Göbeklitepe, a site in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa hailed as the world’s oldest temple, is getting ready to host a record number of tourists next year, after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Dec. 25 declared 2019 the “Year of Göbeklitepe.”
Şanlıurfa Mayor Nihat Çiftçi thanked Erdoğan on behalf of the locals for the government’s decision, saying the move will greatly “contribute” to the province’s tourism.
“Şanlıurfa is a 12,000-year-old city. It is a city encompassing faith centers and on which the footsteps of Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Eyüp, and Prophet Shuaib exist. That the year 2019has been declared as Göbeklitepe Year with the approval of our president is the biggest contribution that can be made to Şanlıurfa’s tourism,” said Çiftçi in a statement on Dec. 25.
The mayor of Haliliye district, where Göbeklitepe is located, also hailed the government’s decision.
“Göbeklitepe, which is older than Stonehenge in the U.K. and the Egyptian pyramids, is a tourism jewel due to its currently standing solid structure, and shedding light onto new information in history,” said Mayor Fevzi Demirkol.
The president of the Göbeklitepe Association has similarly said the government’s decision will “lead to a tourist influx” for Şanlıurfa. “Once they go back, tourists who come here will further send tourists to us. We need to make this opportunity very beneficial. We need to remedy the deficiencies in the tourism sector,” Yusuf Sabri Dişli was quoted as saying by Demirören News Agency.
The head of the Şanlıurfa chamber of tourist guides, Müslüm Çoban, said they were “happy” about the government’s recent decision. “The year of 2018 for Göbeklitepe, which is known as ‘zero point in history of human civilization’ was a very good year [for tourism]. Our target [for number of visiting tourists] was one million at the beginning of the year. After Göbeklitepe was added to UNESCO World Heritage list [in July], people started to come to Şanlıurfa even in the winter. This is why this winter is better [in terms of tourism] compared to the winters of previous years. Tourists come here both through tourist agencies,” Çoban said.
The ancient site, which had been on UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List since 2011, was included in the prestigious list in July. The decision came during the ongoing 42nd UNESCO World Heritage Committee session in Manama, Bahrain.
At around 12,000 years old, Göbeklitepe has been billed as the world’s oldest temple. It is many millennia older than Stonehenge or Egypt’s great pyramids, built in the pre-pottery Neolithic period before writing or the wheel.
Göbeklitepe was discovered in 1963 when researchers from Istanbul and Chicago universities were working at the site. Since then, the excavations have never stopped.
The ancient site is a series of mainly circular and oval-shaped structures set on the top of a hill. There is archeological proof that these installations were not used for domestic use, but predominantly for ritual or religious purposes. Subsequently, it became apparent that Gobeklitepe consists of not only one, but many of such Stone Age temples.
Furthermore, both excavations and geo magnetic results revealed that there are at least 20 installations, which in archeological terms can be called a temple. Based on what has been unearthed so far, the pattern principle seems to be that there are two huge monumental pillars in the center of each installation, surrounded by enclosures and walls, featuring more pillars in those set-ups.
All pillars are T-shaped with heights changing from three to six meters. Archeologists interpret those T-shapes as stylized human beings, mainly because of the depiction of human extremities that appear on some of the pillars. What also appears on these mystical rock statues, are carvings of animals as well as abstract symbols, sometimes picturing a combination of scenes.
The unique method used for the preservation of Göbeklitepe has really been the key to the survival of this fascinating site. Whoever built this magnificent monument, made sure of its survival along thousands of years, by simply backfilling the various sites and burying them deep under, by using an incredible amount of material, and all these led to an excellent preservation.
Each T-shaped pillar varies between 40 and 60 tones, leaving archeologists scratching their heads as to how people of that age accomplished such a monumental feat.