World's Oldest Known Temple Had Seriously Talented Architects

Hunter-gatherers built Göbekli Tepe 6,000 years before Stonehenge, and they had astonishing geometry skills.
Fabienne Lang
Göbekli TepeGil Haklay/AFTAU

Researchers are mesmerized by the geometry skills the hunter-gatherers who built Göbekli Tepe temple were able to put together. The structure in Turkey is the world's earliest known temple built over 11,000 years ago — that's 6,000 years older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Egypt. 

A new analysis carried out by researchers from the University of Tel Aviv is pointing out how the surprisingly well-skilled architects of the temple were far more advanced than previously thought.

The analysis was published in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal.


An old site offering up new views

Even though the Neolithic complex that is Göbekli Tepe has been extensively observed since it was discovered in the 1990s, it's seemingly still dazzling archaeologists.

World's Oldest Known Temple Had Seriously Talented Architects
Part of the megalithic site of Göbekli Tepe, Source: Göbekli Tepe Project

The new research analyzes the temple's striking pillars and enclosures and is pinpointing just how skilled its creators were. "Göbekli Tepe is an archaeological wonder," said archaeologist Avi Gopher from the University of Tel Aviv. 

Gopher continued "Since there is no evidence of farming or animal domestication at the time, the site is believed to have been built by hunter-gatherers. However, its architectural complexity is highly unusual for them."

The team of researchers used a special algorithm to measure and analyze the structure of the temple's layout and has discovered that all structures are linked by enclosures and pillars into one single layout — and not separate, as was previously believed. 

More interestingly, it appears that the three main enclosures of the structure, known as Enclosures B, C, and D, are all related geometrically through an underlying pattern of an equilateral triangle. 

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World's Oldest Known Temple Had Seriously Talented Architects
Göbekli Tepe's architectural structure is triangular, Source: Gil Hakaly/AFTAU

"I certainly did not expect this," archaeologist and co-author of the study Gil Haklay told Haaretz. "The enclosures all have different sizes and shapes so the odds that these center points would form an equilateral triangle by chance are very low."

This analysis demonstrates that the architects and builders of the site were far more advanced than was previously known, especially given the structure would have been put up without any mapping or writing, as it dates back to years before the advent of writing. 

So far, only five percent of Göbekli Tepe has been unearthed, and there are most likely many other fascinating structures for archaeologists to dig up out of the Turkish soil. 

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