If you currently ask any historian or archaeologists what is the oldest temple on Earth, he or she would probably tell you to take a look at Göbekli Tepe, a vast archaeological site located in modern-day Turkey.
Located less than 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Urfa, an ancient city in Turkey, Göbekli Tepe is regarded as one of the most startling archaeological discoveries made in our time.
It was there where more than 12,000 years ago, an unknown people decided to build a massive temple unlike any other. They placed massive carved stones and arranged them in intricate circles. According to archaeological surveys, Göbekli Tepe is home to more than 200 pillars in which about 20 circles are currently known through geophysical surveys. Experts have calculated that each pillar has a height of up to 6 m (20 ft) and weighs up to 10 tons.
The exact purpose of the ancient sites remains a mystery and not much information is available from historical analysis. The site was apparently built by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery. Yet somehow, they created a staggering ancient temple which predates Stonehenge by more than 6,000 years.
Some of the stones are said to carry a message embedded in stone. Some of the tallest pillars which weigh up to ten tons are elaborately carved featuring images that resemble foxes, lions, vultures, and scorpions. Some of them depict people. Other pillars are empty. Many more are believed to remain hidden beneath the surface waiting one day to resurface and tell their story.
Although many similar temples–although on a lesser scale–have been found not far from Göbekli Tepe, never have experts discovered one that may be even older than Göbekli Tepe, and one located so far away.
That is until now.
An archaeological mission has recently reported discovering an ancient site that may even be older than the oldest temple on Earth.
As revealed by İbrahim Özcoşar from Artuklu University in an interview with Anadolu Agency, the discovery made at Boncuklu Tarla (Beaded Field), in southeastern Turkey’s Mardin, mirrors Göbekli Tepe and could be around 100 years older than its more famous counterpart.
The site in southeastern Turkey is not new. In fact, archaeological excavations started back in 2012, and data gathered so far indicates that the site could date back to the Neolithic Period.
The region is also not shy of history. Its lands were walked thousands of years ago by different ancient civilizations including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Hittites, Assyrians, Romans, Seljuks, and Ottomans.
İbrahim Özcoşar revealed more about the discovery:
“It is possible to consider this as a finding that proves the first settlers [in the area] were believers. This area is important in terms of being one of the first human settlements,” he added, naming the similarities between Boncuklu Tarla and Göbekli Tepe.
To understand the importance of the site we must look at its age. According to Ergül Kodaş, an archaeologist at Artuklu University, the history of Boncuklu Tarla is calculated to be around 12,000 years old.
“Several special structures, which we can call temples, were unearthed in the settlement, in addition to many houses and dwellings,” the archaeologist said.
“This is a key finding that could shed light on questions like how people in northern Mesopotamia and the upper Tigris began to settle down, how the transition from a hunter-gatherer life to food production took place or how the cultural and religious structures were shaped,” he added.
Despite the numerous similarities between Boncuklu Tarla and Göbekli Tepe, both sites are separated by nearly 300 kilometers.