like Schliemann's Troy, but dates at least five thousand years earlier than the "City of Priam."

Previous Activities

The excavations of the Şanlıurfa Museum and the DAI in Istanbul begun in 1995 and since 2001 have continued in cooperation with the Orient-Abteilung of the German Archaeological Institute. The annual campaigns since 1995 have brought neither residences nor fortifications to light, but instead monumental and megalithic circular configurations previously unknown, beyond any shadow of a doubt religious in function. Monolithic pilasters, each weighing tons, were bound into a circle by segments of wall that enclosed them on the interior and the exterior as if to form a temenos. In the center, towering above all, stood a single pair of pillars. On these were large-scale reliefs of wild beasts: lions and bulls, wild boars, foxes and snakes. The sculpture provides a glimpse of a pictorial tongue, the meaning of which-like the overall significance of the structures-will continue to stimulate much scholarly controversy. What has now become clear is that the earliest architectural forms yet known were by no means small and unpretentious, but astoundingly monumental in character. It is only in the upper building levels at Göbekli Tepe that we see a transformation of these circular structures intomuch smaller forms, some constructed with quadrilateral plans as well.

Recent Activities

During the 12th campaign, which ended on 20 October 2006, excavation concentrated on widening the surface area to enable a complete exposure of the four great pillar-structures A through D; in the previous three seasons excavation had focused on the very center of the site. Outstanding among the 2006 discoveries are the sculpture of a wild beast in Structure C and a pillar with particularly ornate relief in Structure D.


pillar 43 © DAIPaleozoological and paleobotanical studies running parallel to the excavation indicate that the population whose achievements we see at Göbekli Tepe represented an economic stage of development still dependent upon wild prey. The economic motor of the Neolithic village, forerunner of the oriental city, still lay far beyond the horizon. Only a collection of hunters who assembled on the mountain as if to attend an "Olympic council" could have been responsible for the outlay of labor necessary to erect this architecture. "First came the temple, then the city" would seem descriptive of the phenomenon we see here. It remains the role of future excavation either to confirm or discredit this conclusion.
The most recent building phase at Göbekli Tepe (Level II) has been dated both comparatively and absolutely (C14) to ca 8000 BC, with an earlier primary building phase (Level III) ending as early as 9000 BC. The age of the earliest occupation cannot yet be determined; the depth of the deposit, however, would suggest a period of several millennia, which signifies that the site had already existed in early Paleolithic times. Level I refers to the accumulation of sediment on the lower slopes of the rise, often considerably deep, occasioned by natural erosion and recently intensified by agriculture.

Cooperation / Cooperation partners

The excavations at Göbekli Tepe are part of a joint Turkish-German project undertaken with the cooperation of the Şanlıurfa Museum and the German Archaeological Institute, Abteilung Istanbul and the Orient-Abteilung. They are supported by ArchaeNova Inc., Heidelberg. Further information, including the possibility of financial donations to the project, is available from AchaeNova, Postfach 101248, 69002 Heidelberg.


Schmidt, K., Zuerst kam der Tempel, dann die Stadt. Bericht zu den Grabungen am Gürcütepe und am Göbekli Tepe 1996-1999, Istanbuler Mitteilungen 50, 2000, 5-40; ders., Göbekli Tepe, Southeastern Turkey. A Preliminary Report on the 1995-1999 Excavations, Paléorient 26.1, 2001, 45-54; Schmidt, K., Sie bauten den ersten Tempel. Das rätselhafte Heiligtum der Steinzeitjäger. Die archäologische Entdeckung am Göbekli Tepe, C.H. Beck, München (2006); Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe (Hrsg.), Vor 12.000 Jahren in Anatolien. Die ältesten Monumente der Menschheit. Theiss Verlag, Stuttgart (2007).

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