Google “World’s oldest temple” (go ahead, we’ll wait) and the #1 answer is the famous Göbekli Tepe (Göbeklitepe) in southern Turkey, believed to have been built 11,000–12,000 years ago as a place to worship the dog star, Sirius. Loaded with T-shaped carved stone pillars, it predates Stonehenge by 6,000 years and puts Utah’s sole monolith to shame. Unfortunately for fans of the Göbekli Tepe, it may soon be knocked down to #2 with the announcement that the Karahan Tepe or Karahantepe in Turkey's southeastern Şanlıurfa province contains hundreds of statues and artifacts that initially appear to predate Göbekli Tepe. Can Göbekli Tepe fans demand a recount?
“Life in Göbeklitepe is not only limited to a period of ‘T’-shaped stones. It reflects a much longer process, there is a settlement of 700 to 800 years. It is certain that Karahantepe is somewhere in this period. It may cover a longer period of time or it may begin before. The excavations here will reveal all these, but at least we can say that this process coincides with a significant time period, a contemporary period. This means 11,500 years before today.”
Professor Necmi Karul of the Prehistory Department at the İstanbul University is the leader of the “Göbeklitepe Culture and Karahantepe Excavations” project and explains in Hurriyet Daily News that while the site was initially discovered in 1997, surveys did not start until 2018 and excavations didn’t begin until September 2019. The surveys found at least 250 T-shaped Neolithic-era obelisks were found. The obelisks appeared to be similar to those at Göbekli Tepe and the excavations are proving it. (Photos here.)
“The excavation program continues in Karahantepe in an intensive and rapid manner. There are more years of work, but we will have reached an older excavation center. This is 12 thousand years old, the other will be much older. It will probably become a priority place than Göbeklitepe. It will be our new focus of attention."
Speaking at the 10th International Resort Tourism Congress this week, Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Nuri Ersoy excitedly delivered the news, saying the discovery "will make a sound in the world!". That would certainly be the case in both of the minister’s departments. Göbekli Tepe has been regarded as the world’s oldest temple since its discovery and its monoliths and artifacts continue to be intensely studied -- as will those at Karahantepe. The fame and publicity has resulted in Göbekli Tepe becoming a major tourist attraction for Turkey, and, while Karahantepe might take some of that away, together the should increase the total number of visitors and tourist dollars for the country.
“This year we have found very important finds highlighting the human symbolism. We discovered sculptures and new buildings. The statue head is quite interesting. The statue head, 50 cm in diameter, is carved into the bedrock. Again, we found structures carved into the bedrock around it. "
Karul points out that, while both Göbekli Tepe and Karahan Tepe are loaded with T-shaped columns, the statues are different, with Göbekli Tepe having more animal representations while Karahan Tepe has more humans. That could mean the two sites, while similar, were separated by more than their 35 km (21.7 mile) distance. So far, the tools found at Karahan Tepe indicate it was a hunter and gatherer community.
Get your algorithm read, Google. There’s a new oldest temple in town.