Tepe Telegrams

From the Göbekli Tepe Research Project

Looking at stones all day long – Work of lithics specialists at Göbekli Tepe (by Thore Hübert)

Before reading this blog entry we recommend to read the last article on chipped stones from the 5th of July by Jonas Breuers “Chipped Stones: What they are and how they can help understand Göbekli Tepe”

Archaeologists who involve themselves in the work of analysing lithics (synonymous with chipped stones) will early on experience a variety of different possibilities to do so. Already are existing many different systems and methods to reveal as many information as possible from a single silicate rock. Yet, the methods may vary immensely depending on the questions someone researches. Some researchers who work on chipped stones are experts on use-and wear-traces, others are experts in determining raw materials and their origin (e.g. Delvigne et al. 2020; Affolter et al. 2022). In both cases it is necessary to record microscopic features of the chipped stones. At Göbekli Tepe our most recent work focuses on typological and technological developments. Therefore, we record mainly macroscopic visible features on the researched lithics. Some of those are descriptive others are metric. A difficulty is that recording all the features of an artefact takes a huge amount of time and since the number of artefacts at Göbekli Tepe is enormous it is only possible to research small areas in detail. From the results of those in detail researched artefact assemblages we determine historical existing patterns which apply to the whole site.

Next, we shall give an insight into the process of recording artefacts. First and maybe most important is to give every artefact an individual number, so it will always be recognizable.  Afterwards the metric values of every single piece are taken. To record weight, length, width and thickness a calliper, a scale and a measuring box are needed (as seen in Fig. 1). While measuring the artefact its condition needs to be considered as well. Is it complete? If not, what kind of fractures does it show? and so on. Combined with the metric values this can for example help to interpret the nature of the researched lithic assemblage, does it consist of disposal and waste materials or is it a cache where blanks or tools were stored.

Fig. 1: Workplace inside the excavation house with all the necessary tools like a calliper, a scale, a magnifier and a measuring box built from Lego bricks and grid paper (Photo by Thore Hübert, DAI, 2022)

Furthermore, alterations of the artefacts are recorded. Such can occur through heat, cold and wind as well as through physical and chemical processes connected to the soil an artefact was buried in. Thermic alterations are often visible through frost fractures, “pot lid” fractures, crazing and even change of colour of the raw material, just to name a few (Inizan et al. 1999, 91-92; Floss 2012, 101-104). Physical and chemical processes on the other hand may result in a patination of the artefact which often changes the surface colour and sometimes roughness of the artefact. Even the weight may be affected. The origin and occurrence of different patination is a complex matter. While alterations through cold, wind and chemical processes are often caused by natural developments, alterations through heat are typically connected to human activities, either direct or indirect. People could have used heat to alter certain traits of chipped stones to ease the production of blanks from an otherwise unfavourable raw material or they disposed unwanted chipped stones and tools in a fire pit. Those kinds of alterations tell us a lot about the “life history” of an artefact and how it was handled. In this regard it opens up questions about the chronology of the artefact, which alteration happened when, was the artefact still in use or already disposed et cetera.

Thanks to their favourable physical properties silicate rocks were used to produce tools, but like in any other industry during the production a lot of refuse emerges. The same goes for Göbekli Tepe where the majority of chipped stones we find are remainders of the production process. Thereby holding information on the used technics from historical flint knappers. Therefore, the relevance of such pieces is not to be underestimated. Because of the physical traits of the lithics different knapping technics also affected the raw material in different ways and intensity. Some features like the extensity of the bulb and shape of butt (= rest of the striking platform, that remained on the blank) can inform us about the used percussion methods like direct and indirect strike or pressure knapping and if the used hammer was either of hard material like quartz or soft material like antler or bone. Identifying the used technics may help archaeologists to discern technological developments and networks of shared knowledge. Going on, one of the major aspects in recording lithic artefacts is, of course, to determine if they were modified into a tool or not. Most tools are defined by shape and type of alteration. To produce the desired shape the edges of blanks, either blades or flakes, were altered by different kinds of fine knapping called retouch. Angle, extent and positioning help to determine the type of retouch (e.g. Inizan et al. 1999, 81; Shea 2013, 170-171). While the type of retouch may in some cases be influenced by the personal preferences of a flint knapper, it often depends on the planned function of the created tool. For an arrowhead a sharp point may be needed, for a perforator a drill like front, for a scraper a steep angled edge. Of course, not always corresponds the description of a tool with its historical function. Most tools were used in a variety of activities and were multifunctional, dependent on the need of its user. Not different from today, where in an extreme case someone may miss a screwdriver and decides to use a knife or key instead. Therefore, the discrimination of tools is firstly a typological one. Still, tools may hold information about knapping traditions, exchange of knowledge and even identity (see Breuers 05.06.23, Tepe Telegrams).

Fig. 2: Different kind of tools that can be found at Göbekli Tepe (illustration by Thore Hübert, DAI, 2023)

After having recorded all the different features of the chipped stone artefacts like raw material, condition, size, weight, shape, modifications and so on, it is time to analyse the materials. Usually this is done after or in between the field campaigns and not at Göbekli Tepe itself. All the gathered information is processed through comparison and statistical methods, which is the most time-consuming part of the work. We try new statistical methods, interpret the results and sit in the library to compare them with the information from other archaeological sites. Of course, nowadays a lot is eased through Computers and the possibilities of the internet, yet we may only work 40 days a year with the artefacts available and the rest of the year we work with the recorded data, photographs, drawings and documented information from the field work.


Affolter, J., H. Wehren, L. Emmenegger 2022. Determination method of silicites (siliceous raw materials): An explanation based on four selected raw materials. In: Quaternary International 615, 33–42.

Delvigne, V., P. Fernandes, C. Tuffery, J.-P. Raynal, L. Klaric 2020. Taphonomic methods and a database to establish the origin of sedimentary silicified rocks from the Middle-recent Gravettian open-air site of La Picardie (Indre-et-Loire, France). In: Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Vol. 32.

Floss, H. 2012. Steinartefakte – vom Altpaläolithikum bis in die Neuzeit. Tübingen: Kerns Verlag.

Inizan, M.-L., M. Reduron-Ballinger, H. Roche and J. Tixier 1999. Technology and Terminology of Knapped Stone (Tome 5). Nanterre: Cercle de Recherches et d’Etudes Préhistoriques.

Shea, J. J. 2013. Stone tools in the Paleolithic and Neolithic near East: a guide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Further Reading

Beile-Bohn, M., C. Gerber, M. Morsch and K. Schmidt 1998. Neolithische Forschungen in Obermesopotamien. Gürcütepe und Göbekli Tepe. Istanbuler Mitteilungen 48: 5-78.

Breuers, J. 2022. Diachrone Studien zur Lithik des Göbekli Tepe: Locus 166, Raum 16 und die Sedimentsäule aus Gebäude D. Köln: https://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/62530/

Breuers, J. and M. Kinzel 2022. “[…] but it is not clear at all where all the […] debris had been taken from […]”: Chipped Stone Artefacts, Architecture and Site Formation Processes at Göbekli Tepe. In: Y. Nishiaki, O. Maeda and M. Arimura (Eds.). Tracking the Neolithic in the Near East. Lithic Perspectives on Its Origins, Development and Dispersals: 469–486. Leiden: Sidestone Press.

Clare, L. 2020. Göbekli Tepe, Turkey. A brief summary of research at a new World Heritage Site (2015-2019). E-Forschungsbericht des DAI 2020. doi:10.34780/efb.v0i2.1012

Schmidt, K. 2000. Göbekli Tepe, southeastern Turkey: A preliminary report on the 1995-1999 excavations. Paléorient 26(1): 45-54. Schmidt, K. 2006. Sie bauten die ersten Tempel. Das rätselhafte Heiligtum am Göbekli Tepe. München: C.H. Beck.

Chipped Stones: What they are and how they can help understand Göbekli Tepe

Usually if we talk about Göbekli Tepe then we talk about monumental buildings, iconic T-shaped pillars or sophisticated pieces of art. Only rarely do other so-called small finds, for example chipped stones, personal adornments, animal bones, etc., take centre stage. However, these small finds reveal a lot about daily life activities at Göbekli Tepe. For example animal bones tell us much about the diet, personal adornments are indicative of style and chipped stones, well what do they actually tell us about the site? Before we can answer this simple question, it is helpful to talk about chipped stones in general. Chipped stone is a term used to describe knapped (e.g. worked) flint or obsidian (as well as other types like chert etc., but they play no role at Göbekli Tepe). I don’t want to go into too much detail about the formation of flints or obsidians but the following is important: flint and obsidian are raw materials with very high concentrations of SiO2 (silicon dioxide; Hauptmann 1980). SiO2 is still one of humankind’s most favourite chemical compounds, as for example many windows or glasses we use are mainly made of SiO2. Now you may already know why flint and obsidian were so important back then, because materials with high concentrations of SiO2 tend to break into sharp-edged pieces. Nowadays, of course, we try to avoid broken and sharp-edged glasses or windows, as they can only be seen as a mess, but during Palaeolithic and Neolithic times (and also later on) flint and obsidian were deliberately turned into broken and sharp-edged pieces, or in other words chipped stones. These artefacts were suitable for most daily life tasks, for example cutting meat or cereals, carving figurines, producing beads or other personal adornments, arming shafts with arrowheads and so on. As you can see, chipped stones are versatile. However, the knapping process, e.g. the actions that turn blunt stones into razor sharp artefacts, is not something that can be done easily, but requires a lot of skill that can only be acquired through learning and years of experience. However, since we can no longer interview the past flint and obsidian knappers about their techniques and way of understanding chipped stones, we will focus on our view as chipped stone specialists. For the sake of simplicity; we will talk about the two most important concepts in the analysis of chipped stone: technology and typology (Inizan et al. 1999; Shea 2013).

Figure 1: A) From mining nodules to tools; B) Blank terms (illustrations by Jonas Breuers, DAI, 2023).

Technology basically describes the way blunt stones are transformed into razor sharp artefacts. A concept tied to technology that is commonly used is called chaîne opératoire (best translated as workflow) and if you want to read more about chipped stone technology you will often encouter this term. However, for the sake of simplicity we will not dive much into the basic ideas behind the concept of chaîne opératoire and instead we will focus on the general actions and processes involved in producing chipped stones (see also figure 1, A): Blunt stones – also called nodules – are collected or mined (1). Then the nodule is formed into a core (2). A core is the starting point for the production of so-called blanks (3) and blanks can be made into tools (4). It is important to know that there are different core-types, blank types and tool types. In the case of cores the platform and the number of platforms is very important. If cores have only one platform they are called unidirectional cores (from time to time also called unipolar, monopolar, single platform core). In other cases, cores have two platforms and are then called bidirectional cores (sometimes also called bipolar or double platform core). Moreover, there are also cores with multiple platforms. To make a blank, one must either hit the outermost edge of the platform with a stone (hard punch) or an antler (soft punch) or has to apply pressure, for example with a stick. The blanks can then be divided into different types, which are called flakes, chips, blades, bladelets and chunks (see also figure 1, B). This subdivision is based on the shape for example a flake has no predetermined shape whereas a blade has a predetermined shape (minimum 1:1 but usually at least 1:2 width-length ratio and more or less parallel ridges). Chips and bladelets are small versions of flakes and blades and chunks are bulky pieces that don’t fit into any of the other categories. From a technological point of view, the production of blanks ends here, but they can be further modified into so-called tools, leading us to the second area of interest for a chipped stones specialist: typology e.g. the shape and style of artefacts. Typology does not only refer to tools, yet it can be most easily explained in terms of them (Inizan et al 1999; Shea 2013). But first: what is a tool?

Figure 2: Different arrowheads (point types; illustration by Jonas Breuers, DAI, 2023).

A tool is a blank with further modifications that alter the shape not only for functional reasons but also for fashion reasons. For example, arrowheads (also called points) are made in a way that enhances hafting and improves penetration into the game. However, the function does not entirely determine the shape. The shape can vary and this allows for personal style or on a larger scale for group identity. In addition, different shapes can also be related to time period. Arrowheads are a good example of this, as it is possible to observe certain differing styles over time (see figure 2). For example, el-Khiam points date to the PPNA and Amuq points to the PPNB. As you can already see, chipped stones are not just broken stones with sharp edges, there is a lot of technology and craftsmanship behind them (Inizan et al. 1999; Shea 2013). But what can we learn from this?

Figure 3: Interpretation of chipped stone traditions. The people from settlement/house A used different techniques and tools than those from settlement/house B (illustration by Jonas Breuers, DAI, 2023).

Sometimes it is possible to observe certain patterns, for example people from region A only use technology A and tools A, while people from the neighbouring region B only use technology B and tools B (see figure 3). In this exemplary case technology and typology serve as good examples to distinguishing between both regions. The reasons behind such borders are always tricky to interpret but a simple reason could be that these people tried to avoid each other which over time led to completely different chipped stone traditions. A similar, albeit not directly comparable, situation can be observed during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic in Southwest Asia. Somewhere around the Khabur River, a clear techno-typological cut can be identified, which led archaeologists to separate a west- and east-wing (Kozłowski 1999; Kozłowski and Aurenche 2005). Besides regional scale studies, it is also possible to explore small-scale or intra-site variability. If, for example, in a settlement site in house A only unidirectional cores and perforators have been found whereas in house B only bidirectional cores and arrowheads are present, then it can be assumed that the people from the two houses/households either had different technological backgrounds or performed different tasks. Based on this it can also be assumed that a division of labour took place, e.g. the people from house A made beads and therefore needed perforators to drill holes and those from house B were hunters and made arrowheads. Other social questions can also be answered by chipped stones, for example if people from one house owned more blanks or tools than others, theories like social inequality can be stressed. There are many more interesting aspects to explore about technology, typology and the people but this is out of scope for this blog post. Now we turn to Göbekli Tepe. What can chipped stones tell us about the site? At the beginning it was clear that people knapped on site and produced a wide array of tools (Beile-Bohn et al. 1998; Schmidt 2000). Nevertheless, chipped stones never played a prominent role in understanding and interpreting the site. So far, it was always assumed that Göbekli Tepe was a highly specialised site without signs of domestic activities where people most likely met as part of cultic activities (Dietrich et al. 2017; Schmidt 2006). Over the past six years intensive research on chipped stones was carried out (and still is) and these studies shed new light on daily life activities at Göbekli Tepe. We were able to confirm earlier findings and furthermore specify more precisely that on-site knapping took place and that the chipped stone technology and typology was part of the west-wing chipped stone tradition from the earliest phase onwards. Moreover we found out that many assemblages excavated so far suffer from mixing problems due to so-called taphonomic processes. Especially this is problematic, as assemblages which do not belong to the same period have been mixed, which basically renders them useless, as no meaningful information about technology and typology can be obtained. However, also unmixed albeit being very rare assemblages have been analysed for the first time and they clearly speak for domestic activities. In particular chipped stone based comparisons with others PPN sites like Dja’de, Jerf el-Ahmar or Mureybet, which have been interpreted as settlements, revealed that they are no different from Göbekli Tepe. On the basis of these new insights, there is no reason to assume that Göbekli Tepe is a highly specialised site without signs of domestic activities (Breuers 2022; Breuers and Kinzel 2022). When comparing chipped stone study results with other recent studies and finds it becomes even clearer that domestic activities took place on site (Clare 2020). All in all, Göbekli Tepe has to be re-interpreted and is best explained as a settlement site with a (strong) ritual component. Turning back to the original topic of the post “How can chipped stones help understand Göbekli Tepe?” it is now clear that chipped stones can contribute a lot to the understanding of (not only) the site of Göbekli Tepe.


Beile-Bohn, M., C. Gerber, M. Morsch and K. Schmidt 1998. Neolithische Forschungen in Obermesopotamien. Gürcütepe und Göbekli Tepe. Istanbuler Mitteilungen 48: 5-78.

Breuers, J. 2022. Diachrone Studien zur Lithik des Göbekli Tepe: Locus 166, Raum 16 und die Sedimentsäule aus Gebäude D. Köln: https://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/62530/

Breuers, J. and M. Kinzel 2022. “[…] but it is not clear at all where all the […] debris had been taken from […]”: Chipped Stone Artefacts, Architecture and Site Formation Processes at Göbekli Tepe. In: Y. Nishiaki,  O. Maeda and M. Arimura (Eds.). Tracking the Neolithic in the Near East. Lithic Perspectives on Its Origins, Development and Dispersals: 469–486. Leiden: Sidestone Press.

Clare, L. 2020. Göbekli Tepe, Turkey. A brief summary of research at a new World Heritage Site (2015-2019). E-Forschungsbericht des DAI 2020. doi:10.34780/efb.v0i2.1012

Dietrich, O., J. Notroff and K. Schmidt 2017. Feasting, Social Complexity, and the Emergence of the Early Neolithic of Upper Mesopotamia: A View from Göbekli Tepe. In: R. J. Chacon and R. G. Mendoza (Eds.) Feast, Famine or Fighting? Multiple Pathways to Social Complexity. First Edition, Studies in Human Ecology and Adaption 8: 91-132. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Hauptmann, A. 1980. Feuerstein, Hornstein, Flint, Chert, Silex – eine Begrifssbestimmung. In: G. Weisgerber, R. Slotta, and J. Weiner (Eds.). 5000 Jahre Feuersteinbergbau. Die Suche nach dem Stahl der Steinzeit: 7-11. Bochum: Deutsches Bergbau-Museum.

Inizan, M.-L., M. Reduron-Ballinger, H. Roche and J. Tixier 1999. Technology and Terminology of Knapped Stone (Tome 5). Nanterre: Cercle de Recherches et d’Etudes Préhistoriques.

Kozłowski, S.K. 1999. The Eastern Wing of the Fertile Crescent: Late prehistory of Greater Mesopotamian lithic industries (British Archaeological Reports International Series 760). Oxford: Archaeopress.

Kozłowski, S.K. and O. Aurenche 2005. Territories, Boundaries and Cultures in the Neolithic Near East (British Archaeological Reports International Series 1362). Oxford: Archaeopress.

Schmidt, K. 2000. Göbekli Tepe, southeastern Turkey: A preliminary report on the 1995-1999 excavations. Paléorient 26(1): 45-54.

Schmidt, K. 2006. Sie bauten die ersten Tempel. Das rätselhafte Heiligtum am Göbekli Tepe. München: C.H. Beck.

Shea, J. J. 2013. Stone tools in the Paleolithic and Neolithic near East: a guide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Chipped Stones of Göbekli Tepe: A short teaser

Next week we will introduce you to one of the most numerous find categories at Göbekli Tepe: chipped stones. As this is quite a comprehensive topic we decided to split it into two blog posts and focus on the most important information. The first blog post will be about chipped stones in general and how they can help interpret sites, and the second one is about how we analyse chipped stones, e.g. the daily work a chipped stones specialist has to do to get all the necessary information. The first blog post will go live soon so stay tuned. Your Tepe Telegrams Team.

Meet the Chipped Stones Team

Chipped stones usually make up the majority of finds at Stone Age sites and are typically used to reconstruct past daily life activities. They are also suitable for relative dating (e.g. dating a site on the basis of a typical find from a certain period). Therefore, the analysis of chipped stones is always very important, and today we want to introduce you to our team working on these finds from Göbekli Tepe. In addition, we will post more on chipped stones in the coming days.

Jonas Breuers studied Archaeology in Bochum and Cologne and started to work in the Göbekli Tepe Project in late 2016. His research focuses on technological, typological and statistical analysis of Neolithic lithic assemblages (flint, obsidian and similar raw materials). Additionally, he is interested in Palaeolithic lithic assemblages, raw material sourcing and exchange networks. In the frame of the Göbekli Tepe Project he is responsible for the analysis of the chipped stone artefacts on which he wrote his PhD.

Thore Hübert studied history and archaeology (prehistoric and protohistoric) at the University of Cologne from 2012 to 2020. He furthermore studied at the Universitetet i Oslo in Norway as an exchange student for half a year in 2017. His master thesis in archaeology was about the lithic artefacts and ceramics of a late Neolithic site in the Lower Rhine Embayment. Since 2020, he is part of the Göbekli Tepe project and also works on the lithic assemblages of the site. His research interests are the analysis and interpretation of lithic tool kits on indications about activities and activity patterns.

Jonas Breuers Bochum ve Köln’de arkeoloji eğitimi aldı ve 2016 yılında Göbekli Tepe Projesi’nde çalışmaya başladı. Jonas, araştırmalarında Neolitik dönem litik buluntu gruplarının (çakmaktaşı, obsidyen ve benzeri hammaddeler) teknolojik, tipolojik ve istatistiksel olarak incelenmesine odaklanmaktadır. Bunların yanı sıra Paleolitik taş buluntu grupları, hammadde kaynakları ve alışveriş ve takas ağlarıyla da ilgilenmektedir. Jonas, Göbekli Tepe Projesi çerçevesinde litik buluntuların incelenmesinden sorumludur ve doktora tezini bu buluntular üzerine yazmaktadır

Thore Hübert 2012-2020 yıllarında Köln Üniversitesi’nde tarih ve arkeoloji (tarihöncesi ve protohistorya) eğitimi aldı. Norveç’teki Oslo Üniversitesi’nde 2017 yılında yarım dönem değişim öğrencisi olarak bulundu. Arkeoloji alanında yaptığı yüksek lisans tezi Aşağı Ren Körfezi’ndeki bir geç Neolitik yerleşmenin litik ve çanak çömlek buluntuları üzerindeydi. 2020 yılından bu yana Göbekli Tepe projesinin bir parçasıdır ve Jonas Breuers ile bu yerleşmenin litik aletleri üzerine çalışmaktadır. Hübert’in araştırma alanları aktivite ve aktivite örüntülerinin göstergeleri üzerine litik aletlerin incelenmesi ve yorumlanmasıdır.

New Content about Göbekli Tepe

You haven’t been hearing much from us lately. The reason was the catastrophic earthquake and the heavy rainfall event shortly afterwards in Şanlıurfa this year, which cuased immense suffering in the region. We didn’t feel that posting regular updates on latest results on Göbekli Tepe would have been important enough during this bad time. Now that some time has passed we decided to post new content on our blog again. The next post will go online soon. So stay tuned.

Earthquake in Turkey and Syria

We are shocked by the news of the earthquake in southeastern parts of Turkey and northern Syria and the extent of the suffering it has caused. Our thoughts are with all those affected, especially the victims and their families.

While rescue operations in the region and the supply of humanitarian aid to the cities, towns and villages continue, concerns are also being raised about the many heritage sites in the region. We, too, have received numerous enquiries about the situation at Göbekli Tepe. Fortunately, we can confirm that the site has suffered no damage, as noted in a recent statement by the Ministry of CultureGeneral Directorate of Monuments and Museums.

Over twenty-five years of research at Göbekli Tepe!

The year 2020 marked a quarter of a century since the beginning of archaeological excavations at Göbekli Tepe. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, this anniversary was somewhat forgotten. Reason enough for us to briefly summarise the story behind the now 28 years of research at this famous site.

Initially identified as a prehistoric site in 1963 in the frame of a Turkish-American archaeological survey project, Göbekli Tepe was more or less forgotten for over thirty years, attention turning instead to the site of Çayönü Tepesi (Ergani/Diyarbakır) discovered during the same survey. In the interim years, excavations at Çayönü and other sites, including Cafer Höyük, Hallan Çemi and Nevalı Çori, revealed much more about the transition from hunter-gatherer to sedentary societies.

The story behind the re-discovery of Göbekli Tepe has meanwhile entered the realms of modern archaeological myth. Although synonymous with the name Klaus Schmidt, a German archaeologist who dedicated much of his career to Early Neolithic research in Southeast Turkey, the re-discovery of Göbekli Tepe in 1994 takes pride of place in the accounts of the local community from Örencik, a village located just two kilometres west of the site. Unaware of the outstanding role that the mound would one day play in Neolithic research, the local families considered their finds – made during ploughing and field-boundary wall construction – important enough to report them to the nearby Sanliurfa Museum. Additionally, the fact that Schmidt was guided to the mound by a local farmer (Ş. Yıldız) after enquiring about flint surface scatters is clear evidence of this local knowledge.

It goes without saying that the infrastructure that we see today at Göbekli Tepe, which allows hundreds of visitors to pass through its gates every day, was inconceivable to Klaus Schmidt and his companions at the time of their initial visits in October 1994. Access to the site was only possible by foot from the outskirts of Örencik village; the modern asphalt roads now leading to the site either did not exist or were still mere dirt tracks.

In 1995, fieldwork began at Göbekli Tepe under the auspices of the Şanlıurfa Museum (Adnan Mısır), with Harald Hauptmann (German Archaeological Institute) as acting site director. From the very beginning, fieldwork was coordinated by Klaus Schmidt, who, following Hauptmann’s retirement, became director of excavations in 2006 until he passed away in 2014. The directorship of excavations passed to the Şanlıurfa Museum with Lee Clare as field director and coordinator of DAI/DFG research activities. In 2019, Necmi Karul became the new director of the “Göbekli Tepe Culture and Karahantepe Excavation” Project. Archaeological research by the DAI continues unabated and is coordinated and supervised by Lee Clare (DAI Istanbul).

Since 2010, research at Göbekli Tepe has been generously supported by the DFG (German Research Foundation) in the frame of a long-term research project, “The Prehistoric societies of Upper Mesopotamia and their subsistence”. At present, this international and interdisciplinary project is being undertaken by the German Archaeological Institute (Orient and Istanbul Departments), the Ludwig Maximilian Universität München (Archaeozoology) and the Freie Universität Berlin (Geography) in cooperation with the University of Cologne (Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology) and the Istanbul University (Arkeoloji Bölümü).

In over 28 years, many colleagues have contributed to our understanding of Göbekli Tepe. It is a natural process that team members move on and take up different tasks and positions elsewhere. Therefore, in the coming weeks, we will introduce you to the current team members and also present some of the latest results and insights from Göbekli Tepe.

For a brief summary of research post-2014, see:




  • Lee Clare (DAI Istanbul), Coordinator of research and fieldwork, Human-environment interaction, absolute chronology
  • Ricarda Braun (FU Berlin) Landscape archaeology
  • Jonas Breuers (University of Cologne/DAI Berlin) Chipped stone studies
  • Stephanie Emra  (LMU München) Archaeozoology
  • Thore Hübert (University of Cologne/DAI Berlin) Chipped stone studies
  • Moritz Kinzel (DAI Istanbul) Building archaeology, heritage conservation
  • Kate Nolan (DAI Berlin) Research data management
  • Moritz Nykamp (FU Berlin) Geography
  • Shabnam Moshfeg Nia (DAI Berlin) Research data management, GIS & database
  • Birgül Öğüt (DAI Berlin) Microarchaeology, phytoliths
  • Joris Peters (LMU München) Archaeozoology
  • Nadja Pöllath (SNSB München) Archaeozoology
  • Julia Schönicke (FU Berlin/DAI Berlin/ANAMED Istanbul) Microarchaeology, abandonment processes
  • Brigitta Schütt (FU Berlin) Geography
  • Robert Sobott (Universität Leipzig) Mineralogy, archaeometry
  • Devrim Sönmez (Koç University Istanbul/DAI Istanbul) Archaeological field survey
  • Onur Torun (DAI Istanbul) Symbolism, cognitive archaeology
  • Benny Waszk (Mainz) Portal stones, human-environment interactions

Relaunch of Tepe Telegrams

It has been a long time since we last posted something on our blog “Tepe Telegrams”. The COVID-pandemic and everything that came with it also affected us. In the beginning, we had to rearrange all our work routines as everybody else and also had to reduce excavation works in 2020 to a bare minimum only focusing on small scale but necessary site conservation works. This was then followed by the work-loaded years 2021 and 2022 where we had to catch up with all that had been left behind. Now, finally, the time has come to breathe back some life into our blog and in the following weeks and months you will get to know the current team members, latest news and insights from Göbekli Tepe and our way of working. So stay tuned.

Happy Anniversary, DAI!

The German Archaeological Institute, the home-base of the Göbekli Tepe Project (excavations and research conducted by the Orient and Istanbul Departments in close cooperation with the Şanlıurfa Haleplibahçe Museum, funded by the German Research Foundation), is celebrating its 190th birthday.

Founded on April 21 in 1829 by a group of international antiquaries and archaeologists as ‘Instituto di Correspondenza’ in Rome to document classical monuments and objects, the DAI today is a worldwide network of international and interdisciplinary corresponding members. For its anniversary, the institute was launching a social media campaign, inviting readers on a visit to the institute’s operational bases, archaeological sites and ongoing research projects with a 190 day blogparade from 22nd April to 27th October.

Today’s 184th post is introducing our very own research at Göbekli Tepe. Please find the article and accompanying photographs here: “Day 184 Göbekli Tepe”.

We as the DAI’s Göbekli Tepe research staff send our congratulations and are wishing all the best for many interesting future endeavours and more fascinating research.

New publication: “Markers of ‘Psychocultural’ Change”

For the recently published “Handbook of Cognitive Archaeology. Psychology in Prehistory”, edited by Tracy B. Henley, Matt J. Rossano, and Edward P. Kardas (Routledge 2019, [external link]), the Göbekli Tepe research project was approached to contribute a chapter on the site’s monumentality and its complex iconography – and how it could help us understand these buildings’ function, the intention behind their construction, and the effect of activities taking place there.

The volume aims at the application of cognitive archaeology, in particular to open that field to scholars across the behavioral sciences and it is our pleasure to introduce one of the key sites of the Anatolian Neolithic in this context with our paper on “Markers of ‘Psychocultural’ Change. The early-Neolithic monuments of Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey” (by Oliver Dietrich, Jens Notroff, Sebastian Walter, Laura Dietrich, pp. 311-332):

“The adoption of agriculture and husbandry and the shift from hunting-and-gathering to food-producing subsistence strategies in the course of the so-called Neolithization process seems to have been accompanied (and partly even preceded) by significant mental change. The sudden appearance of a variety of symbolic depictions hints at a new “psycho-cultural” mindset and a new way of viewing the world and humankind´s role in it. The oldest yet known evidence for monumental architecture was discovered at Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey, created in exactly this period. The site is interpreted as a social hub for meetings and feasts of different hunter groups of the region, and its iconographic repertoire gives ample examples of this new symbolic art. The imagery of this site in particular focuses on strong and dangerous animals, apparently emphasizing ideas of death and threat. In the course of this paper it is argued that the monuments of Göbekli Tepe could have served as arenas for orchestrated rituals necessary to create and strengthen group identity and social cohesion among the early-Neolithic hunter groups at this crucial transition phase of cultural and economic change.”

Book Details

Paperback: 9781138594517, pub: 2019-08-05
Hardback: 9781138594500, pub: 2019-08-05
eBook (VitalSource): 9780429488818, pub: 2019-07-24

(Detailed table of contents and introduction chapter available on publishers website.)

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