Barn­aby Roger­son vis­its the 10,000-year-old tem­ple site to find out what is new

Timeless Travels Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Gobekli-Tepe fits like a glove into a his­tor­i­cal tour of south­ern Turkey. It is just a half day's east­ward travel from the Zeugma mo­saic mu­seum at Gaziantepe and only half an hour away from Urfa (an­cient Edessa) which has now been em­bel­lished by a vast new mu­seum (the size of a shop­ping com­plex), built to house the re­cent ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies. In the hey­day of Klaus Sch­midt's work at Gobekli-Tepe, a stream of mag­a­zine ar­ti­cles, in­spired over 200,000 vis­i­tors to make the pil­grim­age to see th­ese early tem­ples. So the site in­creas­ingly needed pro­tec­tion not just from the el­e­ments, but also from the pas­sion­ate cu­rios­ity of for­eign trav­ellers.

With the early death of Klaus Sch­midt in 2014, the charis­matic Ger­man ar­chae­ol­o­gist and dis­cov­erer of Gobekli-Tepe, the dig­ging came to a halt. It was also a bad time for Turk­ish tourism with ter­ror­ist bomb­ings putting off all but the hardi­est vis­i­tors. But be­hind the scenes there was plenty of work to be done, con­sol­i­dat­ing the schol­ar­ship and the dis­cov­er­ies of ten years of ex­ca­va­tion. Con­trol of the site was given to the Turk­ish re­gional di­rec­tor of the Urfa mu­seum, who con­tin­ued to make use of Klaus’s team as­sem­bled from a highly pro­fes­sional net­work of Ger­man ar­chae­o­log­i­cal in­sti­tutes long in­volved in the dis­cov­ery of early Ne­olithic sites in south­ern Turkey.

Dr Lee Clare was also ap­pointed as the new Chair Co-or­di­na­tor of the site, as a cen­tral aca­demic fig­ure to li­aise with the dozens of in­ter­ested uni­ver­si­ties, be they in Den­mark, the USA, Ger­many and Turkey. For­tu­nately the char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion of a big Turk­ish cor­po­ra­tion, the Do­gus Group, also emerged as a cru­cial new mem­ber of the Gobekli-Tepe sup­port team. They rec­og­nized that the mu­seum col­lec­tion in Urfa had to re­main the in­tel­lec­tual cen­tre of the re­gion, but they were also de­ter­mined to cre­ate some­thing wor­thy of the world­wide im­por­tance of Gobekli-Tepe.

To this end the Do­gus Group has cre­ated a brand new vis­i­tor cen­tre just out of sight of the dig. An el­e­gant pair of low cir­cu­lar halls – partly con­structed from rammed earth re­cov­ered from the dig's spoil heaps, now greets the vis­i­tor. Here they park, can take some cof­fee and their ease. You can then ab­sorb the Ana­to­lian land­scape and in­for­ma­tion dis­play boards about the site (and a rather in­tense rave-like au­dio-vis­ual) be­fore be­ing bussed or take a 10-minute stroll on a new cob­bled track that leads to the bot­tom of Gobekli-Tepe hill. An im­pres­sive can­vas and steel dome now pro­tects the dig, but is clev­erly de­signed so that the sail-like pan­els on the low­est level still let in the light and wind. This walk­way al­lows vis­i­tors a birds-eye view of the enig­matic rit­ual stone cir­cles, with­out get­ting in the way of the con­tin­u­ing work of the ar­chae­ol­o­gists. On July 1st, Gobek­liTepe for­mally joined the UNESCO list of World Her­itage Sites and a Tepe Tele­gram web­site has been es­tab­lished to pro­vide an up-to-date news feed of re­cent dis­cov­er­ies from ac­cred­ited aca­demics.

The new dome that pro­tects the site

A re­con­struc­tion of the site at the new vis­i­tor's cen­tre

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