Göbekli Tepe (Potbelly Hill) is a Neolithic sanctuary located 2500 feet above sea level at the top of a mountain ridge in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, some 15 kilometers (9 miles) northeast of the town of Şanlıurfa (formerly Urfa / Edessa). The tell has a height of 15 meters and is about 300 meters in diameter.
It was first noted in a survey conducted by Istanbul University and the University of Chicago in 1964, which recognized that the rise could not entirely be a natural feature, but postulated that a Byzantine cemetery lay beneath. The survey noted a large number of flints and the presence of limestone slabs thought to be grave markers. The hill had long been under agricultural cultivation; generations of local inhabitants had frequently moved rocks and placed them in clearance piles, possibly destroying much archaeological evidence in the process.
Göbeklitepe is the oldest know human temple, approximately 11000 years old. The temple is round with pillars around the edge and two pillars in the center. The pillars are carved with anthropomorphic creatures.
Göbekli Tepe is regarded as an archaeological discovery of the greatest importance since it could profoundly change our understanding of a crucial stage in the development of human societies. Göbekli Tepe consists of dozens of large (several-ton) monolithic stone pillars -- carved by a people having only flint tools -- arranged in a series of circular formations. Many of the pillars have the forms of animals (and humans) carved into them. The most elaborately carved pillars have now been enclosed in protective wooden casings, so that they cannot be viewed. Several such circles have been excavated to date, all visible in this wide-area shot.
An article about this site appeared in the June 2011 issue of National Geographic. It is unknown exactly how the ancient peoples used this site, but the prevailing thesis is that it was used as a temple. For whatever reason, it appears that these people buried this site (creating an artificial mound) before they departed, which explains why the excavated stones are still largely intact.