News & Notes from the Göbekli Tepe Research Staff

“Hello? Is this thing on?” – Science communication, impact and relevance. On a personal note.

About three years ago, in March 2016 we went online with the first version of this weblog. From the beginning of Klaus Schmidt’s research there in the 1990s, public outreach and the communication of research results were important part of the work regarding the site of Göbekli Tepe. With growing media covering, public interest in the archaeology of Göbekli Tepe was increasing as well – including a noticeable rise in pseudoscientific interpretations and conspiracy theories as well. Actual archaeological results seemed to play a less and less visible role in the public narrative of the site and it became clear that an effective communication strategy was needed to address this growing public interest. This was, more or less, the beginning of the ‘Tepe Telegrams’ blog you are now reading.

views and visitors

‘The Tepe Telegrams’, page views and visitors per year (March 2016-April 2019) (Graphic: J. Notroff, DAI)

In the course of the last three years we were able to publish a rather broad collection of articles on this site, some coming from earlier notes and reports, many more from questions and suggestions from you – the readership of this weblog (and we would definitely like to use the chance for saying “Thank you!” for this input). Meanwhile this project-weblog has grown into an encyclopedia of research history and ongoing research regarding the early Neolithic site of Göbekli Tepe – and we are indeed glad about the ongoing interest in our work and research.

Three years of blogging are also a good opportunity to look back – into the content developed, its actual impact on the discussion and the perception of this research. Therefore we went through the research history of the Göbekli Tepe project, the different outreach approaches tested and established over the years, and a lot of statistics. The results of this little analysis has been published in a paper in an open access journal recently and can be found online here:

J. Notroff and O. Dietrich, But what is it good for? – Experiences in Public Outreach of the Göbekli Tepe Project (DAI) [external link], Archäoloigsche Informationen 42 (early view).

“With continuing strong popularity of archaeology in public perception, active science communication is more and more recognized as essential tool to not only inform about current research, but to also counter misinterpretation and misuse of archaeological data. Traditional outreach approaches like museums and popular books or articles have been complemented by new digital tools. In a time, in which facts seem to have become negotiable and ‘alternative facts’ can be proposed, pseudoscientific narratives are playing an increasing role in the public discourse on archaeological research – in particular, due to their accessibility in online media. Confronted with a growing public interest and proportionally increasing pseudoarchaeological narratives, we decided to address both in more open formats of science communication for the Göbekli Tepe Project with the creation of a project weblog whose aim it was to engage communication and provide information where the discussion actually was taking place: Online. This paper provides an insight into experiences and impact of nearly three years of science blogging.”

12 Comments

  1. R Jessie McLaren

    As a member of the ‘general public’, I’d like to thank everyone involved in production of the blogs, etc, as well as the scientific staff involved in the project. I’ve simply an armchair interest in archaeology – and Gobleki Tepe in particular – and am very grateful. Keep up the wonderful work!

    • Jens Notroff

      Thanks a lot , we’re really appreciating your kind words and are happy you enjoy reading the blog.

    • Robert Kerr

      Ditto the above!

  2. Susan Castor

    Though a regular visitor of this site, l have never written a comment. As a nonacademic, I have a lifelong interest in anthropology and human history and culture. Outstanding paper. Thanks to all of you for this blog and especially C Schmidt for his life work. So, thousands of miles away, in the US midwest, an old lady has built herself a small model in her livingroom of Gobleki Tepe and sits in wonder of our human family.

    • Jens Notroff

      Thank you too! This is indeed very exciting – having assembled such a enhusiastic readership.

    • claudia xander

      wonderful!!

  3. C Pettit

    A good analysis of the value of The Tepe Telegrams blog, although for me the value of a blog written and maintained by the scientists involved in the work is self evident. In the digital world there is a dearth of readily available (unless one knows how to search & research suitably)and accurate information, especially in regards to archaeological data. I look forward to future blog posts and am currently reading and re-reading posts from the past. Keep up the good work 🙂

  4. Renate gorke

    When I have read Herr Schmidts fascinating Book about the excavations it was at the same time quite exciting to read about an ongoing work and in a way dissapointing, because it was clear, that it would be a long time before there would come more to the light of (to)day. Now, a few years later (and having read in the meantime about the untimely death of Herr Schmidt) I searched in the Internet, if there was to be found a new book about what was new? In this way, I found this Blog!! Just the thing, I want to say, for an ongoing excavation, to have an ongoing Blog (and such a good one) about It. I just read a little bit about Pillar No 43, and the interpretations regarding the comet… Well, you can read a lot of things into a lot of things, and I must say – for me, the first line looked and looks actually like three handbags 🙂 And I post this here, so that it may NOT become a discussion-line about the possibility of handbags 10.000 BC. But to close this a little bit more seriously: I wonder about the reasons to build a Site like that in Stone? Wasn’t building in wood much more common and easy? Ein herzliches Grüß Gott aus dem Süden von Deutschland and I’m looking forward to much more to come

    • Jens Notroff

      Thanks a lot for your nice words. We’d actually agree that the possibility of preceding architecture or sculptural elements made from perishable (und thus not prserved) material like e.g. wood could and should not be excluded.

      • claudia xander

        firstly thankyou sooo much for all you fabulous hard work.
        regarding pillar 43. i’m not a fan of complex ideas. i feel that the 3 bag like objects are the temples in side view ( stone walls and extruded entrance way with ancient traditional bender wooden dome roof) each atoped by their relevant tribal totem animal symbol; all nestled amongst stylised long wheat grass. In the foreground beyond a low lying stone boundary wall is a shaman dressed as a vulture dancing with a round drum https://www.123rf.com/photo_22450065_portrait-of-a-shaman-dancing-with-a-drum-outdoor-.html.
        it’s harvest festival at gobekli tepe. nice and simple.

      • Robert Kerr

        As for example the stone circles of later Neolithic Britain were preceded, probably for centuries, by wooden posts on the same sites .

  5. Emma

    I am also a regular reader of your blog, i hope you will continue to post (a bit more ?:D) regularly with so many interesting news ! I hope some day I’ll see the site by myself !

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