Gobeklitepe in Turkey, 6,000 years older than Stonehenge, challenges traditional wisdom about the emergence of civilization. Klaus Schmidt, a German archaeologist working in Urfa, Turkey, uncovered a surprising discovery six miles outside the ancient city: huge engraved stones around 11,000 years old, created and organized by prehistoric humans who hadn't mastered metal tools or even pottery. The megaliths are around 6,000 years older than Stonehenge.
Gobekli Tepe is the site's name, and Schmidt, a German archaeologist who has been studying there for almost a decade, believes it is the origin of the world's oldest temple. In the 1960s, anthropologists from the Universities of Chicago and Istanbul dismissed Gobekli Tepe as a legitimate archaeological site. They went to the hill during a region-wide inspection, spotted some broken limestone slabs, and believed the mound was nothing more than an abandoned medieval cemetery. Schmidt began doing his research into the region's ancient past in 1994. After reading about it in a University of Chicago study, he chose to visit the stone-strewn mountaintop and decided to travel there for himself. He knew the moment he laid eyes on it that it was exceptional.
The archaeologists believe that Gobekli Tepe was an attempt by hunter-gatherers to hold on to their disappearing way of life as the world changed around them, rather than a centuries-long construction project encouraging the shift to farming. Evidence from the surrounding area suggests that humans at other locations were experimenting with domesticated animals and plants. Researchers will continue to understand why the site was created, although most people had never heard of it until around ten years ago when it first opened to the public. And each new find has the power to reshape what we already know about the site and the history of human civilization as a whole.