Two foxes and a bucranium: the first in situ porthole stone from Göbekli Tepe


Deep sounding to the north of Enclosure B, the arrow marks the position of the porthole stone. (Photo: N. Becker, DAI).

Starting from 2011, work at Göbekli Tepe has focused on the excavation of several deep soundings, meant to contain the struts holding a membrane shelter structure to ensure a durable protection of the site. The soundings, some more than five meters deep, have offered us unparalleled insights into the stratigraphy of the site. The evaluation of this evidence is going on at the moment and will lead to a site formation model soon. But, besides that, many of the soundings, although limited in horizontal extension, have also produced remarkable finds. Among them is the porthole stone presented here.


Schematic plan of Enclosure B with indicated position of the porthole stone in the northern wall. (Plan: K. Schmidt & J. Notroff, DAI)


Porthole stone found in situ in a wall in a deep sounding to the north of Enclosure B (Photo: N. Becker, DAI).

It was discovered in 2011 in a deep sounding excavated to the north of Enclosure B. Apart from revealing a so far unknown part of this enclosure and two more of its pillars, immediately on the bedrock several walls outside of the enclosure were discovered. In one of them, a decorated porthole stone stood in situ. The subrectangular hole in the middle of the stone is flanked by two antithetic foxes, apparently portrayed in the moment of jumping (at each other, at the entrance, the visitor?). Above the hole, a bucranium was placed. Unfortunately, the sounding could not be enlarged to explore the room enclosed by the wall. It thus remains unclear, whether the porthole stone really marks the entrance to the building, or the animals were ‘guarding’ a niche with important contents within a room.


5 thoughts on “Two foxes and a bucranium: the first in situ porthole stone from Göbekli Tepe

  1. I doubt that the composition over the rectangle was a decoration. It was significant because it was a message in sign language. It speaks to the ancient water cycle based cosmology. This cosmology was far older than Gobekli Tepe, at least by 40,000 years. The “porthole” was probably a outlet from either an ancient spring, when the climate was more temperate than at present, or a channeling of rain water runoff to reinforce the cosmology.

    The signs are somewhat eroded but parts of the message can be translated. The generalized message states that this, the “porthole” is an opening to a hidden or unseen-place. and the great one, Venus, climbs up on the eastern and western sides of the earth. This was considered a wonder or a” miracle.” The appearance of Venus, from within the Cave or Womb of the Female-earth is at a holding-place on the surface of the earth (areas of collected water).


    • Nothing at Göbekli Tepe is just ‘decoration’ in the sense of meaningless decor. It is hard to always stick to more neutral terms like imagery, and at least in Prehistoric Archaeology terms like decoration or ‘art’ are generally used without implying any further meaning.
      I find it hard to see a connection between the two foxes and venus though.
      There are no artesian phenomena at Göbekli Tepe. Rain water was collected in cisterns on the limestone plateaus adjacent to the site, but no porthole stones were ever found in such contexts. None of the known porthole stones shows any signs for water running through the openings.

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  2. The actual size of the ‘porthole’ is only indicated by the measuring stick, which I take to be marked off in ten cm bands. That would suggest a 40-50 cm wide hole. Correct?


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