I traveled to Turkey this year with one primary wish, to visit one of the cradles of civilization, Göbekli Tepe, at least 10,000 years old. Even though I was more than happy to visit many other places, restaurants and buildings in Turkey recorded in this blog, my visit was motivated almost entirely by the desire to visit Göbekli Tepe. My desire on this very long voyage was to visit this exact place and how appropriate that on the tell/hill of Göbekli Tepe was a wishing tree, a sacred place to to the local populace. A wishing tree is an individual tree, usually distinguished by species, position or appearance, which is used as an object of wishes and offerings. Such trees are identified as possessing a special religious or spiritual value. By tradition, believers make votive offerings in order to gain from that nature spirit, saint or goddess fulfillment of a wish. This place is so important and so relevant to me, that this will be the first of many posts on this place and time, nearly 12,000 years ago, that civilization became real to me and to the rest of humanity. I felt it was appropriate to begin with the wishing tree on top of the hill.
In the southeast of Turkey, about 28 miles south of Sanliurfa (once called Edessa), lies the city of Harran. The ancient city of Harran was located on the west bank of the Balikh River, a tributary of the Euphrates, in Northern Mesopotamia. The river has long since dried up, although it still has water semiannually in Syria. Harran’s location was a major crossroad for primary trade routes from Mesopotamia to the west and the northwest. The city was an important trade center in ancient times. It appears to be named after its geographic function. Harran is derived from the Sumerian or Akkadian harranu which means road or caravan. The Bible refers to Harran as Paddan-aram which is Aramean for highway. The city of Harran was believed to have been founded around 2000 BCE as a merchant outpost of Ur. The Bible records that Abraham stayed in Harran after leaving Ur, which some claim was actually Edessa (modern Sanliurfa). Beginning about 2000 BCE, Harran’s name was mentioned in a variety of historical accounts as one of the most prominent cities of Northern Mesopotamia. However, very scarce information regarding the earliest period of its history has survived. A number of excavations have revealed early Bronze Age materials that support the existence of Harran during this period. The name of Harran first begins to be mentioned in the Mari Archives (around 1760 BCE). Some documents detail practices such as adoption and inheritance similar to those found in the Genesis accounts. Reports in the royal letters from the city of Mari on the middle Euphrates indicate that the area around the Balikh river was occupied in the 19th century BCE by semi-nomadic tribes, who were especially active in the region near Harran. According to the letter correspondence between the Assyrian King Shamsi-Adad I (1812-1797 BCE) and his son Ishme-Adad, Harran was also once a vassal kingdom of Assyria, the farthest outreach of the Assyrian Empire.