08:51 GMT +316 December 2019
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    The ruins of Göbekli Tepe

    Evidence of Unique Skull Cult Found at World's Oldest Temple

    © CC BY-SA 3.0 / Teomancimit / Göbekli Tepe
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    A team of researchers from the Berlin-based German Archaeological Institute found what appears to be the remains of a “skull cult” in the world’s oldest temple.

    Archaeologists say that the ritual site, discovered on top of a hill in southeastern Turkey and now called Gobekli Tepe, was constructed well before the Pyramids and Stonehenge. Evidence suggests that Stone Age people gathered there 9,000 years ago to perform mysterious religious rituals involving human skulls.

    The temple consists of an array of semi-subterranean chambers dominated by T-shaped megaliths up to 18 feet tall, most of which are decorated with detailed carvings of wild predatory animals and human silhouettes.

    The site also contains numerous limestone sculptures, remnants of animal bones, carved beads, amulets and flint tools; all of the findings pointing to a much more complex culture among the hunter-gatherers living in that period than previously thought.

    Göbekli Tepe site
    © CC BY-SA 3.0 / Benefits
    Göbekli Tepe site

    There's no clear sign that humans lived in Gobekli Tepe, researchers say. According to the new study, published in the journal Science Advances, the site does not appear to have been a place of permanent habitation or defense and its only purpose seems to have been ritualistic.

    Researchers weren’t able to determine what kind of rituals the temple’s ancient visitors were performing, but whether they were conflict mediations or male initiation rites, the ceremonies definitely involved human skulls.

    At least 408 of the bone fragments found at Gobekli Tepe come from human skulls, indicating that they were being collected. Some of the skulls show signs of a unique type of post-mortem modification with deep, straight, grooves carved into their surfaces with the use of stone tools.

    “It must have been quite an experience for them,” Lee Clare, a professor at the German Archaeological Institute and coordinator of research and field work at Goebekli Tepe, wrote for the Tepe Telegrams website.

    “The buildings were semi-subterranean, and you can imagine the inside lit by a torch causing the T-shapes to flutter in the light. There was likely drumming and singing going on — and skulls, dangling.”

    Göbekli Tepe museum
    Göbekli Tepe museum

    Purposeful alterations indicate that people who visited Gobekli Tepe assigned symbolic importance to skulls. Thus, evidence leans strongly to the site being the oldest temple yet identified.


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    temple, ancient ruins, ancient, cult, archaeology, archaeologists, Turkey
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