“And most importantly, they may have started the first large-scale organized religion. This site may very well be where mankind first truly communed with God. Our object may have allowed them to communicate with God.” – Father Jean-Paul Sobiros, May 2021
The World’s Oldest Temple?
Nearly 12,000 years ago, hunter-gathers in the lands know known as Turkey built what is said by some – “the world’s oldest temple”.
Pork Belly Hill, more commonly known as Göbekli Tepe in Turkish, was but a mere mound of 15 meters height and 300 meters in diameter resting upon a mountain range 15 kilometers northeast of the city of Sanliurfa, the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham. For ten millennia, this mound rested non-descript. Barren. Desolate. A grazing point for goats with a sole mulberry tree among a field of covered granite stones.
In 1963, a survey by American archaeologist Peter Benedict, University of Chicago, led to this area being classified as a Neolithic site covered by Byzantine and Islamic cemeteries. There were many stones buried in the ground which they deemed as grave markers.
Then in the summer of 1994, a Kurdish shepherd, Savak Yiziz, tending to his flock of sheep discovered a series of large oblong stones mostly buried in the ground atop the arid hillside. He reported this important finding to the museum in Sanliurfa. After the museum contacted the German Archaeological Institute, archaeologist Professor Klaus Schmidt began investigating the mound in late 1994.
Professor Klaus recognized the oblong stones spotted by the Kurdish shepherd as the tops of monolithic T-shaped pillars similar to those he documented at another Pre-Pottery Neolithic site nearby – Nevalı Çori. In 1995, he and five others began excavation of the site leading to the discovery of four circular enclosures with up to a dozen large T-shaped pillars within. The largest of these pillars stands 5.5 meters tall (18 feet) and estimated to weight as much as 50 tons. The earliest enclosure was dated to around 9600 BCE. Over the next 20 years, twenty enclosures have been identified.
Engraved on these monoliths is a veritable menagerie of animals or as Klaus Schmidt said, “stone age zoo”. Aurochs, bears, boars, ducks, flamingos, foxes, gazelles, insects, reptiles (four legged), scorpions, snakes, wildcats, vultures. For the most part, the animals depicted represented the more dangerous animals of the time of the enclosures’ builders. Goats and sheep, which were also present in this area during this age, are conspicuously absent. Some authors have speculated whether or not the diversity of animals represented, some of which are not native to this area, ties back to the legendary tale of Noah and his assemblage of animals. Was this temple a re-telling of that story?
Why Would Hunter-Gathers’ Build Such A Monument?
“These people were foragers, people who gathered plants and hunted wild animals. Our picture of foragers was always just small, mobile groups, a few dozen people. They cannot make big permanent structures, we thought, because they must move around to follow the resources. They can’t maintain a separate class of priests and craft workers, because they can’t carry around all the extra supplies to feed them. Then here is Göbekli Tepe, and they obviously did that.” – Professor Klaus Schmidt
The stones at Stonehenge are half the size and 6,000 years younger. The great pyramids at Giza would not be built for another 7,000 years.
Around 9600 BCE, mankind was emerging from the last ice age represented by small bands of hunter-gathers. Experts estimate building the first enclosure would have required fifty to a hundred people working together for nearly a year. How could small nomadic tribes have collaborated to build this monument? Why would a group of hunter-gathers collaborate on such an endeavor that is not related to shelter, food acquisition, or safety?
Archaeologists did not find evidence of domestic homes at Gobekli Tepe. Nor sources of water, nor agricultural crops. The builders of this monument must have lived in the valleys below the hills, ten to twenty kilometers away. Professor Schmidt hypothesized the animal carvings were guardians of the spiritual world. They concluded that this must have been a sanctuary. Others have called evidence of the first large scale organized religion.
“An answer to the question ‘Who are the T-Shapes?’ may be a little easier when these non-stylized statues are taken into account. The more or less naturalistically depicted statues seem to represent members of our world, powerful and important, but inferior to the T-Shapes, who remain in mysterious, faceless anonymity. The T-Shapes seem to belong to the other world; the non-stylized statues seem to have the role of guardians of the sacred sphere.” – Professor Klaus Schmidt
Later researchers found the principle monoliths are aligned to astrological positions. In particular, the tops of the main T-pillars point to the historic position of the polar North Star, which at 10,000 BCE would have been the star Deneb in the Cygnus constellation – “the tail of the bird star”.
Some speculate whether or not this alignment related to the postulated the cataclysmic impact of an extraterrestrial object across the northern hemisphere which lead to the last ice age. Were these northern astrological alignments part of the lore mankind passed through the ages to document this destructive life altering event?
“Beings from another world.” – Professor Klaus Schmidt
The Foundation of Agriculture and Organized Religion
In several Pre-Pottery Neolithic sites tens of kilometers from Gobekli Tepe, archaeologists have found evidence of early agriculture. Is it only a coincidence that Gobekli Tepe lies at the northern most part of the “Fertile Crescent”?
Did Gobekli Tepe represent the outcome of the domestication of agriculture? Mankind settles in communities. Mankind has wealth of food supplies. And mankind now has time to think about high order thoughts such as spirituality. And hence, did these new farmers create the monument at Gobekli Tepe to worship together?
But researchers believe that the builders of this sanctuary were hunter-gathers, likely based on the spearhead and arrowheads found in the area. So were these nomads somehow inspired to build a common place of worship and then communities evolve as a result of this inspiration? And from where, from whom, did this inspiration come from?
And Then It Was Buried
Around fifteen-hundred years after its creation, the structures at Gobekli Tepe were mysteriously buried. Researchers have concluded this was an active process of burying as opposed to a gradual process of decay over millennia. The last remaining enclosures were covered with earth brought in from other areas, stone chips, and refuse materials. And the mound, the Tell, the Tepe, was left to sit undisturbed for the next ten thousand years.
The Matriarch Matrix – Inception of the novel premise
A few years ago, I first learned of this amazing archaeologic site and the proposition of it as the earliest site of large scale organized religion. I was fascinated by the idea of an organized religion in the days before man could write. How would they pass down their wisdom, their beliefs, to the next generations? And what happened to these creators?
Thinking about the Navaho, who pass down their traditions by word of mouth from generation to generation, I postulated that the creators’ of Gobekli Tepe passed along their culture, their beliefs, their religion, from generation to generation in an oral tradition like the Navahos. And thus, in the modern times, some semblance of their influence must still exist. And thus was born the speculative fiction story – The Matriach Matrix. The search across time for inner peace, family peace, and world peace.
“Jean-Paul, the parchment. It’s the answer,” Peter yells, leaping out of Zara’s poor battered truck. “Look again. The H’s, they’re the same ones we saw all over Göbekli Tepe. An H just like the one above the giant with Zara’s pendant, two people holding hands. I saw this woman in my dream last night. She prayed at the object, surrounded by wild boar.” – Peter Gollinger, May 2021
Actual Archaeology: UNDERSTANDING GOBEKLI TEPE, Publisher: iBoo (May 31, 2016)
Gobekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods: The Temple of the Watchers and the Discovery of Eden, Andrew Collins author, Bear & Company; 1 edition (May 1, 2014)