This paper is an effort to provide in simple and not technical terms the reasons why the monument currently referred to as "Gobekli Tepe" is a set of structures that were initially constructed in the latter part of the 6th millennium BC and were buried at the start of the Bronze Age, around the middle 3rd millennium BC. The paper briefly shows why the establishment view of a 10th millennium BC construction with an 8th millennium BC burial of the monument is simply erroneous.
A Primer on Gobekli Tepe
Dimitrios S. Dendrinos
Emeritus Professor, School of Architecture and Urban Design,
University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA.
In Residence at Ormond Beach, Florida, USA.
Contact: cbf-jf@earthlink.net
January 21, 2017
Table of Contents
The Basic Arguments
Arguments against the establishment position:
Gobekli Tepe is not a PPPNA/B site
The arguments for a 6th Millennium BC Gobekli Tepe with a Bronze
Age burial
Legal Notice
The objective of this paper is to present in clear and in non-technical terms to the extent
possible the key arguments why the monument at Gobekli Tepe is not a Pre-Pottery
Neolithic A or B (PPNA/B) monument. In other words, it is not a monument built and
lasted throughout the period 10000 BC to 7000 BC (what is often referred to as Early
Mesolithic), which is the archeological establishment’s view. Instead, it as a monument
the construction of which commenced in late 6th millennium BC (very late Mesolithic),
lasted throughout the Neolithic, and it was buried by the beginning of the Bronze Age,
the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. In effect, Gobekli Tepe ushered the Neolithic
megalithic monumental construction Era in Western Eurasia.
Almost all arguments presented here have been discussed extensively and documented
in two prior papers by the author, see [1] and [2]. An effort is made to avoid employing
highly specialized knowledge of Geology, Climate Sciences, carbon dating related
Physics, Middle-Eastern Pre-History, Archeology, Agriculture, Architecture, Demography,
Art, Economics, Physical and Human Geography, Urban Planning and Design among
other fields. In fully discussing the site referred to currently as “Gobekli Tepe” of course
requires specialized knowledge from all of these fields.
In summary, arguments to the effect that a hunter-fisher-gatherer society, which had not
even mastered the art of pottery making, was capable of constructing megalithic
monumental structures so sophisticated in Art, Architecture and Engineering as the
various structures at Gobekli Tepe, are not only unfounded but flying against the
demographic conditions of that Era. Moreover, the carbon-14 dated evidence,
purportedly connected to the monument’s structures and used as a key determinant for
dating its construction by the establishment archeologists, is grossly misleading.
Most often, quite on purpose and correctly so, scientific papers are written not for the
general public but for specialists in the fields of inquiry. Once in a while however, papers
are written by specialists in these fields addressed to the general public. This is done of
course to broadly communicate seemingly important and well established and
documented findings, of general interest to the public at large. This is absolutely
essential, and reflective of the subject’s maturity within a broader and more general
area of scientific discourse.
Being able to state in simple, mostly non-technical, terms a topic and without resorting
to specialized knowledge in numerous fields is a manifestation of the soundness of the
underlying scientific statements. It is also essential at times in drawing people’s
attention, who would otherwise not be adequately informed or otherwise drawn into the
subject. Attempts in popularizing knowledge isn’t easy or non-perilous, as it may
unintentionally supply misleading information. Thus, utmost caution need be exercised
in such an attempt to popularize scientific knowledge, and this caveat is duly noted
while writing this paper.
However, there is also another reason why this primer is written. It is to demonstrate the
ability of the theory put forward here regarding the dating of Gobekli Tepe (located at:
3713’23” N 3855’21” E, to be here on referred to as GT) to “make sense”. Many (even
some so called “scientific”) papers in many fields are at times full of and heavy in
technical terms, jargon and knowledge, but rather empty of and light in sound reasoning
or common sense. The establishment view of a GT site built in Pre-Pottery Neolithic
period A (circa 10000 BC) or early B (circa 9000 BC) in what is designated as PPNA/B
(or what some refer to as Early Mesolithic), and having been buried no later than 7000
BC is precisely such a case in point: it doesn’t make much sense.
So, an effort is made to state an alternative theory about the site, suggested by this
author. In contrast to the establishment view, this new perspective has GT built in the
middle to late 6th millennium BC and buried about three millennia later at the start of the
Bronze Age, about the 2500 BC period. In simple and straightforward arguments, in a
cogent fashion, these suggestions are exposed more or less as summary statements.
With the exception of a single additional argument made here, on the issue regarding
the Physical Geography of the GT site, the full documentation of all other arguments
has already been supplied in [1] and [2]. It is in light and spirit of these terms and
conditions that this paper is written.
The Basic Arguments
Arguments against the establishment position: Gobekli Tepe is not a PPNA/B site
Demography. The known set of structures at GT, and it is underscored that only a small
part (roughly a fifth, see in [1] the size of the archeological site shown in Figure 5.c) of
those in the ground (according to the archeologists in charge of the excavations there,
and based on non-evasive ground penetrating sonar scans) have been unearthed to
this day, are simply too many and too big for the claimed Era (PPNA/B) the early
Mesolithic period. The necessary demographic infrastructure was not simply there to
support such an enterprise. There was back then not enough population around the site
to either construct or use a monument of that scale. The then existing hunter-fisher-
gatherer type set of isolated communities during the time postulated by the
establishment view (the 10000 to the 7000 BC time frame) were very small and widely
dispersed in space. In [2], the author analyzed the communities of Northern
Mesopotamia surrounding the GT site that extended over a 130,000 (650x200) sq. mile
area, where about 35 quite moderate in size human settlements have been excavated.
They were present in the Late Mesolithic, the time period put forward here as the likely
time period GT was constructed.
The World’s total population has been estimated to have hovered around 5 million
people by 10000 BC. Only after the agricultural revolution was in full swing in Eurasia,
did the world’s population start to rapidly increase. It is estimated to have reached about
50 million at around 4000 BC, see [3]. The Earth’s total land area is about 150 million
square kilometers, see [4]. At about a 7.5 billion current population count, this
represents a current average population density of about 50 persons per square
kilometer. At the 10000 BC population count, that population density falls to an average
of about .03 persons per square kilometer of land area. Such densities fall far below the
capacity of human agglomerations to commence, attract, cluster, coalesce and contain
any settlement of any sizable population count. What in Economics is called “economies
of scale” were simply not there. In [6], the author has analyzed the presence of this
threshold necessary to lead population agglomerations towards a stable population
Another demographic factor critical to consider is average life expectancy back then.
Although difficult to estimate due to lack of satisfactory samples of skeletal remains from
that period, it must have been well below that of the Neolithic, which was around 33
years at around 4000 BC, see [2]. That life expectancy in turn is far below that of today.
The United Nations reports that the current worldwide average life expectancy is about
70 years, see [5]. Nonlinear backtracking of the life expectancy would bring it to around
25 years at the start of the 10th millennium. These demographics simply do not support
a construction activity the size of GT at the 10th to the 8th millennium BC period. Time
spend by males in the labor force was simply not long enough.
Climate. The time postulated by the establishment view of GT as having been
constructed was under severe environmental and climatic conditions, the so called
“Younger Dryas”. It doesn’t make much sense to argue that such a huge effort was
undertaken during unfavorable weather conditions, only to bury the monument under
favorable environmental and climatic conditions, when that period of adverse weather
was over. Improvements in climatic conditions assisted the development of agriculture
at a global scale, and significantly contributed to the increased rate of growth in human
Economics. A number of economic arguments can be formulated to counter the
establishment view. First, at the establishment view postulated time period (PPNA/B)
agriculture was at its infancy, even below subsistence level. It doesn’t make economic
sense to have such a major construction activity underway when people almost starve
during the Younger Dryas; then, when agriculture develops and becomes plentiful, even
surplus oriented, and while stable sedentary human settlement activity is underway, to
turn around and bury the monument. Second, hunter-fisher-gatherer communities didn’t
possess either the experience or had the knowhow to manage labor at the size required
to perform such large in scale construction activity. These management skills developed
as organized agricultural production increased on a per capita basis, storage and trade
evolved, and a network of urban settings (villages in fact) commenced to appear. Third,
the labor force participation rates, given the demographics mentioned, seem to be
extraordinarily unfavorable and significantly inadequate to support construction activity
of the GT type and scale, at the period suggested, the PPNA/B period. Forth, human
population at that time didn’t possess the necessary knowhow to undertake such
sophisticated construction, a period where not even pottery was produced (and thus
its name). Fifth, it is clear that the totality of GT’s monuments didn’t appear overnight;
they took time to build, and for sure their construction involved multiple partially
overlapping generations, with construction possibly extended over many centuries if not
millennia. Intergenerational coordination requires considerable economic planning skills
and socially strong dedication to a cultural (one might refer to it as a religious) cause.
We do possess absolutely no evidence that such economic, planning and social
(cultural) traits or attributes existed back then among hunter-fisher-gatherer isolated
small communal, exclusively clan related settings. We encounter this intergenerational
cooperation and interaction numerous millennia later and well into the Neolithic during
monumental construction of considerable scale, both in Mesopotamia and elsewhere in
Physics and Carbon-14 dating. The central arguments by the establishment
community about a PPNA/B GT are those related to carbon-14 dating of organic
material found in the fill and on an orthostat’s (one of the raised megalith’s) plaster
cover. In so far as the material found inside the fill is concerned, it is relevant to dating
the fill but not the monument. One can fill Tutankhamun’s tomb with currently gathered
soil from the Nile’s banks this though would not make the tomb a 21st century tomb.
Similarly, one can fill the tomb from soil of a geological stratum belonging to the very
Late Pleistocene; but this will not make the tomb a 14000-year old monument. As for the
carbon-14 dating of a small section of the megalith’s plaster covering, this is simply
contaminated evidence from the fill. What has been established is that the soil used to
fill the monument and bury it was indeed a PPNA/B soil. Attributing these C-14 dating
results to the structure is at least misleading.
Art. On the pillar (the one-piece megalith) shown at the cover page of this paper, and at
its very top, there are three “handbags”. These have been interpreted by archeologists
to be purification symbols. It so happens that these identical in form “handbags” appear
on lower Mesopotamian temples securely dated to have been constructed (and the
symbols appearing in the exact same form on their walls) around the last quarter of the
2nd millennium BC. It is inconceivable that a symbol made in the 10th millennium BC
would be buried no later than the 8th millennium BC, be lost to collective memory for at
least six millennia and then reappear intact again. On the megaliths of GT there is
artwork of a sophistication unseen on either petroglyphs or cave paintings of the 10 th
millennium to the 8th millennium BC period. Art (as do Science and Mathematics) does
not regress, it always advances and becomes more complex, not less complex and
unsophisticated. We had to wait till the 4th millennium BC megalithic Temple monuments
of Malta to obtain such sophistication as that displayed by the GT artwork.
Architecture. The arguments here are so clear as the answer to the question: could
anyone in the Middle Ages have built a glass and steel skyscraper? Where the
monuments at GT fail beyond even reasonable doubt the dating suggested by the
establishment view (a PPNA/B construction) is in their Architecture. There are many
architectural design, engineering and construction features displayed at GT, which
simply are out of time when someone argues that GT is a PPNA/B structure.
Morphologically, the sophisticated architectural design the structures at GT exhibit is
simply not consistent with the archeological evidence of architectonic structures of that
era. Both in form and structural material, the transition to agriculture and sedimentary
residential activity brought about two profound changes in human habitation: from cave
dwelling to man-made structures; and a transition from ephemeral construction to a
more permanent one. In so far as form is concerned, dwelling man-made construction
back then underwent a series of transitions over time: from very simple shapes,
confined to either arcs or roughly quasi circular structures to quasi elliptical and quite
exactly circular as well as rectangular (and later square) shapes. In terms of
construction material, initially man-made dwellings constituted fully ephemeral
construction. They were mostly hats, pits, and later a bit more permanent (adobe,
mudbrick and early dry wall masonry types). In the latter case, houses (or public
spaces) consisted of low level masonry type edifices (that included the foundations of
the structure), whereas part of the walls and the roof were made from a non-permanent
Of course, the archeological record is at this stage not rich enough or complete to allow
a systematic classification of all residential structures at all locations at all time periods
during that critical transition in human history, following the Younger Dryas and the
agricultural transition from the hunter-fisher-gatherer state of human existence and
proto agriculture. In any case, it must be kept in mind that these transitions were not
uniform in space, as they appear in time. At some locations, there were innovations
made; whereas in others, there was a time delayed gradual adoption of a construction
innovation that first appeared somewhere else and then diffused in space-time. The full
recording of early human made construction is a chapter in Urban Evolution still to be
fully written. What we have is a rather fragmentary record, out of which we attempt to
extract time markers to date structures and settlements on a comparative basis.
Figure 1. Natufian sedentary Architecture in the Fertile Crescent, around the 10th
millennium BC, about the time the archeological establishment considers that Gobekli
Tepe was constructed.
Moreover, human settlements back then (as cities of today show) consisted of different
phases and layers of construction. Human settlements are living organisms that
undergo life cycles of birth, growth and death, see [6] and [7] for more on this
evolutionary aspect of human settlements and the cycles, formation and abandonment
of urban settings. As human demographics undergo transitions (by population growth
and migration); as economic conditions change; as well as social and cultural activities
alter the fabric of human societies today, so did in the past. Human settlements of the
early Mesolithic (the PPNA/B period) should not be viewed as single static stable
entities, but a series of snapshots or phases. These snapshots are the various “layers”
of the human settlements we are about to examine next in more detail, at a number of
key human settings in the upper Mesopotamian Region, including GT.
In light of these remarks, one can make the statements which follow based on the
existing (obvious partial) archeological record. That record shows that the then current
and most advanced (and thus, the most relevant) architectural construction of the early
Mesolithic Era was that of the Natufian morphology, see Figure 1. Contrast this proto
human settlement with permanent (i.e., manmade durable, sedentary) Architecture, to
that of GT in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Aerial view of a number of structures at Gobekli Tepe. At top center structure
D is located, the oldest Layer III structure at the site. Below it, and to the right is the
more architectonically complex structure C. North is up.
The architectonic site plan at GT, see Figure 3 in where structure D – the earliest Layer
III structure there - is shown, belongs to a much later architectural design and site plan,
as established by archeological and architectural evidence. Over time (in fact time
measured in millennia in this case) architectural design becomes more complex and not
less complex. If one is to admit GT as a PPNA/B site, then one must admit that: first,
almost out of nowhere, sophisticated Architecture of a much later millennium (as it will
be presented in the following section) suddenly and without precedent appeared at
around the 10th millennium BC; and second, that in the ensuing three to four millennia
Architecture regressed as suddenly as it appeared, rather than progressed. Such
suggestions are of course inadmissible in scientific discourse. These two suggestions
fly against any and all architectonic, archeological and historical evidence. Increased
over time complexity is a basic tenet in the Theory of Evolution.
Figure 3. The most complex construction component, structure C, at Gobekli Tepe. The
pillars and orthostats, the megaliths’ dressing and decorative motives, their base, the
floor, enclosure and shape of this structure are discussed in this paper and in [1] and
[2]. North is down.
One must first consider the work necessary to quarry these, up to four meters in height,
megaliths from the ground. Limestone quarrying of such huge megaliths has not been
encountered in the archeological record in the PPNA/B period. It is inconceivable that
out of nowhere and as a start of monumental construction, hunter-fisher-gatherer
communities would commence quarrying at such a scale without any prior, smaller in
scale, equivalent undertaking, expertise and experience. In the late Mesolithic (the end
of the seventh millennium BC) human agricultural communities would start work
employing megaliths in the construction of monuments in the form of dolmens and
menhirs. These monuments represent early experimentation and work with quarrying
stones of such sizes and organizing as well as managing labor large and skilled enough
as well as possessing the suitable initially lithic and later metal based tools to undertake
such projects.
Moreover, there are numerous architectonic components of the GT structures, like for
example the fact that the megaliths were covered with plaster and were worked and re-
worked, processed and smoothed to extremely fine and sharp rectangular edges. The
characterizations used by archeological architecture is that they have been “dressed”.
Such “dressing” appears in the archeological record of the Mesopotamian and Fertile
Crescent regions far later, in fact plastering of adobe structures appears about two
millennia later at around the 8th millennium BC at the Catalhoyuk (3740’00” N,
3249’41” E) settlement of Asia Minor. Perfectly rectangular monoliths and structures
appear also later at the Nevali Cori (3731’6” N, 3836’20” E) settlement (a close
neighboring settlement on a small tributary to the Euphrates River just about 20 miles
northwest of GT) at around the 8th millennium BC. The temple (top) structure of Nevali
Cori contains two pillars and with architectural elements very similar to those
encountered in structures C and D at GT, see Figure 4. Of course, perfectly rectangular
dressed monoliths also appear much later in the Maltese Archipelago Architecture of
Temples circa early to middle 4th millennium BC.
Figure 4. The Nevali Cori site. At the top, the temple is shown that contains certain
architectonic elements similar to those at Gobekli Tepe.
Furthermore, one must assume that the hunter-fisher-gatherers of the late Paleolithic
mastered the engineering statics of megalithic monuments, as the standing megalithic
monoliths (the pillars of the various structures) at GT required. Of course, considerable
knowledge in Statics is required to be able to freely erect monoliths, inside a suitably
dug base in bedrock. Another construction element of the site is the covering of its
various structures’ floor with terrazzo style cement, an element which appears in the
latest strata of Nevali Cori, a settlement which will be discussed more at length later in
this paper and a settlement at the core of the discussion surrounding the dating of GT.
Nevali Cori’s latest construction phases are those morphologically (and from an
engineering viewpoint as well) close to GT’s Art, Architecture and Engineering. In [1]
and [2] it has been argued that the last strata of the settlement at Nevali Cori is a later
settlement than (or at least contemporary with) that earliest layers at Catalhoyuk
((3740’00” N, 3849’41” E) see Figure 5, contrary to the establishment archeological
Figure 5. The adobe settlement at Catalhoyuk, top layer.
It is simply inconceivable to imagine that such sophisticated masonry and megalithic
dressing, as well Architecture and Engineering feats, first appear when first humans
started to deal with megaliths, while totally unaware of rectangles (as a geometric
shape) or masonry plastering (as a construction technique), or free standing stones’
engineering. Such knowledge is gradually acquired through extensive experimentation
with smaller scale structures and stones, evolution in morphology by admixture of
different styles and designs, gradual advancements in Engineering, Architecture and Art
by successive marginal innovations, and at the same time advancements in lithic and
metal technologies of a gradual manner. Technological achievements do occur, at time
going beyond gradual transitions, of course. But the leaps involved in the GT case to
argue for a PPNA/B construction are simply unimaginable. All these evolutionary,
developmental and gradual transitions require time. Slow evolution in lithic technology
during the Paleolithic (a gradual event which covered millions of years of evolution) is
indicative of these propositions. Forms and structures simply do not suddenly appear
out of nowhere and then equally suddenly disappear only to re-appear millennia later.
To so admit, it implies a “parthenogenesis” of sorts along multiple dimensions to have
occurred at GT, and a sudden death of it to have followed, not leaving any traces in
human memory for millennia. This is simply Science Fiction, not serious dating in
Archeological Architecture.
Urban Planning and Design. Human settlements are always part of, exist in and
interact with other settlements in networks. These (past as well as present) networks
consist of settlements with differing sizes. Economies of scale and local comparative
advantages determine the sizes of human settlements, at various locations, at various
time periods. At any given point in time, population size distributions, in a hierarchy,
form the so-called “Zipf-size” distributions. These are general rules established by
empirical evidence in the field of Economic and Urban Geography. The author has
discussed this topic as it applies to ancient communities in a number of contexts, see [1]
and [2] for more references. At the very top of an urban hierarchy (according to the Zipf
rule) one finds the very few dominant human settlements; whereas at the bottom, one
encounters the very many small agglomerations of human activity. In effect, the
presence of a huge settlement (ceremonial and sanctuary type monument in the case of
GT) leads one to seek a hierarchy of smaller in size monuments contemporary to it.
However, none such monuments are evident to have existed in the broad vicinity of GT
at the PPNA/B time frame. GT is simply a unique center, totally detached from any other
contemporaneous centers with qualitatively similar features. This is an infeasible state
of affairs in Urban and Economic Geography and Planning, no matter the time period
under consideration. In so far as Urban Design is concerned, and equivalently to the
prior arguments states, one must recognize that no city anywhere, at any time period, is
an isolated case detached in Design from any other contemporaneous human
settlement. Urban Design operates always within a context, of similar or approximately
similarly designed, managed and organized human settlements. None of them are
found to have contemporaneously existed in the chronology under consideration here
under similar Architecture, Urban Planning and Design features as those of GT within a
PPNA/B context.
Human Geography. In this subsection, an additional argument will be presented, an
argument not extensively discussed in the two earlier papers by the author [1] and [2]. A
time marker for dating GT is the presence of the settlement today called Nevali Cori.
This settlement has been inundated by the recently constructed dam over the river
Euphrates by the Turkish government. Thus, it is no longer available for archeological
work. What is of course of interest here is that Nevali Cori was built from its earliest
phase right on the river banks of the Euphrates or one of its then short local tributaries,
thus it had water available for its residents for many uses. Contrary to Nevali Cory, GT
was constructed about 20 miles south of the Euphrates, on a mountain ridge, and about
500 feet above local ground level. Human settlements in the late Paleolithic at such
altitudes were only caves. We have no archeological evidence of a settlement of that
scale at that height above local ground level anywhere in Western Eurasia.
Three particular human settlements in the broader Region are of interest here, in
contrasting their abovementioned (Geographic location, Art, Architecture, Engineering
and Design) features to those of GT. First, Jerf El Ahmar (inundated by the dam at
3622’53” N, 3811’00” E) an agriculture based settlement where barley instead of
wheat was harvested, see [9] p. 72. Second, Mureybet (362’36” N, 387’43” E) possibly
among the earliest human settlements in the Middle east, with original occupancy
traced to circa 10200 BC, which lasted to about the end of the 9th millennium BC; in its
phase III (middle 10th millennium BC) “60 species of wild plants and edible seeds of
fruits were identified”, see [9], p. 72; its first layers date to the 11th millennium BC and
contains Natufian Architecture. Third, Nevali Cori, see in Figure 6 its last phase temple
of direct interest for GT, and in Figure 7 a schematic drawing of about two dozen homes
excavated before being inundated by the Euphrates dam.
Figure 6. Nevali Cori temple structure. Notice the location of the two pillars at the center
of the terrazzo floor, and the manner they were set on the ground. Nevali Cori’s
Architecture is a basic time marker for dating Gobekli Tepe.
Figure 7. Nevali Cori, schematic representation of its serial (row) rectangular housing
with channels underneath and dry masonry walls. Source: By Beetjedwars at Dutch
Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4508163
All three of these settlements were situated along the Euphrates, all inundated at
present with newly erected dams, the first two under the Syrian dam that created the
currently named “Lake Assad” and the last under the Turkish dam currently named
“Ataturk dam”. They are in the broader Region of the Taurus Mountain. Another
settlement of import here is that of Catalhoyuk, a settlement about 350 miles west of GT
on a fertile agricultural plane. These settlements’ various layers, and their associated
Architecture, Art, Engineering provide good time markers to date GT. Reinforcing the
dating is the Architecture and urban Planning and Design of another neighboring
settlement, Cayonu Tepesi (3812’59” N, 3943’35 E), a circa 7200 BC human
settlement with initial PPNA almost round masonry construction, and later rectangular
housing, see Figure 8, located onto a tributary to the Tigris River. The settlement, which
was not covered in [1] and [2], will be to an extent covered here as it supplies some
additional strong support regarding the proposed dating of GT (as does that of Nevali
Cori) by the author. Notice that all five settlements lay on flat lands and close to rivers
and sources of fresh water. Their Architecture at the last stages of their habitation
supplies excellent time markers to date the earliest layers of GT. This type of
geographic argument is further advanced in the next section.
Among these five settlements, and in combination with about two dozen others (all
reported in [2]), three stand out: Catalhoyuk, Jerf El Ahmar, and Nevali Cori. In stating
the arguments in the next section the central spotlight will be on them, although some
references will be made to the other two: the Natufian Architecture containing Mureybet,
a riverside settlement on a mound and an excellent window into the transition from
hunter-fisher-gatherer proto communities into initial stages of sedimentary settlements
and agriculture, and the combination of Natufian and rectangular dry masonry
construction of Cayonu. This restriction to only discuss these five settlements is
imposed due to the main objectives here: to produce a primer, not heavy on specialized
Archeological et al knowledge. They are however sufficient to make the key points.
Figure 8. Cayonu settlement. The almost round structures are shown at the up left hand
side section of this photo.
The arguments for a 6th millennium BC GT with a Bronze Age burial
This section will be quite short. Since the previous section’s debunking of the
proposition that GT is a PPNA/B (i.e., Early Mesolithic) construction provided the bulk of
the evidence as to why, the arguments become straight forward as to the approximate
actual date of initial construction for the currently excavated structures at GT (especially
structures C and D). This is easily done by utilizing primarily the three key time markers
of Catalhoyuk, Jerf El Ahmar, and Nevali Cori, and secondarily the two settings from
Mureybet and Cayonu, two settings which were not extensively covered in [1] and [2] for
the simple reason that they are largely redundant to the three primary references in so
far as the arguments here are concerned. Again, more extensive and detailed
presentation of these arguments and documentation is supplied in both [1] and [2] and
also in a paper by the author on Carnac’s Le Grand Menec [8].
Although the last paper (on Le Menec) deals with a very different archeological setting,
the time markers it sets are connected to the time markers of this paper. It also
elaborates on a theory regarding evolution of morphology in architectural construction
(specifically the formation of pseudo-elliptical stone enclosures), a topic from which
some arguments presented here draw. Finally, it brings about a comprehensive
approach to the Neolithic Megalithic monumental explosion that characterizes Western
Eurasia at the turn of the 6th and the beginning of the 5th millennium BC. In view of
these references, arguments will be supplied in a more or less summary format here.
Right off hand, the presence and architectural typology of the settlements at Mureybet
and Cayonu trump the 11th or 10th and even 9th millennia BC dating of GT. Both
Mureybet and Cayonu could be in effect two sites belonging to a proto network of
human settlements in the Upper Mesopotamian Region during the Younger Dryas. They
take GT in effect out of the early Mesolithic time frame altogether. These two
settlements’ Architecture further requires us to conclude that the last layers of both Jerf
El Ahmar and Nevali Cori be subsequent constructions to the top (last) layers in both of
them. This conclusion leaves out Catalhoyuk for the time being, and especially the
relative chronology between it and Nevali Cori. We shall return to this issue.
Figure 9. Jerf El Ahmar site plan. In [1] and [2] extensive analysis of the settlement’s
Architecture is offered, focusing on the elliptical common building at lower left. This is a
key time marker for dating Gobekli Tepe’s structures C and D.
GT shares components and features however with both Jerf El Ahmar (a riverside
human settlement with an 8th millennium BC initial construction phase and with
habitation into the early 7th millennium BC period), see Figure 9 for its architectonic
morphology, and Nevali Cori (a riverside setting with an initial settlement in the 9000 BC
time period, with a middle 6th millennium BC life span, and a last phase in construction
(stratum IV, a construction involving its temple with qualitative similarities to GT’s
structures C and D as well as its rectangular structure) in the middle 8th millennium. It is
emphasized that these temporal markers’ Architecture are as of their last construction
phases and not their initial construction stage. There two settlements are pivotal in
setting an initial construction phase for GT. If one were forced to choose between the
two (Jerf El Ahmar and Nevali Cori) as to the most dominant influence on GT, this of
course would be the Nevali Cori settlement due to its both temporal and spatial
proximity to GT’s site.
Jerf El Ahmar and Nevali Cori present construction innovations in floor plans’ design,
structural materials and in Engineering. However, these innovations by the time the two
settings attained their peak in economic, demographic and social activities were yet at a
primitive form. These innovations reached maturity at the time the earliest structures
(designated as Gobekli Tepe structures D and C) appeared. Thus, their relative degree
of sophistication acts as a time marker: the last phases of these two sites must predate
the earliest phase (Layer III) at the GT structures.
Let’s examine these key features in more detail. However, before we do so, let us bring
in Catalhoyuk’s rectangular adobe construction. Nevali Cori’s last phase shares
architectonic features with the last phase of Catalhoyuk. Moreover, Catalhoyuk last
phase (and possibly some of the intermediate phases as well) must come earlier than
Nevali Cori’s various corresponding phases. Certainly, the last (and key for our
discussion here) phase (which contains a Temple, indications of a proto organized
Religion) must have come later than the last Catalhoyuk phase, on the basis of a more
perfect rectangular construction as well as the transition from adobe to masonry
construction material. This is a conclusion, at odds with the traditional establishment
viewpoint that Nevali Cori is a prior construction to the Catalhoyuk settlement.
GT’s ceremonial, or sanctuary, structures must come after the last phase of Nevali Cori.
And as pointed out above, Catalhoyuk’s rectangular adobe home structures must have
come earlier than the structures of Nevali Cori’s rectangular masonry homes. Unless
one is willing to accept that Catalhoyuk was a backwash site at the Middle Mesolithic, to
a technologically advanced Nevali Cori settlement. However, this supposition may fail
on the basis of the relative population sizes of these two settings. Archeological
evidence seems to suggest that Catalhoyuk was a bigger in population size (and
possibly area size as well, thus of about equal residential densities) settlement than
Nevali Cori. Since technological advancement in the field of Economic Geography is
linked directly to population size, the argument on chronology favors the proposition that
Catalhoyuk was not a backwash at a contemporaneous Nevali Cori human settlement,
although Nevali Cori may have reached its prime later than Catalhoyuk. Thus. The
Economic Geography and Architecture of the two settings consequently lend support to
a later Nevali Cori than Catalhoyuk settlement proposition.
We now turn to the Architecture of Jerf El Ahmar, see for detail Figure 10, and focus on
the communal structure there. Compare it with the structure in Figure 3, the most
complex structure at GT, structure C. It leaves little doubt that GT ‘s (C and D)
structures depict an Architecture which is a more sophisticated, complex and advanced
than that at Jerf El Ahmar.
Figure 10. Jerf El Ahmar communal building structure.
One could argue that the Nevali Cori and Jefr El Ahamr settlements were
contemporaneous to GT and that their inferior in complexity and sophistication Art,
Architecture and Engineering are due to a dominant center (at around GT) containing
the most advanced technological innovations, with a periphery of subcenters (Nevali
Cori and Jerf El Ahmar, along with potentially other settlements, some already been
excavated some others not yet), enjoying inferior technology and quality of edifices.
This supposition may hold in theory some water indeed; but there is a major counter
argument to this supposition, from Human Geography. Such a hypothetical dominant
supercenter must had also occupied the most advantageous in term of locational
advantages position in the Region.
This is clearly not the case here, where GT is located in a mountainous area, 500 feet
above ground, whereas both Nevali Cori and Jerf El Ahmar occupy prime land along the
Euphrates or its tributaries. This is the key argument on which the GT PPNA/B
hypothesis fails. According to standard Economic Geography literature, dominant urban
agglomerations occupy locations of prime import. Further, economic activities occupy
first the most advantageous (profitable) locations (forming the base of a Central Place
Theory connected network of settlements) and then marginal (less profitable) locations
are taken up by various economic uses. The locations of both Jerf El Ahmar and Nevali
Cori were far more accessible and desirable for habitation and general land use than
the mountainous terrain of GT. Thus, both of these settings must have preceded the GT
setting in construction for these Human Geography based reasons.
One might counter further the locational advantages argument by suggesting that GT
was a purely ceremonial center, a religious sanctuary, not directly part of a residential
settlement, which parenthetically is the archeologists in charge of the excavation
viewpoint. The argument might be that a purely ceremonial site may not need access to
rivers or sources of water. This has been countered in [1] and [2] on many grounds, one
of them is the evidence we have from megalithic sites in Western Eurasia of the
Neolithic: almost all are connected to rivers and riverine transportation capabilities.
Beyond this response to the above potential counter argument to our main argument
here (that GT is in fact a late Mesolithic construction), one might add that it could not
have survived as simply a remote site and monument (that is, a relatively isolated
structure away from permanent human settlements) although in some sense centrally
located in reference to such hypothetical or real network of settlements in the Northern
Euphrates Region. Such in size and scale monument needs continuous management,
supervision and maintenance. No site of that scale could survive for millennia human
and natural deterioration and depreciation and possible destruction, without such
continuous upkeep, maintenance and support. It must have required a management
and labor capacity in situ to reside, at least limited in size possibly surrounding a hieratic
class. If one is willing to accept the limited hieratic class related continuous human
presence in situ, it is also very likely, due to its location on this specific mountain range
and the surrounding area (both suitable for agriculture) that the site in fact hosted a
large residential agriculture linked settlement. Given that very little has been excavated
around GT, and given that continuous agriculture use from then to this date has possibly
erased any surface remnants of ancient construction and residential activity, this might
be a proposition in need of future archeological digging and verification.
In putting GT in context, one must reflect on the significant technological, economic,
demographic, social, spatial, cultural, artistic, architectural, engineering and related
transitions ongoing at the end of the 7th millennium BC and the start of the 6th millennium
in the broader Region of Western Eurasia. The Chalcolithic was at its start, and copper
mining underway at least in the Danube region, see [11] for more discussion on this and
references. The initial Queili Phase of the Ubaid period was launched, and the center of
gravity for the Mesopotamian Civilization was undergoing a fundamental spatial shift,
from the Northern to the Central and Southern regions of the Euphrates and Tigris
Rivers, that was accompanied by irrigation based agriculture. See [2] for more
discussion on this and references.
Having set the tone and the arguments for a post Nevali Cori, and a fortiori a post
Catalhoyuk and Jerf El Ahmar initial construction activity at GT, the next question to ask
is: when was it then that construction of the monument (and its oldest structure, Layer III
of structure D) commenced? To answer this question, one needs to examine the initial
construction of a different site in a faraway location: the pseudo-elliptical stone
enclosure at Le Menec at Carnac, Brittany, France. Le Menec and its Western stone
enclosure (usually referred to as the “egg”) is generally viewed to date circa 4500 BC,
see [8].
If Nevali Cori’s temple is a 7th millennium construction, GT’s layer III of structure D must
have been a 6th millennium BC, as architectonic influences followed millennium in time
scale diffusions back then. It is safe to assume that the distance in time from a middle to
late 7th millennium last phase of Nevali Cori to Layer III in structure D of GT must be
approximately the same as the time distance from GT to Carnac’ Le Grand Menec
western stone enclosure, see [8] for more on this subject, thus a 5250 BC to 4750 BC
initial GT construction is quite likely with closer to 5250 BC being more likely than a date
closer to 4750 BC.
Figure 11. Gobekli Tepe: the pillar with the extraordinary male-female symmetry. This
monolith’s decorative motif is extensively analyzed in [2].
Influences from GT and the pre-GT architectonic elements of construction of Northern
Mesopotamia are detected in the much later Uruk centered cultures of Southern
Mesopotamia. These influences are in part detected by the Art work at GT, specifically
the purification symbol shown at the top of the T-shaped megalith, of this paper’s cover
photo. This is a symbol encountered in the Uruk middle 2 nd millennium BC palace at
Uruk, see [1] p. 22, 23 for more analysis. The purification symbol is associated with a
Sumerian “Storm god”. It is apparent that as weather conditions became much more
relevant to organized agriculture, a switch to deities controlling weather became
important from simply deities favoring more abundance in harvest. It has been
established, see [2] for more on this and references, that the dressing of the megaliths
at GT with plaster indicate successive rework on the sculpted motifs on them. It is likely
that the purification symbol motif is one that was carved quite late in GT’s construction
phases. Its close temporal proximity to the Uruk symbol necessitates this conclusion.
Figure 12. The Larissa monolith.
Another T-shaped megalithic and monolithic pillar at FT is the one shown in Figure 11.
This monolith’s representation of an extraordinarily sophisticated male-female symmetry
is extensively discussed in [2]. It is a key part of the argument for a 6th millennium BC
GT, and in this case a 4th millennium BC artwork on one of its pillars. What is of
additional interest in this anthropomorphic representation of the pillar, and this argument
constitutes an extension of the material in [2], is the existence of a qualitative similar
anthropomorphic monolith, of a later date and at a different place, the pillar shown in
Figure 12.
In Figure 12, an anthropomorphic monolith, see reference [12] for more on this
monolith, is shown. It is listed as a Neolithic (3 rd millennium BC) stele (menhir) and it is
found in the Larissa, Greece Archeological Museum. It is about two meters in height,
and it represents the stone as a person with hands depicted exactly as they are
depicted in the GT monolith of Figure 11. Although the symbiology and iconography
between the two differ significantly, the representation of the monolith as a human figure
is a strong link of an artistic vein, depicting influences stretching beyond the confines of
Northern Mesopotamia.
Both elements of the GT Art identified in Figures 11 and the cover photo of this paper’s
Figure set the platform finally for the arguments of a Bronze Age burial at GT. On this
count, this pillar at GT could be of paramount import. The details of GT’s burial are
chronicled in [2]. Briefly, they suggest two phases in the burial process, one initial burial
stage characterized by malevolent intent, as some destruction is encountered in the
various GT structures and surviving through the burial process; it was followed by a final
burial with the benevolent intent to preserve the monument and further protect it from
further destruction.
An early Bronze Age burial (circa 2500 BC), is a period characterized by considerable
upheaval in Western Eurasia. Besides coinciding with the considerable technological
advancement in the use of bronze, it also falls close to an advancement and spreading
of the Bell Beaker Culture throughout Western Eurasia, and its aftermath subjects
discussed at length in [11]. The dawn of that Era saw the considerable destruction of
monumental sites from the British Isles to Mesopotamia, and the burial of GT could be a
manifestation of the violent aspect of this component and cultural transition. Along with
this transition, of course, comes the rise of Dynastic Egypt. Gobekli Tepe could have
been at the start of the Chalcolithic transition and at the end of the Neolithic and the
ushering of the Bronze Age.
Although the conclusions from a close examination of the monumental site currently
referred to as “Gobekli Tepe” might not be pleasing to its aficionados, especially
regarding its dating, it is argued here the GT was present at two critical turns of
Humanity’s History. Gobekli Tepe ushered the Neolithic Revolution of Megalithic
Monumental Architecture. It is definitely the first site where large scale megalithic
construction is encountered, with a proto megalithic site being that at Nevali Cori and its
temple’s pillars. Its burial’s last phase, the complete covering of the Gobekli Tepe’s
structures C and D with soil (apparently from an early Mesolithic site), ushered the
beginning of the Bronze Age, and a new set of deities, monumental structures and
human settlements. It was the time of the rise of Uruk, and the monumental Architecture
of Southern Mesopotamia.
Regarding the establishment view, an Early Mesolithic GT, one might say that it flies
against not only Demographics but also it goes against the Law of Evolution in form and
structure – from simple to more complex. This Law is applicable as much in Biology as
is in Art, Architecture and Engineering, as well as Sociology and Economics.
Finally, it has been alluded in the paper (as well as in prior papers by this author, all
cited already) that copper based tools were involved in the dressing and carving of the
monoliths at GT. Of course, this is a contention in need of more documentation and
evidence, and left to future research.
It is noted that in this paper an effort was made to standardize the term “Pre-Pottery
Neolithic A or B”, terms suggested initially by archeologist Kathleen Mary Kenyon, which
have been used in many contexts and by different archeologists ever since to denote
various time periods at various locations. They are set to broadly denote the 10000 BC
to 8000 BC period in the context of Gobekli Tepe and Northern Mesopotamia. In effect,
they are tautological to Early Mesolithic, when the term “Neolithic” is used to designate
the time period between circa 5000 BC and the Bronze Age (circa 2500 BC).
In the archeological literature, a number of designations are used by numerous authors
to identify dates. Most commonly, one comes across the designations BC (Before
Christ); BCE (Before Common Era, which is simply another way of stating the BC
designation); BP (Before Present, which is simply BC+2000 years), and “cal BP” (which
is more or less equivalent to BP, but in addition it indicates that it has been “calibrated” –
that is, it has been suitably adjusted from some carbon-14 based raw dates). For
purposes of simplicity, the most widely used and easily understood designation is used:
As it might be noticed by the reader, the author placed the main emphasis for dating a
monument in this paper (and indeed in all prior papers) on built structures and not
mobile artifacts (like lithic tools for instance) for a simple reason: mobile artifacts do not
necessarily date structures, since they could be introduced by trade or migration from
other locations. In that sense, they act like the soil fills that monuments might have been
buried (like GT was). It is the Architecture of structures that most reliably dates
structures, not the mobile contents of such structures.
This was a study in a field that should be called “Comparative Archeological
Architecture”. It is hoped that this work will supply an impetus for the establishment of
such an academic field in both Architectural and Archeological College education.
Finally, this paper (as well as papers [1] and [2[) appropriately revise and extend the
remarks and dates regarding Gobekli Tepe, Nevali Cori and Catalhoyuk in the author’s
paper in [11] on Newgrange and Stonehenge.
[1] Dimitrios S. Dendrinos, 2016, “Dating Gobekli Tepe”, academia.edu. The paper is
found here:
[2] Dimitrios S. Dendrinos, 2016, “Gobekli Tepe: a 6th millennium BC monument”,
[3] http://msh.councilforeconed.org/documents/978-1-56183-758-8-activity-lesson-
[4] http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2001/DanielChen.shtml
[5] https://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Publications/Files/WPP2015_Volume-I_Comprehensive-
[6] Dimitrios S. Dendrinos (with Henry Mullally), 1985, Urban Evolution: studies in the
mathematical ecology of cities, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
[7] Dimitrios S. Dendrinos, 1992, The Dynamics of Cities: ecological determinism,
dualism and chaos, Routledge, London.
[8] Dimitrios S. Dendrinos, 2016, “In the Shadows of Carnac’s Le Menec Stones: A
Neolithic Supercomputer”, academia.edu. The paper is found here:
[9] https://books.google.com/books?
[10] Maurits N. van Loon, 1968, “The Oriental Institute excavations at Mureybit, Syria:
preliminary report on the 1965 campaign. Part I: Architecture and general finds”,
Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 27, No. 4:265-282.
[11] Dimitrios S. Dendrinos, 2016, “From Newgrange to Stonehenge: Monuments to a
Bull Cult and Origins of Innovation”, academia.edu. The paper is found here:
[12] https://www.facebook.com/tony.kozelj/posts/1592553350761651
The author wishes to acknowledge the contribution that all his Facebook friends have
had not only in the writing of this paper, but also in providing support and intellectual
stimulation over the past two and one half years that this author has been engaged in
Archeological related work and has had a Facebook account. Especially, special thanks
are due to all members of the seven groups the author has on Facebook. Of course, it
must be noted that the ongoing support the author has received from his wife and two
daughters is in fact invaluable.
Legal Notice
© The author, Dimitrios S. Dendrinos retains full legal copyrights to this paper. No part
or the whole of the paper can be reproduced in any form, in any medium, without the
explicit written consent of the author, Dimitrios S. Dendrinos.
... [1. [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18]. ...
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