Göbekli Tepe (or Göbeklitepe) is the famous Neolithic archaeological site in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey that is considered to be the first and oldest known permanent human settlement in the world. If it is truly the first place people settled down, that means there were wanderers before then. Where did these particular wanderers come from 12,000 years ago? It turns out the answer to that question has been a mystery … until now. A surprising recent discovery in this well-studied land may have identified the place of origin of the first residents of Potbelly Hill – the Lake Baikal region of Siberia.
“Mass migrations of the peoples of Siberia to Zagros along the Central Asian mountain corridor should have reached the cultural areas of Göbekli Tepe through northern Iraq.”
Professor Semih Güneri from the Center for Archaeological Research of the Caucasus and Central Asia at Dokuz Eylul University, presented his findings at the Preliminary Turkish Congress Bringing Culture to the World held in Istanbul in mid-June 2022. Together with his research partner Professor Ekaterine Lipnina, Güneri introduced the attendees at this international conference to the idea that a mass migration began in Siberia 30,000 years ago, spreading all across Asia and eventually to Eastern and Northern Europe. As reported by Cumhuriyet, Hurriyet Daily News and other media sources covering the conference, Güneri found evidence which leads him to believe these wandering Siberians were the people who stopped and established Göbekli Tepe.
“Based on the results of joint research with Russian colleagues, we found out that traces of the production of stone tools made by copying by the Upper Paleolithic Siberian peoples, represented by the Early North Asian genetic group, were previously identified in Europe and Russia in the region”
While Göbekli Tepe is rich in structures, especially the circles of massive stone pillars decorated with reliefs of wild animals, the site lacks the kind of archeological data which could identify its residents, including their religion which motivated to build this temple and settle around it. Güneri knew that the Siberians of 30,000 years ago had a unique way of making stone tools. That is why he became excited when he found evidence of toolmaking at Göbekli Tepe.
“We discovered products of microblade copying technology, invented by the ancient peoples of North Asia 30,000 years ago, in the region of the Zagros Mountains.”
Güneri found evidence of a Siberian microblade copying technique in the Zagros mountains in Iran, northern Iraq, and southeastern Turkey – the pathway Siberians would have taken on their migration. Dr. Güneri refers to the technique as a “pressed microblade stone tool technology.” While other Göbekli Tepe were looking at the giant monoliths, the world’s oldest, Güneri went small … really small.
“The imprinted microblades we are working on are tiny cutters of 2-5 mm in size. These are precision tools used in the finest works by arranging them on bone material.”
The origin of this technique was confirmed in 2019 when he went to the Baikal region of south-east Siberia, home of Lake Baikal, the oldest (25 million years) and deepest (1,700 m or 5577 feet) lake in the world – a lake steeped in history and mystery to this day. The people of this region would certainly have been advanced enough to transport this technology with them and even teach it to others – which Güneri confirmed in his presentation.
“After that, this technique was transferred to the Göbekli Tepe culture. The connection between the high culture of Göbekli Tepe and the carriers of the Siberian technology for manufacturing microblades has already been proven. The results of the genetic analysis of the population of the Zagros region confirmed the presence here of traces of people from Siberia who reached Zagros through the Central Asian mountain corridor and assimilated with the Göbekli-Tepe culture in northern Iraq.”
Professor Güneri used previous genetic research on the people of the Zagros region to support his theory that they were the microblade toolmakers from the Lake Baikal region. The paper he and Professor Lipnina authored has been published in the “most respected archaeological peer-reviewed journal” in Turkey, and they look forward to further research and discussions.
OK, so that explains how Siberians got to Göbekli Tepe and made it the first permanent settlement in the world. While the location itself was permanent, the residents weren’t. History shows that many of the people who planted themselves there later uprooted and moved on. Where did the move to? For that answer, we turn to Mehmet Özdoğan, an academic from Istanbul University, who shared his idea on where “the people of Göbeklitepe migrated to” and why.
“The people of Göbeklitepe turned into farmers, and they could not stand the pressure of the overwhelming clergy and started to migrate to five ways.”
Let’s stop here for a moment. Many archeologists follow the theory that Göbekli Tepe was not the world’s first permanent settlement but the world’s first temple where nomadic hunter-gatherers from many areas came to perform their rituals and move on. Mehmet Özdoğan proposes a variation on that theme – he sees Göbekli Tepe as a settlement AND a temple. And, while the former nomads liked the idea of settling down, farming, socializing and all of the other amenities that go with living in a town, they didn’t like having to answer to the settlement’s leaders, which would have also been the temple’s clergy. So, like so many other people have done throughout history, they became the first to move seeing freedom from a religion. Where did they go? Özdoğan cites five directions.
“Migrations take place primarily in groups. One of the five routes extends to the Caucasus, another from Iran to Central Asia, the Mediterranean coast to Spain, Thrace and [the northwestern province of] Kırklareli to Europe and England, and one route is to Istanbul via [Istanbul’s neighboring province of] Sakarya and stops.”
No surprise here – these were former nomads. After trying their hands at farming and regular temple attendance, they headed out in every direction -- Özdoğan says the migration happened fast and the former Göbekli Tepe residents went small – they formed about 300 settlements in what are now northern Greece, Bulgaria and Thrace. What happened to those who didn’t think the temple leaders were so bad and decided to stay behind?
“Those who remained in Göbeklitepe pulled the trigger of Mesopotamian civilization in the following periods, and those who migrated to Mesopotamia started irrigated agriculture before the Sumerians.”
In other words, they sparked what we now call civilization. Follow that trail all the way back to the start and this means civilization’s real roots began at Lake Baikal in Siberia. Proud Siberians will certainly like that theory. What do you think?