As it turns out, the oldest temple on Earth— called Göbekli Tepe—not only predates pottery, metallurgy, and the invention of writing or the wheel, it also predates the oldest of Egyptian Pyramids.
Göbekli Tepe stands as evidence that around 13,000 years ago, ancient cultures were capable of quarrying, lifting into position and building megalithic temples using multi-ton blocks of stone.
Some of the massive pillars at Göbekli Tepe weigh between 10–20 metric tons with one still in the quarry weighing 50 tons.
Thousands of years ago, ancient cultures around the globe built impressive temples around the globe.
No matter where we decide to look, we see evidence of megalithic structures, some of which span back toa period of time when history, as we know, was not even recorded.
There are megalithic temples everywhere.
We find some of the most impressive ancient structures, built with multi-ton blocks of stone in Central, South and North America. We find them in Asia, we find them in Europe, and we also find them in Africa.
No matter where we turn to, we see evidence of structures that defy reasoning.
From South America to Göbekli Tepe
Take for example the ancient temples in Bolivia and Peru. There we have the remnants of Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman, and Puma Punku among others.
These three ancient temples were all built with massive, multi-ton blocks of stone, some of which weigh dozens of tons. In addition to their incredible size and weight, some of these stones have been cut and shaped with laser-like precision, causing experts to stand in awe, wondering how the ancients did it.
Despite having studied these temples for decades, we have still not been able to fully understand how the ancients were able to manipulate and work stone with such ease.
The “how” is as mysterious the “why”.
Why would ancient cultures thousands of years ago drag multi-ton blocks of stone to nearly inaccessible locations and build massive fortifications and temples?
The more we learn about the temples, the more we are left awestruck by the secrets embedded within them.
Take for example the megalithic remains of Puma Punku, an ancient site located not far from another mind-boggling city called Tiahuanaco, capital of the ancient Tiwanaku people.
It has been proven, and even recorded on video, that some of the stones at Puma Punku—whose precision is out of this world—show magnetic anomalies. When placing a compass near or on the stones, the device no longer points towards north.
Sacsayhuaman, an ancient site in Bolivia features stones that appear almost as if they were melted. The quarries from which some of these stones were taken show curious zig-zag patters which some have interpreted as the leftover marks of the technology used to quarry the stones in ancient times.
In addition to the extremely precise cuts, and almost-laser like marks, the stones at Ollantaytambo, Puma, Punku, and Sacsayhuaman are built with such accuracy that not a single sheet of paper can fit in between the stones. Not only do they fit perfectly together, almost as if it were a giant puzzle, but the stones give off the impression almost as if they were molded into place.
There is much to admire in the American Continent.
However, halfway around the world, not far from the cradle of civilization, we find the buried remains of a temple unlike any other; both in terms of age, precision, and size.
It’s called Göbekli Tepe, and its name translates into Potbelly Hill.
The oldest temple on Earth
Located around 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Şanlıurfa, the remnants of this magnificent ancient temple are located in Turkey’s southeastern Anatolia region.
The exact details of the massive structure’s function remains a profound enigma to experts, despite the fact that the first traces of the archeological site buried beneath the surface were found in 1963 thanks to a survey by Istanbul University and the University of Chicago.
However, at the time, the site was mistaken as a Byzantine cemetery, and proper excavations didn’t take place.
It wasn’t until 1994 when a researcher called Klaus Schmidt from the German Archaeological Institute decided to excavate the site.
He had previously worked at Nevalı Çori and was looking for a new adventure.
He found out about Göbekli Tepe and read through brief literature published in 1963 by the researchers from the University of Chicago.
He decided to reexamine the site and see if he could find anything noteworthy that the previous survey might have missed. With the experience of excavating Nevalı Çori, Schmidt saw the possibility that some of the rocks and slabs at Göbekli Tepe were in fact prehistoric.
Excavations started and Smhidt and his colleagues were left awestruck after the first, supermassive T-shaped pillar emerged from beneath the surface.
The more archeologists excavated Göbekli Tepe, the more awestruck they were left. However, it wasn’t until the first radiocarbon dates from the site came back, that experts understood the importance of the site.
According to experts, some of the oldest structures at Göbekli Tepe dates back to at least the 10th millennium BC.
The site itself is magical, to say the least. It sits on a flat and barren plateau and its building fan in all directions.
The site’s history is divided into three layers.
Layer III is the oldest. At this early stage, the builders created the circular compounds at the site. These range from 10 to 30 meters in diameter, and their most notable characteristics are the t-shaped limestone pillars, positioned evenly within the interior walls constructed of unworked stones.
Current archeological excavations have revealed four such structures.
However, Göbekli Tepe is gigantic, and surveys of the site revealed that are at least 16 additional circles still buried beneath the surface. These buried circles are believed to enclose around eight pillars each, amounting to nearly 200 pillars in all.
The younger the layers, the lesser architecture we seem to get. Layer II of the site saw builders construct smaller rectangular rooms. These are often associated with the emergence of the Neolithic. However, as noted by archaeologists, the T-shaped pillars—the main feature of the older enclosures—also are present here, suggesting that the buildings of Layer II advanced to serve the same function in the culture, presumably as sanctuaries.
Layer I consists of loose sediments caused by erosion and the use of the hill for agricultural purposes. Experts have revealed that, for reasons that remain unclear to this date, the site was deliberately backfilled around 8,000 BC. All of Göbekli Tepe’s buildings were buried under debris, hiding the site beneath the surface, and eventually helping preserve it until it was excavated in 1994.
Göbekli Tepe is a true wonder of the world. The little experts have managed to excavate and study to date is just a small part of the massive historical treasure trove that still lies hidden beneath the surface.
Experts note that all statements about the site must be considered preliminary, as less than 5% of the site has been excavated.
Göbekli Tepe’s vast size is just as puzzling as its age.
Researchers have revealed that through the radiocarbon method, the end of Layer III can be traced back to around 9000 BC, however, it is believed that the elevated location may have functioned as a spiritual center in the region during 10,000 BC and perhaps earlier, suggesting that the site was already an important center during the last Ice Age.
This means that the surviving structures not only predate pottery, metallurgy, and the invention of writing or the wheel but were built before the so-called Neolithic Revolution, and predate the oldest of Egyptian pyramids by at least 8,500 years.
How the ancient builders of Göbekli Tepe moved the massive blocks of stone remains a profound enigma.