There has never been an archaeological find quite like Göbekli Tepe. Only discovered in 1963 - with excavation not happening until 1994 - the site in Turkey’s southern Anatolia region is believed to be the world’s oldest temple.
Göbekli Tepe is the oldest significant site for humans to ever have been discovered, beaten in age only by a stone wall in Greece. Its age is only made more impressive by the sheer complexity of the site. Excavations have been ongoing for the last 24 years and experts say they could continue for decades more.
Most importantly, its discovery has completely changed the way historians view the origins of civilisation. The architecture found on site is far beyond what historians believed hunter-gatherer societies were capable of.
As more incredible discoveries were made, visitors came to see the marvels for themselves but growth slowed in recent years due to the site’s proximity with the Syrian border. Now with a winding down of armed conflict in the neighbouring country and after being named a Unesco World Heritage Site this year, the site is gearing up for more tourism. However, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office still advise against all travel to the area.
Restoration is ongoing in many areas of the site and additional facilities like walkways and protective canopies have been built to protect the structures from the impact of tourism.
With new discoveries taking place on the site all the time, the Şanliurfa Archeology Museum has three floors filled with sculpture and art discovered on the site. Yet, despite the findings, much of the history of Göbekli Tepe remains a mystery. Many believe it was a religious site with others saying it was a burial spot. Recent digs yielded troughs with traces of alcohol, leading to a further theory it was used as a site for festivities.
Why the site fell into disuse also remains a mystery. After being inhabited for about 3000 years, it was abandoned but not before being backfilled, which helped preserve it for modern archaeologists.