Göbekli Tepe is the oldest megalithic structure on earth, predating Stonehenge by 6600 years and the Pyramids by 7100 years. Göbekli Tepe, or “Potbelly Hill” in Turkish, is possibly the most important archaeological discovery of this century, atop a mountain ridge in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of modern-day Turkey, approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Şanlıurfa. It was discovered in 1995 by archeologist Klaus Schmidt. What makes this site so special is not the age but the implications regarding the onset of the Neolithic period when humans first settled in permanent communities in a fixed location. I have previously written on the ragged edge between the Paleolithic hunter-gatherers and the more sedentary Neolithic settlements. Specific markers such as pottery, domesticated animals and cultivation of grains were discovered, forgotten and rediscovered over millennia before the lessons took root in the Neolithic package. Göbekli Tepe demonstrates another indistinct marker, special use megalithic buildings, possibly temples, built by Paleolithic hunter-gatherers.
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.
Dolní Věstonice is an open-air site located along a stream, in the south Czech Republic on the northern slopes of the Pavlovske Hills, close to the village of Pavlov. Its people hunted mammoths and other herd animals, saving mammoth and other bones that could be used to construct a fence-like boundary, separating the living space into a distinct inside and outside. In this way, the perimeter of the site would be easily distinguishable. At the center of the enclosure was a large bonfire and huts were grouped together within the barrier of the of the mammoth bones. The radiocarbon dates for the occupations at DVII are 27,070-25,570 years uncal BP, which calibrates to 31,500 years ago according to the INTCAL calibration curve (Reimer et al. 2009). The mammoth deposit (202 bones) is generally thought to be contemporary with one or more of these occupations and has been dated to 26100 uncal BP (Svoboda, 1991).