Gobekli Tepe: Documentary explores ancient stone circle
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Stonehenge has attracted people for centuries, its first version a giant ring of Welsh bluestone laid out around 5,000 years ago. Researchers long believed the structure was the oldest stone circle in the world. But this is not the case.
In the south-eastern desert of Turkey sits a large mount, called Gobekli Tepe, a Neolithic archaeological site near the Syrian border.
Gobeklli Tepe has been touted as many things, including the world’s first-ever temple.
It comprises a series of stone circles, older even than Stonehenge, and was explored during the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary, ‘Secrets: Garden of Eden’.
As the documentary’s narrator noted: “But the most breathtaking discovery was not the size of the complex, it was its age.”
Archaeology: Researchers discovered that Gobekli Tepe is thousands of years older than Stonehenge (Image: GETTY/Youtube/Smithsonian Channel)
Stonehenge: The ancient stone circle was once thought to be the oldest of its kind (Image: GETTY)
Gobekli Tepe “blows Stonehenge out of the water” in terms of age.
The most ancient organic material found in the fabric of the stonework was radiocarbon dated to before 9,000 BC – more than 11,000 years ago.
This is 6,000 years before construction at Stonehenge even began.
Jens Notroff, an archaeologist at the German Archaeological Institute revealed the extent of Gobekli Tepe’s age, and explained: “We today are actually closer to the builders of Stonehenge than the people building Stonehenge were to Gobekli Tepe.”
Gobekli Tepe: Several stone circles are within the site in south-eastern Turkey (Image: GETTY)
“We’re talking about a period here which has not seen metal tools – even the wheel was not invented yet, so these monuments were put together by hand.”
The art and architecture at Gobekli Tepe is, the narrator noted, “rewriting historic archaeology.”
But, it was the architects that would cause the greater shock, whose identity was revealed not in the stonework but in the used animals bones found strewn across the site.
Joris Peters has spent more than two decades examining 11,000-year-old animal remains from the area around Gobekli Tepe, having discovered the most about the people who constructed the stone circle from the bones found within the enclosure.
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Turkey: The excavation site from above (Image: GETTY)
Ancient engravings: Humans would have used stone tools to carve out art and symbols into the rocks (Image: Youtube/Smithsonian Channel)
While nearly all of them had been shattered – a sign they had been used to extract bone marrow – the type of bones discovered were only of the richest cuts.
Normally, when ancient humans slaughtered domestic them, all parts of the bodies would be found: the head, the spin, the lower legs.
However, as Professor Peters noted: “But for Gobekli Tepe the picture is totally different.
“Most of the bones we found are the ones that carry a lot of meat.”
UK stone circles: Just a handful of ancient stone circles dotted around Britain (Image: Express Newspapers)
It was quickly realised that the animals had not been butchered on the site but carved up wherever they were killed, with the meatiest joints brought up the mound to the stone circle.
Researchers concluded that the animals were wild and the prey of the builders of Gobekli Tepe.
It means Stone Age hunter-gatherers can likely be credited credit for the construction of the ancient stone circle, as Prof Peter noted: “The focus on meat bearing parts points to hunter-gatherers.”
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History: The animal bones were the biggest give away that the builders were hunter gatherers (Image: Youtube/Smithsonian Channel)
It went against everything archaeologists thought they knew about the lives of Stone Age people, who were believed to live off the land and roam across vast distances following prey and collecting edible plants.
The idea that they might have stayed in one place long enough to build giant monuments in stone has “defied belief”.