Upcoming: “Leaping Foxes, Dancing Cranes – Human-Animal Entanglement in a Hunter’s World”

November 24th 2016 Aarhus University [external link] will held a seminar on “Tracing Animism in Human Evolution: Inter-species Entanglements in pre-Modern Human Beliefs” as part of their “Material Culture Heritage” programme [external link].

“Animism is the belief that animals, plants, objects and other beings of nature are animated with ‘souls’. It is a cosmology in which nonhuman creatures and things are believed to have motivations, feelings and agency very similar to or identical with those of human beings. Thus, communications with and relations between the spirits, animals and humans are fundamentally social. Animism is closely associated with shamanistic practices and its inherent idea of shape-changing and of hybrid existences between animals, humans and things. Since the work of Tylor (1871) animism has often been conceptualized as the original form of religion in hunter-gatherer societies hence characterizing the outset of human history. There is in current research, however, a growing awareness of the changing nature of animism, which may take different forms in different societies and thus is not solely tied to a hunter-gatherer way of life. Based on case studies, experimental evidence and cross-cultural comparisons, the seminar papers explore whether there is a transcultural essence and multi-period presence of animism, whilst the perspectives taken represent archaeology as well as psychology and history of religion.”

Organised by by Armin W. Geertz (Study of Religion Research Program), Mathias Bjørnevad Jensen & Helle Vandkilde (Materials Culture & Heritage, Archaeology) the seminar will take place from 13:00 to 17:00 in AU Moesgård’s Foredragssalen (lecture hall). Represented by Jens Notroff, the Göbekli Tepe research project is glad having been invited to comment on the seminar’s topic from an early Neolithic perspective and present insight into latest research at this Pre-Pottery Neolithic site in southeastern Anatolia. Our contribution titled “Leaping Foxes, Dancing Cranes – Human-Animal Entanglement in a hunter’s world” will explore the changing self-perception of Neolithic hunters’ role and interaction within their environment.

Göbekli Tepe_Fig. 7

(Photo: DAI)


Antiquity Slam: “Stone Age After-Work-Parties”

Science lectures are a boring matter, right? Presenting research results is an as serious as dry thing, isn’t it? Or, wait – is it really? Inspired by the great success of the concept of Poetry Slams where poets read and recite their original creations, a couple of Science Slam events were initiated over the last years – prompting scientists to present their research to a wider audience in an -anything-but-boring way. Science communication 2.0, showing a broader audience how fascinating research actually can be and encouraging scientists to leave the ivory tower trying new ways of presenting research results.

Alas, often focussing on natural sciences, humanities and in particular archaeology and ancient studies seemed a bit underrepresented in past Science Slams, so the Berliner Antike Kolleg [external link] together with the Excellence Cluster TOPOI [external link] thought it was about time for something new – an Antiquity Slam [external link].


November 2nd 2016 six archaeologists, art historians, philosphers, and philologists are presenting current research questions and insights in short 10-minute-niblets right there at Berlin’s Neues Museum.

Topics cover a chronological range from first sedentary societies to Roman Emperors and the Renaissance. The Göbekli Tepe research project is glad to shed a light on the earlier leg of this time-frame with a contribution by Jens Notroff on “Stone Age after-work parties”. The event will be held in German.

“Building big. Incentives for cooperative action of hunter-gatherers at early Neolithic Göbekli Tepe”. EAA Annual Meeting 2016

Göbekli Tepe

A T-shaped pillar of approximately 7 m length left in the quarries on the western plateau (Photo: © DAI).


Between 31st August and 4th September, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologistzs will be held in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The Göbekli Tepe project will participate in this event with a paper by Oliver Dietrich on “Building big. Incentives for cooperative action of hunter-gatherers at early Neolithic Göbekli Tepe” in the frame of session TH3-09 Communities united: linking archaeological record and conceptual approaches on social cohesion, organized by Agnė Čivilytė and Laura Dietrich.

Here´s the abstract:

‘During the 10th and 9th millennia BC, at Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Anatolia monumental circular enclosures made up of up to 5.5m high pillars, decorated richly, mainly with animal motifs, were erected by hunter-gatherer communities. One of the important questions regarding this site concerns the way in which small-scale groups joined their forces for construction work, creating a place that clearly is strongly connected to their worldview.
20 years of excavation have revealed some clues. The distribution of elements of Göbekli´s iconography evidences a catchment area of about 200km around the site as the homeland of these groups. A close look at the massive amount of filling in Göbekli´s enclosures reveals that these are not dealing sterile sediments. The material used to intentionally backfill the buildings at the end of their use-lifes consists of limestone rubble from the quarries nearby, flint artefacts and immense amounts of animal bones smashed to get to the marrow, clearly the remains of meals. With traces of settlement absent, for Göbekli Tepe this readily leads to the idea of large, ritualized feasts as a mode to gather workforces and ensure cooperation. The present contribution will explore the likeliness and possible consequences of this scenario.’

See you there!

Friday, September 2nd, 2016, 9.15, Faculty of History, Room 331

Who built Göbekli Tepe?

Well, the short answer would be: Stone Age people with Stone Age tools. Nothing more needed, no aliens, no giants, as you can read here. For an answer to the question, who these Stone Age people were, where they came from and lived (Göbekli Tepe is not a settlement), we will have to make the finds speak.

 A point to start is the distribution of sites with similar architecture. Göbekli Tepe is not the only site with T-shaped pillars. Similar sites concentrate roughly between the Upper Balikh and the Upper Chabur rivers [read more here]. They clearly mark a region with similar cultural traits. However, the area the builders of Göbekli Tepe came from exceeds this region by far.

Gusir Höyük (Karul 2011, 2013) in the Turkish Tigris region has considerably widened the distribution area of circular enclosures. However, the pillars discovered there are slightly different, they miss the T-bar. Similar stelae have been discovered in Çayönu (Özdoğan 2011) and in Qermez Dere (Watkins et al. 1995). In addition to these two different architectonic regions, to the west, in northern Syria, a third distinct building style can be pointed out. Domestic sites like like Jerf el Ahmar, Mureybet or Tell ´Abr 3 (Stordeur et al. 2000; Yartah 2013) also have circular communal buildings. These are constructions with pisé walls and wooden supports however. Upper Mesopotamia can thus be differentiated by building traditions. But the common element is the existence of similarly arranged communal buildings, and, more important, of a range of common symbols.

Figure 2

Distribution of Göbekli Tepe´s iconography and of wild wheats (Map: T. Götzelt, Copyright DAI).

For example, shaft straighteners and plaquettes from Jerf el Ahmar (Stordeur & Abbès 2002) and Tell Qaramel (Mazurowski & Kanjou 2012), as well as Tell ´Abr 3 (Yartah 2013), and Körtik Tepe (Özkaya & Coşkun 2011) feature decorations in the form of snakes and scorpions, quadruped animals, insects, and birds strongly reminiscent of the iconography of Göbekli Tepe, where they appear not only on the pillars, but also on similar items.

Göbekli Tepe 2002

Plaquette with depiction of a snake, a human (?) and a bird (Photo Irmgard Wagner, Copyright DAI).

Most striking in this regard is a small plaquette from Göbekli Tepe. From the left to the right, it shows a snake moving upwards, a stylized human figure (?) with raised arms, and a bird. What makes this small find so interesting, is that the combination of depictions reappears not only in similar (e.g. in Jerf el Ahmar with a fox in place of the human-shape?), but also in completely and nearly identical form twice on another site, Tell Abr´3 in northern Syria (Köksal-Schmidt & Schmidt 2007; Yartah 2013, with images [external link]).

The same range of depictions of snakes, scorpions, quadrupeds, insects, and birds occurs on thin walled stone cups and bowls of the Hallan Çemi type (Rosenberg & Redding 2000). Fragments of this vessel type are known from Göbekli Tepe, Çayönü (Özdoğan 2011), Nevalı Çori, Jerf el Ahmar (Stordeur & Abbès 2002), Tell ´Abr 3 (Yartah 2013), and Tell Qaramel (Mazurowski & Kanjou 2012), while complete vessels have been discovered at Körtik Tepe in large numbers (Özkaya & Coşkun 2011) as part of rich grave inventories. Another connection is suggested by the zoomorphic scepters of the Nemrik type, which are present at Hallan Çemi, Nevalı Çori, Çayönü, Göbekli Tepe, Abu Hureyra, Mureybet, Jerf el Ahmar, and Dja´de (Kozłowski 2002).

We thus see a large area in Upper Mesopotamia connected by a similar iconography. While, as detailed above, several domestic sites show some aspects of this world, it concentrates at non-domestic Göbekli Tepe.

Göbekli Tepe

El-Khiam-, Helwan-, Nemrik- and Byblos-Points from Göbekli Tepe (Photo Irmgard Wagner, Copyright DAI).

The range of flint projectile points made on-site may further strengthen the impression of people from different areas gathering here (Schmidt 2001). PPN A types present at Göbekli Tepe include el-Khiam, Helwan and Aswad points; regarding the PPNB, Byblos and Nemrik points are very frequent, Nevalı Çori points are rare. Nemrik points have an eastern distribution pattern within the fertile crescent, el-Khiam and Byblos points are distributed to the west, within the Levant, Nevalı Çori points more to the north and the middle Euphrates area (Kozłowski 1999). It has to be stressed here that those points were not imported-the flint used is clearly local. At Göbekli Tepe, the whole reduction sequence is attested, although flint is not present at the limestone plateau, but had to be brought to the site from the surrounding valleys. Most of the primary production is based on naviform cores. Flint knapping took place in an abundance not known from contemporaneous sites. Maybe some characteristic of the place made it especially desirable to use points made there. Another possible point in favor of people from a larger area congregating at Göbekli Tepe is presented by raw material sourcing of the obsidian found onsite [read more here – external link].

So, to finally answer the question of who built Göbekli Tepe: Stone Age people coming from a radius of roughly 200km around the site. With Stone Age tools.


  • Karul, N. (2011). Gusir Höyük. In: Özdoğan, M., Başgelen, N. & Kuniholm, P. (eds), The Neolithic in Turkey 1. The Tigris Basin. Archaeology & Art Publications, Istanbul 1-17.
  • Karul, N. (2013). Gusir Höyük/Siirt. Yerleşik Avcılar. Arkeo Atlas 8, 22–29.
  • Kozłowski, S.K. (1999). The eastern wing of the Fertile Crescent. Late prehistory of Greater Mesopotamian lithic industries. Oxford: Archaeopress.
  • Kozłowski, S. K. (2002). Nemrik. An aceramic village in northern Irak. Warsaw: Institute of Archaeology Warsaw University.
  • Mazurowski, R.F., Kanjou, Y. (eds., 2012). Tell Qaramel 1999–2007. Protoneolithic and Early Pre-pottery Neolithic Settlement in Northern Syria. Warsaw: Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology.
  • Özdoğan, A. (2011). Çayönü. In: M. Özdoğan, N. Başgelen & P. Kuniholm (eds.), The Neolithic in Turkey 1. The Tigris Basin. Istanbul: Archaeology and Art Publications, 185-269.
  • Özkaya, V. & Coşkun, A. (2011). Körtik Tepe. In: M. Özdoğan, N. Başgelen & P. Kuniholm (eds.), The Neolithic in Turkey 1. The Tigris Basin. Istanbul: Archaeology and Art Publications, 89-127.
  • Rosenberg, M. & Redding, R.W. (2000). Hallan Çemi and early village organization in Eastern Anatolia, in Kuijt, I. (ed.), Life in neolithic faming communities. Social organization, identity and differenziation. New York et. al.: Kluwer Academic / Plenum Publishers, 39-61.
  • Schmidt, K. (2001). Göbekli Tepe, Southeastern Turkey. A Preliminary Report on the 1995-1999 Excavations. Paléorient 26/1, 45-54.
  • Stordeur D. & Abbès. F. (2002). Du PPNA au PPNB: mise en lumière d’une phase de transition à Jerf el Ahmar (Syrie). Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française, 99(3), 563-595.
  • Stordeur, D., Brenet, M., Der Aprahamian, G. & Roux, J.-C. (2000). Les bâtiments communautaires de Jerf el Ahmar et Mureybet horizon PPNA (Syrie). Paléorient 26, 1, 29-44.
  • Watkins, T., Betts, A., Dobney, K. & Nesbitt. M. (1995). Qermez Dere, Tel Afar, north Iraq: third interim report, in T. Watkins (ed.) Qermez Dere, Tel Afar, north Iraq: interim report no 3. Edinburgh: Department of Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, 1–9.
  • Yartah, T. (2013). Vie quotidienne, vie communautaire et symbolique à Tell´Abr 3 – Syrie du Nord. Données nouvelles et nouvelles réflexions sur L´horizon PPNA au nord du Levant 10000-9000 BP. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Lyon.

Further Reading (links to fulltexts)

  • Dietrich, O., Heun, M., Notroff, J., Schmidt, K. & Zarnkow, M. (2012). The Role of Cult and Feasting in the Emergence of Neolithic Communities. New Evidence from Göbekli Tepe, South-eastern Turkey. Antiquity 86, 674-695.
  • Köksal-Schmidt, Ç & Schmidt, K. (2007). Perlen, Steingefäße, Zeichentäfelchen. Handwerkliche Spezialisierung und steinzeitliches Symbolsystem. In: Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe (ed.), Vor 12000 Jahren in Anatolien. Die ältesten Monumente der Menschheit, Stuttgart, 97-109.
  • Schmidt, K. (2005). “Ritual Centres” and the Neolithisation of Upper Mesopotamia. Neo-Lithics 2/05, 13-21.

Upcoming: Trade Before Civilization Conference

Between May 27-29, 2016, a conference on “Trade before Civilization” will be held at the University of Gothenburg. Our Contribution will be on “Long Distance Exchange of Goods and Ideas and Early Social Complexity in the Early Neolithic of the Near East.” [Conference Program – external link]

Conference description (from Conference Website – external link)

The role that long distance exchange may have played in the advent of social complexity has been an important topic of debate among scholars. While many efforts have shed valuable light on the genesis of social complexity, many models put forth seek to understand the topic at hand through the narrow lenses of their respective disciplines. Moreover, many studies limit their investigations to a constricted geographical analysis. That is to say that with relatively few exceptions, many investigations fail to incorporate interdisciplinary perspectives and do not extend their analysis to encompass broad regions. The lack of interdisciplinary perspective and relatively narrow geographical focus characterizing many recent studies limits the explanatory scope and potential of these scholarly activities. The Trade Before Civilizationconference explores, from an interdisciplinary perspective, the role that long distance trade may have played in the establishment and/or maintenance of social complexity in transegalitarian and chiefdom level societies. This conference brings together scholars of diverse nationalities, disciplines and theoretical perspectives which is conducive to the cross-fertilization of ideas. Symposium participants include a cadre of world renowned archaeologists, social and cultural anthropologists, ethnohistorians, and historical sociologists. In order to expand the multidisciplinary breadth, global scope, and theoretical perspectives deemed essential to a more comprehensive treatment of the topic under consideration, research papers on European, Asian, African, Oceanian, North American, and South American sites/case studies are included in this conference.

10th ICAANE, Vienna

The 10th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (ICAANE – external link) will be held between 25‒29 April, 2016, in Vienna. The Göbekli Tepe research team will take part in the workshop “Iconography and Symbolic Meaning of the Human
in Near Eastern Prehistory” organized by Jörg Becker, Claudia Beuger and Bernd Müller-Neuhof with a paper on “Anthropomorphic Iconography at Göbekli Tepe”.

We are scheduled for April 28, 10.00 o´clock.

Anthropomorphic Iconography at Göbekli Tepe

Oliver Dietrich, Lee Clare, Jens Notroff


Fragmented anthropomophic sculpture, found in 2014 (Image: DAI, Photo N. Becker).

The early Aceramic Neolithic site of Göbekli Tepe in Upper Mesopotamia stands out as one of the extraordinary sites from the early Holocene. Dating to a time of early sedentary communities and coinciding with the very beginnings of processes that culminate in the domestication of plants and animals, the Göbekli Tepe site is well known for its impressive megalithic architecture. This takes the form of large circular monumental enclosures, also comprising impressive T-shaped pillars. These pillars carry characteristic
anthropomorphic features in low-relief, such as hands, arms, and items of clothing. In addition to these larger-than-life monolithic figures, the site has also produced various other forms of anthropomorphic representations. These include depictions of humans carved onto the surfaces of the T-pillars themselves, limestone sculptures and figurines, and engravings on stone plaquettes.
In this paper, we focus on different expressions of anthropomorphic depiction at the site, and propose that the observable variety could correlate with diverging levels of symbolic meaning, providing unparalleled insights into human worldview at this important transition in human history.

Hope to see you there!