Printer-friendly versionSend to friendPDF version

Göbekli Tepe Remastered

— Filed under: People & Culture

I found the article on Göbekli Tepe thought provoking. However the comments went off in several directions and motivated me to write this continuation of the topic.

First, look at this photo on the right, from EssayWeb.

Then consider who the people were who built the site, which was probably in rudimentary form 14,000 years ago. They were hunter-gatherers who were as smart as were are. They had not discovered metal working nor pottery. They were superstitious. There were dangerous animals in the areas where they hunted. They needed courage and teamwork to complete a successful hunt. They were using spears and other stone tipped weapons and clubs.

People did not live at Göbekli Tepe. They met there. Why? Some have proposed that the place was a temple. Perhaps in a distant sort of way.

These ancient people knew that the animals they hunted and the animals such as scorpions that they encountered could kill them. They needed help to survive. What would you do in their place? Remember, these were humans of the same type as you are, not some more primitive ancestor.

First, the elders, who had been successful hunters, would teach the younger hunters how to do it. They required a place in which to teach.

They built huts, each of which focused on a particular animal which was of interest to the hunters. These included game animals, predators, and dangerous animals like snakes and scorpions. On the walls of the huts were carvings of lizards, lions, foxes, cattle, boars, herons, ducks, scorpions, ants and snakes. The young hunters needed to know the characteristics of each of these animals.

The young hunters gathers into the huts and listened to stories and exploits as told to them by the elder hunters. When the young hunters went out and made their first kill, or encountered one of the predators and survived, it became part of his personal story which would be told to the young hunters when, hopefully, he himself became an elder. The first event in the young hunter’s experience gave him his ‘totem’ animal. The young hunter often carried a doll or carving of his totem animal which he believed would guide him in his life and protect him from the dangers he would face.

The elder hunters, besides telling stories of their exploits, taught other skills. They taught the young hunters how to stalk, how to throw, and how to skin and manage the animals they killed. The huts had a flat stone upon which the carcass of a newly killed animal could be butchered and the young hunters were taught which parts were edible, which were not, and which, usually the heart, liver, or sexual parts, would give the hunter the power or force of the animal being examined.

The hunted animals and totem animals were a key part of the spiritual life of the hunter. If they did not understand how and what to hunt, how to fight or escape from predators, how to find their way in the wild, how to track their game, and how to learn the stories from their elders, they could not survive.

Göbekli Tepe is the world’s oldest discovered purpose built school. The people who used it were hunters, and what they learned was of utmost importance to them, their survival, and the continuing existence of their clans. The animals they hunted were full of the life force that fed them. The hunters held them in awe and respect, often saying words of thanks over the newly killed game or predator, for letting the life of the hunter and his clan live another day, and to let the spirit of the animal know that the hunter respected the gift of life that the animal had granted to him. He would then butcher the animal, and wrap the meat in the animal's skin and return in glory to his clan.

Someday, if he lived long enough, he would return to the place atop the hill which overlooked the land all around, and tell his stories to the young hunters of all the clans, as his father and his father's many old fathers had been doing for thousands of years. It was a hard, a very hard life. It was also a wonderful, awesome life, thanks to the teachings passed down at the teaching place, now called "Göbekli Tepe."  

Whitney's picture

Gobekli Tepe

That was very interesting.  Gobekli Tepe as a school.  I like the idea because it is so fundamental to the advancement of a species that has to rely on teaching its offspring everything.  That makes education vital to the survival of the species and should render education sacred.  The school becomes the temple and the conduit to God.  Nice.

I went to Gobekli Tepe in October 2010.  The day I tried to go the entire site got shut down by the military.  No one was getting in, archaeologist, workers, tourist (i.e. me), no one.  I tried 2 more times with the same result.  It was disappointing. Periodically, I look on the web to see if there is any new info and while I was looking today, I noticed something.  The site of Gobekli Tepe, when viewed from above, looks like the gears in a watch.  It is striking. 

Matt hughes's picture

There is now Military

There is now Military presence? That is odd. I'm assuming more and more critical information is being "lifted" from the complex as was Egypt, in terms of mightily specific metaphysical information compared to crucial aerial dynamic figures and mathematics obtained from the Egyptians. Then again, this is just a theory. I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I went down my own path of researching quantum physics only to find myself reading on Shamanism and thusly leading me to realize the acute understanding of philosophical tendencies that the human mind has been capable of for tens of thousands of years. I firmly believe, and credit, our ancestors were capable of so much, being able to come back full swing after the last ice age? A evolution of peoples who have lost their tongue but not their eyes, hands, minds, and heart to pass down knowledge that in this era, has pushed us along in so many fascinating ways, but rather is unable to save us from ourselves. Hence, the Sun and other extra solar bodies supplying us with a dab of fertilizer.

chinajon's picture

Love Google Earth

Cool. I will take a look at Göbekli Tepe with Google Earth and hopefully not see a military observation post there.

Thanks for your comment.

chinajon's picture

Latitude and Longitude of Gobekli Tepe

In case anybody else wants to look at Göbekli Tepe, here are the coordinates:

37.2233°N 38.9224°E

Click the link and select Google Maps - Satellite. Or what you prefer...


Matt hughes's picture

I quite like this interpretation

It honestly makes perfect sense, seeing as how the 35,000-72,000 years ago, our ancestors were learning relevant information on survival and healing from plants of the spirit world. By this time frame, our artistic ingenuity guiding the telling of our knowledge shows a proper evolution that honestly has baffled most for tens of decades

Larry's picture

Not so sure about that

It's an interesting speculation I suppose, but I can't think of any reason to give it weight. Utilizing a high place temple as a school of practical hunting and buchering? I doubt Göbekli Tepe needs creative explanations of that kind.

chinajon's picture

Hunters don't build temples

Larry wrote:

It's an interesting speculation I suppose, but I can't think of any reason to give it weight. Utilizing a high place temple as a school of practical hunting and buchering? I doubt Göbekli Tepe needs creative explanations of that kind.

The main reason I don't believe it is a"high place temple" is that there was no spiritual presence that long ago which would unify the clans to the point that they would build a 'temple' with which to provide a place worship, which is what a temple is. Later ages, which had agriculture, recognized the importance of the Sun and the change of seasons which motivated them to begin studying astronomy and create locations with good viewing sites such as Stonehenge, where they could keep track of the Sun's yearly movements, the Moon's phases, and the stars which seemed to move in ways important to agriculture, and the success of the clans, and at that time, tribes.

Göbekli Tepe is a grouping of separate huts, each of which is used for the specific totems important to each clan and each individual. The focus of attention was inside the huts, not outward toward the Sun, Moon, nor stars. Inside the huts was a "T-stone" which must have required a major expenditure of effort to make, given that it was carved by stone tools. The pictures of the T-stones that I have seen have unique carvings on them, and each seems to put forward one major animal, rather than the faces or symbols which could indicate a belief in gods that would be attached to a temple complex. They believed in spirits. The spirits lived in everything, and needed to be thanked and placated at the place and moment of the kill in order to ensure future successes. Once done, there was no further need to thank or placate the spirits in a temple. The spirits did not live in huts. The spirits lived in the animals, the winds, the thunder, rivers and rain, which determined whether the clans would survive.

The Egyptian culture which has roots that reach back to Göbekli Tepe shows a continuing and higher level of belief in the importance of animals which in Egypt had attained godhood. Egypt definitely had temples and a culture with a more focused sense of spirituality. Göbekli Tepe simply had not reached that level of culture. They were hunters and gatherers, and the animals, and plants, in their experience were primary to their survival, not theological representatives of a religion. Their life or death was intimately, and immediately, the result of their success or failure in the choices they made in their daily lives. They had to be taught these skills at the earliest moment in their lives.

A place such as Göbekli Tepe was a requisite for the clans to share information and make decisions regarding the coming year. Remember, Göbekli Tepe was not inhabited year round. There were no priests or Shamen living there as care takers. It was a meeting, planning and teaching site. It was not a temple.

There may be huts that will be excavated later which indicate how these people marked the change from boyhood to manhood. Most primitive societies had a way to mark maturity, marriageability, or eligibility. Whatever the case, I am positive that the boys received training before being allowed to go out hunting. There may be huts which focus on the plants that were being gathered by the clans. Göbekli Tepe will continue to provide authentic evidence about our ancestors who lived 14,000 years ago.

613 The Evil's picture

An organized school back

An organized school back then? Those days? You are kidding me... But what am I saying, you can't even spell right. Your "theory" has more holes than swiss cheese.

Winston Smith's picture

Rather than being rude (which

Rather than being rude (which makes most people gloss over your comment instead of reading it), why don't you state your opinion instead?

Zarin's picture


  Everyone keeps making the assumption that these people were hunter-gatherers. Just because no residences or graves have yet been found doesn't mean they weren't there. Remember everything here was purposely buried. One doesn't bury residences. And why this site was purposely covered up is its' strangest enigma. The writer of this article sounds as if they have experience with Native American cultures. This sounds very much like what one might have experienced in the long houses of the Iroquois or the Kivas of the Anasazi Pueblos. Definitely not hunter-gatherer societies. These were both crop growing cultures And if this society had a priest/warrior class, this is normally only achieved in sedentary cultures. Cultures that have developed agriculture and animal husbandry. Both of these technologies are believed to have originated in this precise area. Remember there is a maximum population limit on all hunter-gatherer groups. That is about 50 individuals. After that the group splits and one moves into other hunting foraging areas. This elaborate complex must have had a large resident population to build and maintain it. It would have to have food and water resources readily and predictably available.

Nick's picture

Gobekli Tepe

The observation that one does not bury residences is actually incorrect. If you look at Gobekli Tepe as part of an arc of peoples from Iraq through Syria/ Southern Turkey and down through Jordan and Israel you will notice that it was a common practice to literally bury old houses when building a new one. It was also not uncommon to use old and abandoned dwellings as burial sites. Gobekli Tepe's buried temples give rise to a misunderstanding. They were not buried in one go. They were buried as new ones were constructed; build one bury one, build one bury one and so on. This produces a site that has many layers and is spread over quite a wide expanse. As far as a priestly cast is concerned we simply don't know. The culture in this region was on the cusp of agricultural transition but this does not mean that one life style ends before another can begin. Even today there are still nomads and semi nomads in eastern Turkey  who are following traditional lives alongside roads and railways, modern cities and giant dams. There was almost certainly a priestly caste; even very primitive societies had priests and shamans who were responsible for communication between the natural and supernatural worlds. This may not have been a large complex in use, although it was certainly elaborate in parts. Remember, only part of what we see now being uncovered, and what remains to be revealed, would have been in use at any one time. This site was possibly in use for about three thousand years or so and it is worth remembering that only two thousand years have passed since the birth of Christ. This site was experiencing a cycle of construction/ redundancy/ burial/ reconstruction over thousands of years. We are seeing it exposed in a very short period of time and this gives a somewhat distorted view of the site's time line of construction and use. The real curiosity about the site is that as time passed the quality and sophistication of the work declined.  Probably, these hunter gathers had more time to devote, on a seasonal basis, that more settled agricultural communities who, with few exceptions, have much harder lives often poorer diets and certainly less time. The very first grains to be cultivated can be traced back to a range of hills about thirty kilometres away and one should not forget that even semi nomadic peoples would sow wild and semi wild grains to be harvested at a later time. Transition was gradual and patchy and this seems to be reflected in the decline of Gobekli Tepe

chinajon's picture

Time Line

Thanks for your very insightful comment.

It will be interesting to learn about the parts that are at present still buried.


Anonymous's picture

lack of ability to conceive prehistoric people

Most of the negative comments on this story show a pretty entrenched lack of ability or imagination concerning the life of early man. They were much more simple in life but that has nothing to do with their intelligence they were not stupid. They had arts they obviously were able to survive in the wild so they were as smart as any other animal perhaps more so.

chinajon's picture


It was said "They had arts they obviously were able to survive in the wild so they were as smart as any other animal perhaps more so."

As far as I know, humans of that time were the same species as the humans of this time. I like to think that we as a species are more intelligent than any other animal. At this time, I know that there is a lot more information and experience available to us than the early people had. But education doesn't change core intelligence, it just expands its horizons.

Anonymous's picture

Reply to "It was said..."

True education does not increase in itself the intelligence quotient in the person being taught. But, what does? I am sure I am missing something that may be obvious but how does a species increase intelligence? Apes are very intelligent, porcine genus Sus are perhaps more intelligent than our lovable dogs, Cetacea are perhaps as intelligent as man lacking only our overview of both the water world and the world of air and land. Anyway, without being argumentative I think man is extremely intelligent but not to any insurmountable degree above any of many groups of other animals and maybe even some insects. These are facts not easily discerned by us because we have but very limited ability to communicate across species.

chinajon's picture


This is off topic, since my first comment was that the people of Göbekli Tepe are so near to us in time, that their intelligence was the same as ours. I did not mean to start a discussion comparing our intelligence to that of other animals, nor how intelligence might be increased.

Thanks for commenting about Göbekli Tepe.

Anonymous's picture

last reply to dead end thread

It was you that said, "I like to think that we as a species are more intelligent than any other animal." I was merely replying to your comment...

"these are not the droids you are looking for..." " "     


chinajon's picture


You replied to my comment but this statement: "But, what does? I am sure I am missing something that may be obvious but how does a species increase intelligence?" takes us away from talking about Göbekli Tepe.

My comment was in response to a statement that questioned the intelligence of the people of Göbekli Tepe. Whether or not we are smarter than animals or not does not change the point that, whatever the level of intelligence, the people of Göbekli Tepe are the same kind of people that we are, with the same intelligence.

openmindedskeptic's picture

I'm not an Archeologist or

I'm not an Archeologist or anything , just a regular guy  . This question is for those in the field, - at that age what would survive in or around the area? would they find animal remains or remnants of animal tarps,wooden spears, certainly arrowheads ? will they find evidence of wooden structures? humor me and say they lived in these circles with cowhide draped over the  top to shelter from the rain on a month-long animal hunt ?  or they may have discovered wood and moved on to other structures to build with and just buried the "OLD" Town so that their enemys wouldn't take it over? forgive my ignorence but I am on a quest for knowledge. 

Anonymous's picture

School theory

it was nice to find that someone had presented a theory about a school. Same sort of thing occured to me. It is known that many tribes/hunter gatherers leave the bones of animals and the husks of different seeds etc at sites where they have settled to let others know of what is in the area, should anyone else come across the place. I was wondering if perhaps this stone monument could have perhaps been the same thing on a larger scale? perhaps to let others know of the game/dangers in the area. Or maybe even the possibilty that the releveant stones point in the direction of where these animals may be found in abundance? like a sort of map to find food or a map pointing to danger. i have no evidence to support these theories but prhaps one of you do? Im going to try and find out more.

chinajon's picture

School Theory

Thanks for your comment. I was not aware of the fact that some early hunter groups left the bones of animals as indicators of what game was in the area.

This site was used and re-used for hundreds of years. It was not a permanently inhabited site, but a tremendous amount of work went into its construction and development. It may be that some parts were buried because they smelled so bad. I suspect this because both sacrifice and autopsy could have been practiced here. The area was so well known by the local people that leaving bones and stone pointers would not be necessary.

The site is on the top of low hills with views extending for miles. If there were bones laying around, they were probably just remains of food. The stone carvings and weight of the construction took both a lot of work and cooperation.

Anonymous's picture

PERHAPS they were more

PERHAPS they were more advance that we give them credit for.

Perhaps they were in contact with an advanced race such as the

Atlanteans you scoff?

There were advanced civilizations before 5000 bc

and some were not of this particular planet.

Just assume my logic as well as your assumptions.

It could be we are just returning to where we were before.

Anonymous's picture

Gobekli Tepe is not in Turkey, it is in us.

Those walls were meant to contain.  That is not seating around the
inside, it is walkways, as are the tops of the walls.  Class WAS
held there, the class of the kill pit and of butchering the trapped.
It also IS a temple, but it IS a temple to their, and our, humanity.
Still functionable, it is both a mechanism for, and celebration to,
the ascendancy of the human over the monstrous beasts that owned the
land, the gods they were forced to worship by terror and hate.

 With only sticks and stones, ropes and slings, when your group had
no choice but to huddle around the fire, in even the most defensible
place you still knew that, sooner or later, someone had to go back
out.  Out there, where there really were monsters, beasts like none
we see today that wanted you and yours.  When it was not unusual to
find a pile of excrement containing traces of someone you knew or
loved, when every hunter was also a hunted, when even the best kind
of hunt or berry gathering trip had an attrition rate, when a night
of complete relaxation did not exist, you might chance upon one of
those reigning gods that was hurt, or old.  Best of all was when you
found almighty god himself, ferocious enemy of all your kind, unhurt
and healthy, but trapped in a pit and at your mercy.
  It was payback time.

  What better reason for the unification of the entire populace into
common effort than the eradication and punishment of the cruel gods?
With the tallest and most robust of the stones depicted as humans,
there are holes for securing ropes, there are carvings to record,
and carvings to taunt the entrapped, but a single elaborate carving
reads like a pictographic book, declaration of the achievement and
operation manual for their machine: trap the beasts and "funnel" all
of them into food for the buzzards and the vermin.  They put it away
from water that could be polluted, away from habitations that would
have to hear or smell the place, and they left passages wide enough
only for the smaller beasts and the clean-up crew, the vermin.  They
lured or herded their former masters and the most formidable prey to
their killing pit and turned the most dreaded encounters and most
dangerous hunts into the most enjoyable sport and entertainments.
As the larger and more fearsome beasts disappeared, chambers were
divided and made smaller, and as the subjects of hate/worship became
less worthy of respect and spectacle, the workmanship declined.  If
the present or a later population deemed the place just too gross,
it was filled in and maybe another was built.

  Here is a visceral basis, a testimony to the need for religion.  A
record set in stone of the actual achievement of the godhead of our
ancestors in their religion, it offers an explanation for animal and
human sacrifice.  And for our cockfights, dogfights, bullfights, and
bear baitings, for our gladiator bouts, boxing matches, our football
games, this arena, this colliseum is there when we need it.  Still.

  How many times could it have been lost, found, and re-employed?

Anonymous's picture

Places of worship are the original schools

This isn't my field of study and I'm no expert, but I don't understand why you'd be trying to draw any division between a school and a place of worship. In either case you are learning, you are really only arguing about what was taught it would seem to me. And even still you say they believed in spirits of these animals so not only would they be taught how to hunt kill dress and prepare the animals they would be taught in the spirtual aspects of those animals as well. And I would bet money there was some sort of spiritual (meaning religious) practice with each kill.

It's really unfair of modern man to only consider jesus or egyptian like characters or etc religion but not ancient shamanic spirit based faiths. There simply can't be a time when superstitious man wasn't superstitious, I simply don't buy it.

I don't see how you can make the claim it's not religious because it's only dealing with animal spirits, and I don't see how you can imagine a people so motivated to build such a permanent and difficult structure just for the simple task of men teaching kids the hunt which can happen anywhere. You would have to have that deeply spiritual completely religious devotion to the ideas you want to pass along if you are going to create such elaborate and difficult structures as these. 

Why can you claim animal spirits aren't religious? Spirituality is religion, if they believed the animals had spirits then surely they believed they did as well. 

Logic's picture

The problem

Göbekli Tepe is an extremely interesting and mind boggling subject.  I personally am very confused by a few things.  1.  Why would these people bury the site?  Now I know someone can easily come up with an explanation or theory but there is one thing I haven't seen taken into consideration.  There are literally thousands of years between the different layers at this site, it isn't like there are two or three layers with a couple hundred years between them.  The oldest layer is supposed to be 12,000 or so years old and the more recent, if that, is 8,000 years old.  Now when talking about geology a few thousands years is a blink or a blip in time but when talking about humans that is a monumental amount of time.  2. This site predates practically everything, so how would these people have moved these stones without wheels?...These are just a few questions I encounter when pondering this site.