A new study has revealed the incredibly complicated and precise geometric plan that was involved in building the world’s oldest temple. Göbekli Tepe (meaning “potbelly hill” in Turkish) is a Neolithic site that was built on top of a limestone mountain ridge in the southeastern part of turkey and is said to be between 11,000 and 12,000 years old – more than double the age of Stonehenge.
Ancient hunter-gatherers constructed this site using T-shaped pillars that contained detailed carvings. The pillars were placed in the shape of large ovals and circles with each structure containing two giant center pillars that are surrounded by a bunch of smaller pillars that are facing inwards. The site, which was first discovered in 1994 by German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt, was believed to have been used for religious gatherings and worship.
Some of the pillars are as tall of 18 feet and weigh as much as 50 tons. Some of the pillars are bare while others contain very detailed drawings of abstract symbols as well as animals (lions, bulls, foxes, snakes and insects). Interestingly enough, each of the enclosures depict one specific animal that’s been carved several times, however, in the largest enclosure (called enclosure D) there are numerous animals that have been carved into the pillars as well as human characteristics. In fact, the T-shaped pillars in enclosure D contain carvings that appear to be arms, hands, a belt, and a groin cloth.
As for its geometric structure, Avi Gopher, who is a professor in the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations at Tel Aviv University, along with a doctoral candidate named Gil Haklay analyzed the architecture of the site by using computer algorithms. Their study can be read here.
They discovered that the two center-most pillars were perfectly aligned with the middle point of the other structures. In fact, they found that by drawing an invisible line that connected the center portions in each of the three structures, that it created an equilateral triangle. This indicates that the builders of this site used a “geometric design” for construction and would have spent a considerable amount of time planning it in advance.
In an interview with Live Science, Gopher explained this further, “Building one of these structures is a large project, but all three planned together means that these people had access to a lot of working power [and] a lot of energy.” He added that it’s still unknown whether the three structures were built all at once or at different times.
In order for the hunter-gatherers to have built such a precise structure, they would have had a pretty deep understanding of how to create and follow such a complicated floor plan. They possibly even used ropes in order to measure the correct distances between the pillars.
Tristan Carter, who is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at McMaster University in Canada but was not part of the study, said it best by stating, “People weren't meant to be doing things as grand and as complex so early.” And that is exactly why this site is so interesting and remarkable.