G÷bekli Tepe: Why Does This Site Fascinate?
by Anne Habermehl
At the end of October 2015 I visited G÷bekli Tepe near Şanliurfa, Turkey, on the edge of the Harran plain near the Syrian border, with a small group of archaeologists. We were accompanied by the acting dig director, Lee Clare, who was appointed to this position when the long-time dig director, Klaus Schmidt, died suddenly in 2014. For those not familiar with G÷bekli Tepe, I suggest starting with the Wikipedia page at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6bekli_Tepe to get a good overview of this site (from the secular point of view, of course). Some of my own photos of this site are here: Pictures of G÷bekli Tepe.
The location of G÷bekli Tepe is of interest to Bible believers because it is close to Harran, where Abraham lived with Terah for some years until the latter's death, and not far from the likely location of the Tower of Babel.1
But there are many archaeological sites in Turkey. Why is there so much interest from the secular scholars in this particular one? The main reason appears to be that the extreme age of the site coupled with the advanced engineering expertise shown by the builders does not fit the secular evolutionary worldview. G÷bekli Tepe has turned the world of archaeology on its head.
How old is G÷bekli Tepe? Current estimates date it back to about 10,000 BC (on the secular timeline). This is when the climate changed rapidly and there was a great meltdown of the ice sheet at the end of the Ice Age. If this timing is not a coincidence, we might wonder whether these unknown people built this place on a hill to escape flooding elsewhere. The site was abandoned about 8,000 BC (secular) after being carefully back filled (why they did this is another mystery). Could it be that these people then returned to the place where they had come from? Nobody knows. Whatever, these dates make G÷bekli Tepe older than any other known construction of temples or houses in the world, older even than the secular date for earliest Jericho (9,000 BC).
Where the end of the Ice Age falls on the biblical timeline is not certain. I have shown that the Ice Age had to have ended before the formation of the Nile Delta and therefore well before the time of Abraham.2 That offers us two dates, depending on whether we are using the Masoratic (MT) scripture timeline or whether we accept the longer Septuagint (LXX) timeline. Whatever, we can estimate that the beginning time of building G÷bekli Tepe falls somewhere around 2500 BC (LXX) or 2100 BC (MT).
But what really knocks the scholars over is the great T-shaped stone pillars in the circular constructions at G÷bekli Tepe. The older pillars are the largest (evolution was working backwards here), some weighing up to 20 tons. One very large pillar still unfinished in the nearby quarry is estimated at 50 tons. How did those people move such heavy pillars? Nobody knows. But perhaps we should not be overly surprised at the ability of these ancient people to move heavy stone pillars. History offers examples of other peoples in other times and places who moved large stones. There is still plenty of speculation about the building of the later Giza pyramids, for example. And in the creationist view of history, early man was very advanced.
In addition, we need to keep in mind that the secular timeline keeps stretching out more and more as we go back in time. The difference between 10,000 BC (end of Ice Age) and 3,000 BC (the beginning of the First Dynasty) looks like a lot of time, to our eyes. But on our biblical timeline, this difference shrinks appreciably; even on the longer LXX timeline this would be only about 600 years. In other words, those people at G÷bekli Tepe were not nearly as much earlier in time as secular scholars might have us think.
There are plenty of unanswered questions about this ancient site. Are the circular structures temples, private homes, or neither? Many scholars think it most likely that they were religious structures, and they call them temples. However, one scholar by the name of Banning3 makes an argument that the structures are homes, with the roof supports sitting on the pillars. Our guide, Lee Clare, started the tour by saying that he believed that this early site predated religion. However, he does not believe that the constructions were homes, either. If so, why did these people build these structures at all? In our biblical worldview, we see religion as something that dates to the beginning of the world. Whether these structures were religious or not, we can be sure that these people practiced some kind of religion. There are hints of this in the many animal sculptures on the pillars and elsewhere on site.
There is also the idea put forward that the pillars are anthropomorphic, with the cross bar at the top representing a head. This is one idea that does not make sense to me. If those rectangular shapes are heads, they are the strangest heads I have ever seen. It is true that there are some arms and belts sculptured on some pillars. But this does not make the pillars themselves represent body forms.
What really seems strange is that eventually, after making new circles of ever smaller pillars inside the original circle of large pillars, each structure was carefully filled in and abandoned. New circles were made nearby, with the same cycle taking place. We can only speculate about this because our modern minds do not come up with any explanation. This site keeps reminding us that it is difficult for modern Westerners to think like these long-gone ancient people.
As one (secular) writer asks, "Do we have to change our vision of how and where civilized human history began?" Well, yes, I would say they should. But then, in our biblical view we believe that early man could do a lot of things―build a seagoing vessel over 450 feet long (Noah's Ark), build a ziggurat and city at the beginning of the Ice Age (at Babel), and leave us a written record of history as well. There were musical instruments nearly at the beginning of time (Jubal was the father of those who played the harp). There was farming (as in the story of Cain) back then, too. The notion that man started as a stone age cave dweller, moved onward and upward to hunting and gathering, and then to farming, and then to living in villages, and then eventually to building cities, is a purely evolutionary construct. That G÷bekli Tepe does not fit the comfortable confines of this evolutionary construct is the secular scholars' problem― they invented this evolutionary view of things in the first place.
1. Habermehl, A. 2011.
Where In the World is the Tower of Babel?
2. Habermehl, A. 2013. Ancient Egypt, the Ice Age, and Biblical Chronology.
3. Banning, E.B. 2011. So fair a house: G÷bekli Tepe and the identification of temples in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of the Near East. Current Anthropology Vol. 52, No. 5 (October 2011), pp. 619ľ660.