'This site proves that hunter-gatherers were
capable of complex art and organised religion, something no-one
As for the temple's exact purpose, Schmidt gestures
at a new discovery: a carving of a boar, and ducks flying into nets.
'I think Gobekli Tepe celebrates the chase, the hunter-gatherer
lifestyle. And why not? This life was rich and leisured, it gave
them time enough to become accomplished sculptors.'
So why did the hunters of Gobekli give up their
Schmidt indicates the arid brown hilltops. 'Gathering
together for religion meant that they needed to feed more people. So
they started cultivating the wild grasses.' But this switch to
agriculture put pressure on the landscape; trees were cut down, the
herds of game were dispersed. What was once a land of paradise became
Schmidt explains that this switch took place around
8000 BC. Coincidentally, the temple of Gobekli Tepe was deliberately
covered with earth around this time. Unfortunately, we may never know
why the hunter-gatherers buried their 'temple in Eden'.
Perhaps they were grieving for their lost innocence.
What is unquestionable is the discoveries made in Gobekli Tepe, in
the last few weeks, are some of the most exciting made anywhere in
half a century. Schmidt shows me some workmen scraping earth from
a rock relief. It is marvellously detailed: it shows scorpions,
water-birds, and river life.
I suddenly realise that I am the first person other than
an archaeologist to see it in 10,000 years.