Göbekli Tepe sits at the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent. This sanctuary build 11,600 years ago would have attracted preliterate nomads who hunted animals and foraged for plants. The site confounds archaeologists astounded by the skill and artistry by which its massive stone pillars were arranged and carved. The megaliths predate Stonehenge by 6,000 years. How did they construct this structure 7000 years before the Great Pyramid of Giza?
Journalist Charles C. Mann writing in National Geographic said, "Discovering that hunger-gatherers had constructed Göbekli Tepe was like finding that someone had build a 747 in a basement with an x-acto knife," seems an exaggeration. "This area was like a paradise," says Klaus Schmidt, a member of the German Archaeological Institute.
Schmidt has found no evidence that people permanently resided on the summit of Gobekli Tepe itself. He believes this was a place of worship and humanity's first "cathedral on a hill." He has mapped the entire summit using ground-penetrating radar and geomagnetic surveys, charting where at least 16 other megalith rings remain buried across 22 acres. The one-acre excavation covers less than 5 percent of the site. He says archaeologists could dig here for another 50 years and barely scratch the surface.
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