Building Göbekli Tepe

Full View of a Göbekli Tepe Temple

Illustration by Fernando BaptistaIllustration: Full view of a Gobekli temple

The cover story of the June 2011 National Geographic magazine features the extraordinary archaeological site of Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey. Built some 11,600 years ago, it is revolutionizing theories on the development of agriculture, religion, and civilization.

In the article, author Charles C. Mann writes, “Göbekli Tepe is the oldest known example of monumental architecture—the first structure human beings put together that was bigger and more complicated than a hut. When these pillars were erected, so far as we know, nothing of comparable scale existed in the world.”

People must have gathered from far-flung settlements to erect the first known temples. Using flint tools, they carved pillars and shaped blocks for walls mortared with clay. When a new temple was completed, the old one was buried. How the temples were used is unknown.

In this gallery, explore the sights of Göbekli Tepe in its heyday, with the largest and oldest circle completed—and another under construction—as people go about various tasks related to this enormous undertaking.

Illustration: Gobekl temple entryway

Temple Entryway

A sunken U-shaped block formed the entry pillars of the temple, capped by sculptures of dead animals. The inner ring had no such gate or doorway and may have been accessed with ladders.

How much of a view people had of the inner circle is unclear. Earthen embankments may have given pilgrims a view of ceremonies inside the rings, or the temple may have been roofed and closed off from view.

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