The Tepe Telegrams

News & Notes from the Göbekli Tepe Research Staff

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Göbekli Tepe – Soon a new World Heritage site in Turkey?

Göbekli Tepe is one of the most impressive Stone Age sites in the world. On June 24 the World Heritage Committee will decide if the site is going to be included in the World Heritage List. Find out more about recent developements at Göbekli Tepe!

(This text by Eva Götting was first published June 22nd 2018 at Culturalheritage.news [external link], a platform to report about projects aiming at the protection, preservation and promotion of cultural heritage. CulturalHeritage.news is connected to the Archaeological Heritage Network (ArcHerNet) [external link] which brings together German expertise in the field of cultural preservation and heritage protection. ArcHerNet is coordinated by the German Archaeological Institute and promoted by the Federal Foreign Office.)

Göbekli Tepe is unique not only and in its monumental Stone Age architecture, but also its art. The site is located in the south-east of turkey is one of the greatest archaeological sensations of recent times. The famous monumental T-shaped pillars are probably the most characteristic features of Göbekli Tepe. The impressive architecture is interpreted as a temple complex and dates back to the 10th-9th mill. BCE to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic. More than 200 such pillars were found at the site. Each one can be up to 6 m high and weights up to 20 tons. The pillars were cut with great precision from blocks of quarried stone without the use of metal tools, and decorated with relief carvings of animals. The monuments on Göbekli Tepe are a testimony on the history of the transition from hunting communities to agrarian societies

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Aerial view of Göbekli Tepe’s Enclosure C (Photo: K. Schmidt, DAI).

The hill was first surveyed in the 1960s. In 1994, archaeologist Klaus Schmidt was the first to recognize just how extraordinary the place was. Since then, archaeologists excavated at Göbekli Tepe. The research project is conducted by the German Archaeological Institute [external link] as part of a joint German-Turkish collaboration. The project is supported by the General Directorate of Cultural Assets and Museums, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey and the Şanlıurfa Museum.

Göbekli Tepe – World Heritage

A convincing preservation plan is one of the criteria for a site’s inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List [external link] . Göbekli Tepe was included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List in 2017. The 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee will take place between June 24 and July 4 in Bahrain. Then it will be decided, if Göbekli Tepe is going to be a World Heritage site.

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T-shaped stone pillars at Göbekli Tepe (Photo: N. Becker, DAI).

Conserving the site and opening it up for sustainable tourism has been central to the work carried out by the German Archaeological institute at Göbekli Tepe. The activities range from cleaning and restoring the pillars and the stone-and-mud walls to the erection of protective shelters over the most important architectural features.

A Protective Roof for Göbekli Tepe

Since 2011, the Global Heritage Fund in cooperation with Brandenburg Technical University (BTU) [external link] in Cottbus and the DAI excavation team has been working on a comprehensive site management and conservation plan.  The experts aim to allow visitors to explore the unique site, while at the same protecting the archaeological remains. In 2013, a temporary protective shelter was erected over the principal excavation area. Since 2016 two protective roofs have been constructed, protecting the site against climatic conditions.  The building work was implemented within the framework of the EU funded project “Revitalisation of History in Şanlıurfa”.

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Protective roof at Göbekli Tepe (Photo: DAI).

Preserving a Neolithic Site

The construction works of the past years have been accompanied by meticulous analysis and the repair of the walls and monoliths. The archaeological features were left as far as possible in their original condition upon exposure. During the excavation phase, pillar re-erection has only taken place in exceptional circumstances. Only when toppled or leaning monoliths obstructed further excavation work and hence prevented further discoveries about a unique phase in human history were they moved.

Reopening to the Public

After being closed for construction works the past 18 months, the official reopening of Göbekli Tepe is scheduled in summer 2018. The touristic development of the impressive Neolithic site was expedited during the past years, too.

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Göbekli Tepe visitor center (Photo: Doğuş Group & MF Barranco).

Drawing inspiration from the circular layouts of the world’s first temples the Doğuş Visitor Centre [external link] was build. In a state-of-the-art animation centre the guests can find out more about the site using multi-media installations. The story of the possibly oldest cult structure of human history is projected on 200m-surfaces that allow visitors to circulate throughout the space and interact freely. Overall, we are looking forward to an exciting and eventful summer at Göbekli Tepe.

Visitors back at the ruins again.

According recent media reports [external link] the Şanlıurfa Haleplibahçe Museum and the municipality of Şanlıurfa, which are responsible for the archaeological site of Göbekli Tepe, have now enabled visitor access to the prehistoric ruins again.

For further information please refer to the Archaeological Museum in Şanlıurfa [external link].

Re-opening of Göbekli Tepe announced for July this year.

Since last June the archaeological site of Göbekli Tepe is closed to visitors due to the construction of two permanent shelters above the excavated areas at Göbekli Tepe’s south-eastern and north-western hollows (see here). Originally, completion of this work was scheduled for the end of last year, but construction work took longer than expected and the excavation still remains closed.

Meanwhile work made good progress and shelter construction is moving forward. In a recently published note, the Turkish General Directorate of Cultural Assets and Museums announced that the site will be closed until mid-July 2017 [external link].

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Shelter construction at Göbekli Tepe, work in progress. (Photo: H. Yildiz)

As reported in various Turkish media, Şanlıurfa Culture and Tourism Director Aydın Aslan stated that the site is meant be re-opened to public visitors this summer again (here quoted from arkeofili.com [external link], translated):

“As of July 15 2017, the shelter constructions will be completed and the site opened to visitors again. All work is carried out to balance preservation and further study of Göbekli Tepe. Our primary concern is its protection and Göbekli Tepe could be preserve best. The superstructure shelters cost about 600,000 Euros, funded by the Turkish State and the European Union. Concluding, we think it is important work for the preservation and accessibility of Göbekli Tepe minimising damage in the future.”

It is our pleasure having the chance to contribute to this work and help offering visitors the chance to return to Göbekli Tepe and experience the early Neolithic monuments again as soon as possible.

Update 02.08.2017: Unfortunately the shelters are still under construction as of yet and the site remains closed to public visitors for the moment. Hopefully all work will be finished and the site re-opened later that year in autumn.

Site closed to visitors until end of the year

Update: Completion of both canopies was slightly delayed and could not be achieved by the end of 2016 – the site remains closed to visitors as of yet; as soon as an official new opening date is announced, it will be made public here as well.

Long in planning, construction of two permanent shelters above the excavated areas at Göbekli Tepe’s south-eastern and north-western depressions are finally about to start as the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism was announcing [external link]. These roofs will not only significantly contribute to the protection of the archaeological substance, but also make accessibility for visitors easier, providing an increased experience of the early Neolithic architecture. For us archaeologists working on site it also opens up improved conditions to carefully excavate rather sensitive features independent of changing weather conditions.

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Design of the membrane canopy in so-called Main Excavation Area (Visualisation: kleyer.koblitz.letzel.freivogel).

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Underneath the membrane canopy above Enclosure D (Visualisation: kleyer.koblitz.letzel.freivogel).

As just announced, the site would be closed for visitors between June 13 and December 31 of this year (i.e. 2016). Şanlıurfa’s Haleplibahçe Museum [external link] however, will still be open welcoming visitors during this period. It houses a larger number of finds from Göbekli Tepe and other Pre-Pottery Neolithic sites of the region and even offers the chance to enter a 1:1 replica of Göbekli Tepe’s Enclosure D, the so far largest and best preserved of the monumental enclosure to characteristic for the site.

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An accessible 1:1 replica of Enclosure D can be visited in Urfa’s archaeological museum (Photo: J. Notroff).

Shelters were designed by EiSat GmbH, Berlin [external link] and kleyer.kobltz.letzel.freivogel Architekten [external link]. The contracting authority is the Turkish Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology. The project is financed by the European Union.

Further Reading
“Membran-Schutzdach für Göbekli Tepe, Türkei” [external link] – project description by EiSat GmbH for the first shelter.

“Schutzdach 2 für die Ausgrabungen am Göbekli Tepe, Türkei” [external link] – project description by EiSat GmbH for the second shelter.

L. Clare, O. Dietrich, J. Notroff, Die Arbeiten der Jahre 2014 (Herbst) und 2015 [external link], e-Forschungsberichte des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 3/2015, 149-151.

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