During my roadtrip from Islamabad to Istanbul in 2014, I had the opportunity to visit the archeological site of Göbekli Tepe, located a dozen kilometers away from Urfa in Turkey. It was a long time dream. That was even one of the main reasons for this long trip – along with the visit of other neotlithic archeological sites.
Approaching Göbekli Tepe. Copyright 2014 Sylvie Lasserre
Göbekli Tepe, « the mount with a belly » in Turkish, was discovered in the 60’s by some archeologists guided by the shepperds, owners of the land. But those had no idea of the importance of the site. They thought they had found some Middle Age graveyards. It was Klaus Schmidt, a German archeologist, who understood the importance of such a place and he began excavations in 1994. Unfortunately Schmidt died of a heart attack in 2014.
It was found out that Göbekli Tepe was probably a temple 12000 years old. This shook up all preconceived ideas about neolithic societies. Indeed : still nomadics, the hunters and gatherers living in the region of Göbekli Tepe were gathering at this worship place (no evidence of settlements were found in the surroundings). This is the most amazing fact of this discovery.
Mahmut Yildiz, the shepperd owner of the land where lays Göbekli Tepe. Copyright 2014 Sylvie Lasserre
Still most of the mound has to be excavated. I was told by the locals that the vast plain down the tepe « hill » was the place of the Paradise. Indeed, this region is known for being the cradle of agriculture (upper Mesopotamia), which appeared some 10000 years ago, after the construction of Göbekli Tepe.
A fertile plain lays at the feet of Göbekli Tepe. Copyright 2014 Sylvie Lasserre
Today, Göbekli Tepe has dressed new clothes. Paths have been created for guiding the visitors, brand new roof is protecting the site. There are opening and closing times and soon it will be possible to fly over the site with hot air balloons… Moreover, some guided tours are full and can’t accept more tourists, due to the success of this modernisation.
Göbekli Tepe has been officially inaugurated on March 2019. And selfishly I wonder if I still will be able to dream there.