Graham Hancock, a journalist and specialist in ancient civilisations details his experiences and reflections at Göbekli Tepe, the world’s first temple.
I have spent the past week exploring the mysterious 12,000 year-old megalithic site of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, the world’s first temple, predating Stonehenge by 8,000 years. With its extraordinary, haunting energy, it’s obvious that something special unfolded here, something that is linked to the birth, or more likely the rebirth, of monumental architecture.
This site, with its massive, perfectly-crafted megaliths can only be the work of a culture that was already ancient and deeply experienced with large-scale architectural projects. Archaeologists agree that the origins of the site must be much older than even the oldest of the enclosures they have excavated up until now; however the background, the evolution, the trial and error and the learning processes that must lie behind Göbekli Tepe are all missing. Could we be looking at a project of the survivors of a lost civilisation brought to ruin in the chaos that surrounded the end of the last Ice Age?
This photograph shows me interviewing Professor Klaus Schmidt, German archaeologist and discoverer of the site. Professor Schmidt revealed that his site surveys, including ground-penetrating radar, have indicated that the areas excavated so far represent only a small fraction of the total. It is believed that at least a further twenty enclosures of similar size, and possibly as many as fifty, still remain underground.
What secrets about the lost past of humanity will the excavation of those enclosures reveal?
This photograph shows an unfinished pillar still lying in the quarry where it was left by the builders 12,000 years ago after they discovered a fault in the rock. It is T-shaped, like the majority of the finished pillars in the main enclosures, and estimated to weigh 50 tonnes. It is intriguing, and indeed paradigm-shattering that our ancestors, supposedly hunter-gatherers, were able to contemplate moving stones of such weight. My strong intuition is that Göbekli Tepe is much more than a centre of unprecedented innovation by hunter-gatherers, as Professor Schmidt believes.
After our week exploring Göbekli Tepe, I flew to Ankara and spent five days driving with the Megalithomania ‘Origins of Civilisation’ study tour specially organised by Travel The Unknown. Thirty eight inquiring, open-minded people participated, and I had the privilege of giving four full-length lectures on various aspects of my work, which ultimately led us back to Göbekli Tepe. We agreed that more than 12,000 years ago, something powerful and astonishing took shape at this site, with its roots in an even earlier time and with branches that continue to overshadow us today.
We are a species with amnesia, but Göbekli Tepe holds precious clues that will help us to reopen the locked doors, and shed light into the darkest, forgotten corners of our collective past. The Pandora’s Box of prehistory has been opened, and the past will never look the same again.
To experience the ancient wonder of Göbekli Tepe for yourself visit our website to read more about our archaeology tours to Eastern Turkey.