The Göbekli Tepe Research Team would like to congratulate the State Party of Turkey on the inscription of Göbekli Tepe on the prestigious list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. At the 42nd Session of the World Heritage Committee, currently underway in Bahrain (Manama), the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the site has been underlined. Accordingly, Göbekli Tepe fulfils three of the selection criteria:
i) represents a masterpiece of human creative genius,
ii) exhibits an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design, and
iv) is anoutstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history.
Our research continues at full pace, and the inscription of the site on the UNESCO World Heritage List is an additional incentive. Our work at Göbekli Tepe would not be possible without the continuous support of the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums, Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey and the Şanlıurfa Museum. Further, we most gratefully acknowledge funding of excavations and research at Göbekli Tepe in the frame of the German Research Foundation (DFG) long-term project, The Prehistoric Societies of Upper Mesopotamia and their Subsistence.
Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to remember Klaus Schmidt, whose tireless efforts from the mid-1990s until his untimely passing in 2014, led to the recognition and excavation of this truly spectacular site.
In the name of the entire Göbekli Tepe Research Team.
Although burials are still not known at Göbekli Tepe, in recent years a total of 700 human bone fragments have been recovered from the fill of prehistoric buildings and adjacent areas. Anthropological analysis of this material by J. Gresky and J. Haelm from the Natural Science Department of the German Archaeological Institute is now beginning to reveal intimate details about the Early Neolithic populations at the site. Especially the fragments of three human skulls are shedding light on the treatment of the dead, which is suggestive of a previously unknown form of skull cult.
Macroscopic details of artificial skull modifications. A, C, D: carvings, B: drilled perforation. (Image: Gresky, DAI)
Deep grooves – made using flint tools – were carved into the surface of the skulls. In the best preserved cranium these carvings were accompanied by a carefully placed perforation (drilled hole). Modifications were essential for the purpose of decorating and displaying the human skulls. In this context, it can even be argued that the drilled perforation was used to suspend the cranium from a post or the beam of a building (perhaps even from a T-shaped pillar)!
Schematic drawings of Göbekli Tepe skulls. Gray: preserved elements; red: modifications. (Image: Gresky, Haelm, DAI)
The research article J. Gresky, J. Haelm, L. Clare, “Modified human crania from Göbekli Tepe provide evidence for a new form of Neolithic skull cult” is published in Science Advances: DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700564, published 28 June 2017, Sci. Adv. 3, e1700564 (2017): http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/6/e1700564
The coming weeks will herald in a new phase of research for the Göbekli Tepe project. Not only are we looking forward to the arrival of new staff members, proven experts in many different fields, we are also launching new sub-projects with internationally renowned scientists and institutions on important topics like stratigraphy and chronology, building research, and the detailed analysis of a broad range of find groups together with the site’s archaeozoology and geography.
This new multi-disciplinary team will turn its attention to the scientific evaluation and publication of earlier excavation results, combined with entirely new areas of study, certainly culminating in new insights of Göbekli Tepe in its cultural, economic, and environmental landscape. More information will follow in due course. Stay tuned!
View upon the most recent excavations at Göbekli Tepe’s northwestern depression. (Photo: N. Becker, DAI)