Archaeologists in Turkey have unearthed an ancient site that could be up to 1,000 years older than Göbeklitepe – the world’s oldest temple. Excavations at Boncuklu Tarla, which is located in southeastern Turkey’s Mardin, began in 2012.
The ancient site was believed to have been from the Neolithic period and throughout the years several groups of people have lived there, including Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Hittites, Assyrians, Romans, Seljuks, and Ottomans.
İbrahim Özcoşar, who is the rector of Mardin Artuklu University, told Anadolu Agency, “This area is important in terms of being one of the first settled areas of humanity and shows that the first people settling here were believers.” (A picture of the site can be seen here.)
The history of Boncuklu Tarla goes back to approximately 12,000 years ago, according to Ergül Kodaş who is an archaeologist at Artuklu University. “Several special structures, which we can call temples and special buildings were unearthed in the settlement, in addition to many houses and dwellings,” he said, adding, “This is a new key point to inform us on many topics such as how the [people] in northern Mesopotamia and the upper Tigris began to settle, how the transition from hunter-gatherer life to food production happened and how cultural and religious structures changed.”
And while Boncuklu Tarla is located nearly 300 kilometers from the world’s oldest temple, several of the buildings unearthed there are quite similar to those found at Göbeklitepe, but up to 1,000 older. “We have identified examples of buildings which we call public area, temples, religious places in Boncuklu Tarla that are older compared to discoveries in Göbeklitepe,” Kodaş stated.
Several researchers from the universities of Istanbul and Chicago unearthed Göbeklitepe in 1963 and it was officially declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018. Since 1995, the Sanliurfa Museum and the German Archaeological Institute have been excavating the site.
They have made some pretty interesting discoveries which included 10-20 foot tall T-shaped obelisks from the Neolithic period that weighed 40-60 tons. They unearthed several more historical artifacts, including a 26-inch tall human statue from 12,000 years ago.
While many fascinating discoveries have been unearthed in Göbeklitepe, the fact that the Boncuklu Tarla site could be as much as a thousand years older is certainly a significant archaeological find.