6,500 years older than Stonehenge and 7,000 years before the pyramids were constructed, a cult megalithic complex sat atop the hills near current day Sanliurfa, in southeast Turkey. Göbekli Tepe was flourishing an astonishing 12,000 – 14,000 years ago – and today, the preserved remains still exhibits high degrees of sophistication and megalithic engineering skill.
People all over the world have started to order the Göbelkli Tepe 0€ banknote as part of their collection or simply to contribute to the knowing of this place, with it’s T-shaped pillars and the Urfa man!
The details of the structure’s function remain a mystery. It was excavated by a German archaelogical team under the direction of Klaus Schmidt – from 1996 until his death in 2014. Schmidt believed that the site was a sanctuary where people from a wide region periodically congregated, not a settlement. In 2018 – the site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
At present Göbekli Tepe raises more questions for archaeology and prehistory than it answers. It remains unknown how a population large enough to construct, augment, and maintain such a substantial complex was mobilized and compensated or fed in the conditions of pre-sedentary society. Scholars cannot interpret the pictograms, and do not know what meaning the animal reliefs had for visitors to the site; the variety of fauna depicted, from lions and boars to birds and insects, makes any single explanation problematic. As there is little or no evidence of habitation, and many of the animals pictured are predators, the stones may have been intended to stave off evils through some form of magic representation. Alternatively, they could have served as totems.
The assumption that the site was strictly cultic in purpose and not inhabited has been challenged as well by the suggestion that the structures served as large communal houses, similar in some ways to the large plank houses of the Northwest Coast of North America with their impressive house posts and totem poles. It is not known why every few decades the existing pillars were buried to be replaced by new stones as part of a smaller, concentric ring inside the older one. Human burials may have occurred at the site. The reason the complex was carefully backfilled remains unexplained. Until more evidence is gathered, it is difficult to deduce anything certain about the originating culture or the site’s significance.
The 0€ Banknote features the ‘Urfa man’ who can be seen at the Sanliurfa museum (near Göbekli Tepe). It is just over 6ft tall, with similar features to his “doppelganger” in Costa Rica. The ‘Balikligöl Statue’ (as it is officially called) was found near the ancient city of Urfa (now Sanliurfa) – and is the oldest human statue on earth, having been dated to around 12,000 years old. Urfa man has no mouth and has a unique double v-neck style, looking a bit ‘Star Trek’, plus has a stump at his base as though he was planted in the ground. A similar base exists on the Costa Rica statue, and although there is a mouth, the arms and hands point towards his navel – a feature that also exists in Sulawesi in Indonesia, and on the Moai on Easter Island. This is a tradition that also exists in many prehistoric cultures worldwide, focussing on the ‘navel’.