On July 20, it will be 9 years since the death of the outstanding German archaeologist, Professor Klaus Peter Schmidt (1953-2014), who made the greatest archaeological discovery of the 21st century.
Klaus Peter Schmidt forced historians to double the antiquity of civilization and excavated the first and oldest temple of mankind, or rather, an entire temple complex, which is 12,000 years old, located in the southwestern part of the Armenian highlands, 8 kilometers northeast of the ancient city of Edessa (modern Şanlıurfa).
This, undoubtedly, epoch-making discovery was made in a place that is called Portasar in Armenian, which means Navel Mountain, and Göbekli Tepe in Turkish, which translates as Potbelly Hill. The term Armenian Highlands, as a definition of the region in which both Western and Eastern Armenia are located, was first introduced in the mid-19th century by the famous German geologist Otto Wilhelm Hermann von Abich. However, today historians often avoid ethnic names for the sake of political correctness.
In these territories before the Genocide of 1915, the Western Armenian population lived, and in their language, the name – Navel Mountain, turned out to be very symbolic. It reflected, and perhaps even preserved in the folk memory, the fact that the connection or umbilical cord with the Higher was established right here.
Archaeological finds at Göbekli Tepe and the nearby Nevalı Çori and Çayönü have revolutionized not only the understanding of the early Neolithic in the Middle East, but also the entire history of Eurasia and humanity. The oldest center of agriculture, animal husbandry, metalworking, architecture, and writing was originally located in the territory of the Armenian Highlands. How long ago was this?
Progressive historians of the 19th-20th centuries assumed the existence of civilization already at the end of the Ice Age and even earlier. However, astronomical, mythological, and other indirect evidence were not so convincing, and official science was not in a hurry to agree with such arguments.
Even in 1993, when independent Egyptologist John Anthony West, with the support of Professor Robert Schoch and other geologists, was able to clearly demonstrate that the Egyptian Sphinx bears clear traces of erosion from torrential rains, which in the Sahara desert ceased long before the first dynasties of pharaohs, and therefore, it must be thousands of years older, historians were only left puzzled. How could such a gigantic monument be built when there was no state, no centralized power, and no organization to carry out such large-scale work? This seemed simply impossible at those times in the entire world.
But at the beginning of the 21st century, the situation changed. And what they did not even want to admit in the Nile Valley, which was considered one of the birthplaces of human civilization, had to be recognized as an indisputable fact already on the territory of the Armenian Highlands. The most sensational discoveries made by Klaus Schmidt, who conducted excavations at Portasar since 1994, were fully recognized by official science already at the beginning of the 21st century. Based on radiocarbon analysis of the found organic matter, the great antiquity of the entire complex was fully confirmed, so skeptics and dogmatists from science had to resign and accept the facts.
Klaus Schmidt was born in 1953 in Feuchtwangen, Germany. He studied at the Department of Prehistoric Archaeology at the universities of Erlangen-Nuremberg and Heidelberg. Professor Schmidt first came to Turkey in 1978 to conduct research, and since 1994 he began excavations of Portasar under the auspices of the Istanbul branch of the German Archaeological Institute.
Then he understood the importance of this monument, the name of which the Turks translated “Göbekli Tepe”, as an early Neolithic site. Long before the excavations began, the hill was used by local farmers who pulled out obstructing stone blocks and piled them up or buried them in layers of soil. Schmidt said that the real significance of the historical place remained unnoticed until his team began large-scale excavations there.
“Not only did we stumble upon fragments of large sculptures, but we also understood that the burial mound was man-made. It was quite obvious that this could not be a natural hill. The entire place was also littered with pieces of flint and debris, stone tools and traces of human activity were found,” Schmidt said.”
Klaus Schmidt discovered an entire temple complex made of hewn megaliths, dating back to a time when we imagine people were primitive and engaged only in hunting and gathering. But it turned out that in the Armenian Highlands, temples made of hewn stone were being built as far back as 12,000 years ago. Here’s what he told us in November 2011, just back in Berlin from his excavations: “All of this started 12,000 years ago right here, and only then spread throughout the ancient world, along the Mediterranean, Northern Africa, Western Asia, and later, of course, all over Europe. Agriculture, sedentary lifestyle, and civilization first appeared in this region, at the center of which was its main monument – Göbekli Tepe.”
The Göbekli Tepe temple complex is one of the largest megalithic structures in the world. It’s the most sensational archaeological discovery of the last centuries, more significant than the excavations of Troy or the discovery of Stonehenge in England. It has been noted that the depictions of bird-headed beings on the stelae at Göbekli Tepe are very similar to depictions of such beings carved on the stones of Easter Island. And some details on human figures also resemble statues from Easter Island, even though there is a huge temporal and geographical distance between them.
Göbekli Tepe is about 300 meters wide and 15 meters high. This archaeological mound, consisting of the remains of several ancient settlements, is well known for its T-shaped stone pillars, which, according to geophysical surveys, made up 20 circles. Although their exact function remains unknown, scientists have suggested that they are early Neolithic sanctuaries. Klaus believes that the scale of work on the excavations is comparable to other important archaeological monuments, like Troy or Pergamum, and may take decades.
“It’s hard to say how much longer the further excavations will go on. There’s definitely more work there than for one generation of archaeologists.”
The oldest observatory
To date, the temples of Göbekli Tepe represent the oldest known cult structures in the world. Their construction began in the Mesolithic (in the Near East around 15-12 thousand years ago) and continued for several thousand years. In the oldest layer, dating back to the 11th millennium BC, monolithic columns up to 3 m high were found, connected by walls made of raw stone into a round building. Similar columns were also placed in the center of the structure. The burnt limestone floors were surrounded by low stone benches along the walls. Images of boars, foxes, and other animals were carved on the monoliths. As suggested by Vachagan Vahradyan, a researcher of the famous megalithic monument Zorats Karer or Karahunj (also called the Armenian Stonehenge, which is significantly older than the British one), the images of animals in Göbekli Tepe may also be symbols of the zodiac constellations.
Vahradyan was right, which was confirmed by Western researchers in 2017. Furthermore, they concluded that Göbekli Tepe was also created as an astronomical object. The fact that this temple was used to study the sky is evidenced by its perfect construction for observing celestial bodies, with its dome shape and smooth surface.
Scientists from the University of Edinburgh in the UK concluded that some carved images in Göbekli Tepe symbolize a global catastrophe; they depict a comet strike that hit Earth at the end of the Ice Age. So, the lead author of this study, Martin Sweatman, believes: “Göbekli Tepe, among other things, was also an observatory for observing the night sky.”
It turns out that the people of that time even had similar astronomical knowledge, and they recorded the global changes that were occurring at that time.
Klaus Schmidt, realizing that mere wild hunters with sticks and stones living in the woods could not have built such structures, quite reasonably assumed the existence of a fairly advanced society, which was thought to have appeared many thousands of years later.
“We also see that the population of Göbekli Tepe, that is, the people of that time, were not only groups of hunters, but they also had a good organization of social life. There must have been a hierarchy, because at that time there was already division of labor, there were already specialists in certain professions, in particular stone cutters and sculptors. And we used to think for a long time that the society in the 10th millennium BC consisted only of hunters.”
Only initial results have been obtained so far. Today, four cult buildings ranging from 10 to 30 meters in diameter have been uncovered. According to geophysical studies, there are still 16 such buildings within the mound. Schmidt was confident that when everything is excavated, the dating will reach from 12 to 20 thousand years.
In the quarries located nearby, several unfinished columns up to nine meters long were found. All conclusions regarding the Göbekli Tepe temple complex are still preliminary, as excavations have been conducted only on 5% of its territory. Archaeologists believe that the research will continue for about 50 more years.
Klaus Schmidt: “Now, thanks to discoveries in Göbekli Tepe, we can see that the same culture was used in Mesopotamia, along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, and in a large region including eastern Turkey, Northern Syria, and Northern Iraq, if we name these places in accordance with modern political concepts.”
In these countries today, they rarely remember that this was once historical Armenia. As Armenian historians have said, foreign scientists there are warned that if they say something about Armenia and Armenians, they simply will not be allowed to excavations.
In Western universities, discoveries that have lengthened the history of civilization twice are already part of the curriculum and have been taught for several years. For example, in the new Oxford and Cambridge textbooks on ancient history, published in 2006, all this is written and shown in schemes on maps, as civilization and culture move from the Armenian highlands to the Middle East and Egypt. True, there is not a word about Armenia there, and 12 thousand years ago there was no such name yet, and the area is called the Fertile Crescent. This is a region of the Middle East, historically considered the birthplace of agriculture and writing. What made the civilization move from its established place? Researchers believe that this was caused by global climate changes, which led to a long drought. And according to the conclusions of European historians, people moved from the southwestern part of the Armenian highlands further south and southwest.
Representatives of the Gebekli-Tepe culture around 9500 BC buried all the buildings with earth and moved south to be able to survive, develop their agriculture and culture. And they reached Sinai, the Red Sea, the eastern shores of the Persian Gulf, where they ended their journey and began to create new cultures in the following millennia, which are known to history.
As amazing as it may seem, this is exactly how the famous American clairvoyant Edgar Cayce described and dated the events of distant antiquity. As early as the 1930s, he said that this happened in the 11th millennium BC. He even named the names of the leaders, among which there was already the name “Ararat”. The light-skinned Indo-Europeans who came to Egypt became the ruling class of the country, much like it is now in India.
From the point of view of Soviet linguists Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, the area around Portasar was the birthplace of all early Indo-European peoples, although this is disputed by other scientists. This point of view is close to the Armenian hypothesis of these two authors, as well as the Anatolian hypothesis – which pushes the center of the spread of Indo-European languages to the west of Anatolia.
In Portasar in the 8th-7th millennium BC, the most ancient structures were already buried in the earth, and rectangular halls with floors made of processed limestone were built over them. Who and why this was done is unknown. There is also a version that this could have happened as a result of a natural disaster in the form of mudflows with stones and earth.
Klaus Schmidt died of a heart attack on July 20, 2014, while on vacation by the sea on the island of Usedom in the Baltic Sea.
Most scientists today believe that the images of animals on the pillars indicate that the population at that time was mainly engaged in hunting.
On the one hand, it seems clear to everyone that the construction of such a grand structure required the efforts of a large number of people and a certain social organization, as Schmidt said 10 years ago. But on the other hand, this is not characteristic of the Mesolithic. According to approximate estimates, for the manufacture and delivery of columns weighing 10-20 tons from the quarry to the construction site, the distance between which is up to 500 meters, in the absence of draft animals, the efforts of up to 500 people were required. But in fact, some columns weigh up to 50 tons, so even more people were needed, which is completely uncharacteristic for communities of hunters and gatherers who lived in small groups in forests and caves.
The very existence of the temple complex in such a distant historical epoch testifies to the fact that ancient humanity was not only composed of wild hunters. And developed societies actually appeared many thousands of years earlier. However, inertia of thinking among scientists still leads to paradoxes.
Many of them claim that it was the hunters who built Portasar. After all, there were or should not have been any others at that time. So, one day they were running through the forests chasing deer, and the next day they woke up and became engineers, stonecutters, and sculptors. Apparently, many people still need time to really understand the significance of such a big discovery by Klaus Schmidt. However, time itself is driving everyone forward.
In 2019, sensational news came from a place called Boncuklu Tarla in the neighboring province of Mardin. Not only did these “hunter-gatherers” build stone temples, but they also, as it turns out, knew how to lay sewers and build stone houses 7 meters high 11,800 years ago.
And at the end of June this year, it became known that the Turkish authorities intend to rename the temple complex again, as they once renamed it from the historical Armenian “Portasar” to Göbekli Tepe. This was announced by the Minister of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, Nuri Ersoy. The reason for the renaming is that 11 more elevations have been found around the complex within a radius of 100 km from the zero point. “Therefore, let’s name 12 heights (12 Tepe). It will become very famous. Large-scale work is underway now, we will present the results in September,” Ersoy said.
But no matter how the name changes, the essence will not change from this. Portasar has long become a symbol of the birth of civilization and the first temple of humanity.
by Armen Petrosyan
Translated by Vigen Avetisyan