Introducing: Enclosure H – Welcoming a new member to the Göbekli Tepe-family.

The most notable feature of Göbekli Tepe are, of course, the monumental circular enclosures formed of T-shaped pillars dating back to the 10th millennium BC. The first of these structures were discovered early druring excavations from 1995 onwards in the mound’s southwestern depression which meanwhile became known as ‘main excavation area’. To clarify if this peculiar type of architecture was limited to this part of the site and discovered by pure chance, geophysical surveys were undertaken – indeed demonstrating that similar features could be found in other parts of the mound as well. Renewed excavations in particular in the northwestern depression (Fig. 1) started in 2011 produced a number of interesting related features of which one, Enclosure H, should be in the focus of this short report.


Fig. 1: Aerial of Göbekli Tepe and the excavation areas. (Photo: E. Kücük, DAI)

Georadar results already indicated a large, cloverleaf-shaped agglomeration of what seemed to be one or even more circular enclosures (Fig. 2). Excavations started in that area in 2011 soon revealed first T-pillars, confirming the existence of more monuments in this section of the tall as well. The structure which later would have been labelled ‘Enclosure H’ (in order of their discovery) could have been indeed located on the geophysical plan already as circular feature in the western part of the examined area (K10-24 and -25 as well as (partly) K10-35 and -35).

Enclosure H_geo

Fig. 2: Geomagnetic survey results in the NW depression, excavation areas superimposed. (Geomagnetics: GGH- Solutions in Geoscience, Plan: J. Notroff, DAI)

Enclosure H

Fig. 3: Aerial of Enclosure H at current state of excavations, including pillar numbers. (Photos: N. Becker, compilation: J. Notroff, DAI)

Although excavations are not completed yet, it can already be noted that it follows the general scheme and layout of the other known PPN A enclosures at Göbekli Tepe. In the course of following excavations eight pillars were discovered and excavated to this date (Fig. 3).


Fig. 4: Pillar 51, the eastern (and so far only discovered) central pillar of Enclosure H. (Photo: N. Becker, DAI)

The eastern central pillar of Enclosure H, Pillar 51 (Fig. 4), was found close to the surface. While still in situ, the massive pillar was toppled over, its head heavily damaged (all fragments could be found and documented in immediate vicinity, however). The front side shows the characteristic stola-like depcition, the western broad side features the relief of a big cat which somehow resembles those animals known from the younger (Layer II) rectangular ‘lion pillars building’ in the main excavation area.

Pillars 54 and 55 in the enclosure’s northern respectively southern wall are partly excavated, also showing the ‘stola’-relief. The latter’s head being damaged as well (most likely due to frost weathering).


Fig. 5: The extensively decorated Pillar 56. (Photo: N. Becker, DAI)

Pillar 56 (Fig. 5) is particularly notworthy due to its extensively decorated southwestern broadside – more than 55 animals are depicted so closely packed, that the outline of one merges with the contour of the next image. On the narrow front side a bucranium framed by two snaked can be seen. The northeastern broad side shows two very low lines which might indicate further reliefs here, but need to be clarified in the course of future excavations.


Fig. 6: Pillar 57 in the southern wall of Enclosure H (Photo: N. Becker, DAI)

Pillar 57 (Fig. 6) is situated in the southern wall of Enclosure H. Its head is, probably due to frost weathering again, damaged. The front side shows the reliefs of two snakes (whose bodies seem to wind around the pillar) are facing each other and a round object. Underneath another carving can be seen; hardly identifiable it could be another snake’s head.

Of Pillar 64 there is only the basis left in situ, while another limestone fragment from its head was found nearby.


Fig. 7: Pillar 66 with the depcition of an apparently dying or dead horned animal. (Photo: N. Becker, DAI)

Pillar 66 (Fig. 7) is situated to the west of P54 in the northern part of the enclosure wall, but deviates from the expected radial orientation since it stands almost parallel to the wall. This unusual position may have to do with a possible secondary use of the pillar here; something which was also already brought up for Enclosures B and C in the main excvation area. The pillar’s head depicts a large horned animal (maybe an aurochs or stag) with bent legs and hanging out tongue, maybe indicating the death of this animal.


Fig. 8: Pillar 69 with the relief of a jumping cat of prey. (Photo: N. Becker, DAI)

Pillar 69 (Fig. 8) in the northeastern enclosure wall shares the unusual orientation with P66, also standing parallel to the wall. Not completely excavated yet, it shows the relief of a jumping cat of prey on the shaft; the pillar’s head is smashed.

The enclosure wall, which was unearthed in the southern and eastern as well, to some degree, documented in the northern parts, already can give an idea of the dimension of Enclosure H which probably was more of elliptic rather than circular shape and probably had an inner diameter of about 10 m. After a not yet determined period of use, the enclosure was finally backfilled and buried much like this could have been observed with the main excavation area’s enclosures already. However, the excavated southern section of Enclosure H shows very clear that there must have been at least one additional later intervention after this backfilling took place. The alltogether rather ‘chaotic’ discovery situation of the southern enclosure wall, with broken stone benches and pillar fragments obviously not in their original position anymore, gives witness of this intrusion which can be also seen quite clearly in the northern profile of this excavation trench (Fig. 9).

Enclosure H_N-profile

Fig. 9: The northern profile of excavation area K10-24, the later pit dug into the already backfilled enclosure is clearly visible to the left. (Photo: N. Becker, DAI)

Interestingly, this somehow mirrors a similar situation already met in Enclosure C, where also a later dug pit which only purpose seems to have been locating and breaking the enclosure’s central pillars (whose smashed pieces could be retrieved nearby), for reasons still remaining in the dark as of yet. Another noteworthy feature (which again reminds of the general situation of Enclosure C) is the discovery of some steps apparently forming a stairway in the intersection of two walls in Enclosure H’s southern boundaries. If this really could be interpreted as some kind of entrance situation into the enclosure has to remain topic of future investigations here.

Further reading:

O. Dietrich, J. Notroff, L. Clare, Ch. Hübner, Ç. Köksal-Schmidt, K. Schmidt, Göbekli Tepe, Anlage H. Ein Vorbericht beim Ausgrabungsstand von 2014, in: Ü. Yalcin (ed.) Anatolian Metal VII – Anatolien und seine Nachbarn vor 10.000 Jahren / Anatolia and Neighbours 10.000 years ago. Der Anschnitt, Beiheft 31, Bochum 2016, 53-69.

A Brief Report on Fieldwork at Göbekli Tepe in 2016

In 2016 construction work commenced on two permanent shelters at Göbekli Tepe. These structures will provide additional protection from the elements (wind, sun and rain) to archaeological features in excavation areas in the south-eastern and north-western parts of the site. Fieldwork in spring and autumn of this year concentrated on the documentation of prehistoric architecture in areas affected by building activities. Additional time was spent in the site find-depots, including sorting and inventory work of stored archaeological materials. These measures were essential in preparation for pending analyses and studies taking place in the frame of the recently initiated research phase.

In the course of our excavations at one of the positions assigned to shelter support constructions in the so-called main excavation area in the south-eastern hollow, work was concentrated on the previously unexcavated part of a rectangular stone structure (‘Room 38’ in trench L9-56) of the type commonly assigned to Layer 2 (attributed to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period).


Plan of the western parts of the ‘southeast hollow’ (main excavation area). The location of ‘Room 38’ in trench L9-56 is marked with a black frame.

In the northwest quarter of the room fill deposits were left untouched in order to provide additional support for the T-pillar (PXIII) located (still in-situ) at a central position at the western end of the room. The base of this T-pillar was found to be embedded in a raised platform at the western end of the building. In the northeast corner of the room a stone feature was revealed. This feature is comprised of three low (c. 50 cm high) walls (to the north, east and west). Two of the walls (to the north and east) are constructed of limestone blocks and were built up against the main walls of the room. The southern wall of the feature is made of a large worked limestone slab, perhaps a fragment of a T-pillar or similar object. The feature is open to the west. A lack of evidence for burning would speak against its function as an oven. Excavations within the building yielded numerous finds, including chipped stone and animal bone remains. A large stone vessel was found in-situ on the floor of the building.

Field Report: Autumn 2015

Like in recent seasons, this year’s field work was as well particularly focussing on the preparations regarding upcoming construction work of two permanent shelters upon the excavation areas at Göbekli Tepe. One is to be constructed in the so-called main excavation area in the mound’s south-eastern depression with monumental enclosures A-D, the other will cover excavation areas in the north-western depression. Already since 2011 excavations were conducted in the latter, leading – among others – to the discovery of  another early Neolithic circular enclosure (‘Enclosure H’, Fig. 1) with monumental T-pillars and another still not quite clearly addressable semi-circular structure with smaller and more narrow orthostat-like slabs.

Abb. 1_GT13_K1024_1498-Nico Becker

Fig. 1: Southern part of Enclosure H in the northwestern depression of Göbekli Tepe (Photo: DAI, Nico Becker).

After finishing all necessary sondages for the main excavation area’s shelter construction in 2013, all of the corresponding deep-soundings for shelter-struts in the north-western areas could have been excavated to the bedrock in spring 2015 (Fig. 2). Next to their important function in the construction of a permanent protection of the unique architecture unearthed at Göbekli Tepe, these sundaes furthermore were contributing new scientific insight. In one of these soundings in areas K10-13 and K10-23 a number of several curvilinear walls and several terrazzo floors were discovered already in the autumn of 2014. Even if, due to the limited character of these sondages, it is still difficult to evaluate the complete extent of these features, it becomes clear that this is a larger, hitherto unknown complex which needs to be topic of future research to be comprehended completely.

GT Westflächen Steinpläne 2015-05-08 A3 Übersicht (1) Kopie

Fig. 2: Excavation areas in the so-called north-western depression of Göbekli Tepe (Photos & Plan: DAI, Nico Becker).

This does also apply to another structure cut into the bedrock in area K10-55 which could have been excavated further as well in the course of this work. With a diameter of about 10 m and a depth of 2.8 m its function is still not completely clear as of yet, but again it is the backfill of this pit which is noteworthy: unlike the material dumped into the other known enclosure at Göbekli Tepe, basically consisting of fist-sized limestone rubble, animal bones, and flint artefacts, here large worked limestone objects and fragments of those (like T-pillars and so-called porthole stones) were stacked inside. The current state of excavation suggest a possible use as cistern to collect rain water maybe. Comparable yet much smaller pits were found on the adjacent rock plateaus as well and some rock-cut channels in the area support this interpretation. Again, further research will be necessary  for a concluding evaluation.

In K10-05 excavation were concluded as well, reaching the natural bedrock 5 m below the contemporary surface where another channel with a depth of 50 cm could have been documented.

Among those finds produced in the course of the work period reported here, two limestone sculptures should be emphasised: there is one carefully and detailed worked sculpture of a predator (Fig. 3) coming from K10-88 which belongs to the already well-represented type of teeth-baring mammals (in this case a leopard most likely). The second object comes from K10-13/23 and is best described as anthropomorphic sculpture (Fig. 4). Initially found to be lacking the head, this could have been recovered in the course of excavations as well and was successfully matched. This find mirrors a number of similar stone heads with breaking edges in the neck area which are often found in the backfilling of Göbekli Tepe’s monumental enclosures, deposited next to T-pillars.

Abb. 2--GT14_1783_3807

Fig. 3: Sculpture of a snarling predator, limestone (Photo: DAI, Nico Becker).

Abb. 3--GT14_1785-1786_5979

Fig. 4: Anthropomorphic sculpture; torso and head, limestone (Photo: DAI, Nico Becker).

Furthermore, about 100 samples for 14C-dating could have been collected and analysed due to financial support by the John Templeton Foundation in the frame of the “Our Place: Our Place in the World” sub-project. These data will finally allow a deeper understanding of the chronological relation of Göbekli Tepe’s monumental enclosures. The renewed discussion of the site’s complex stratigraphy therefore remained a main research focus of this field season and beyond.

Further reading:
Becker, N., Dietrich, O., Götzelt, Th., Köksal-Schmidt, C., Notroff, J., Schmidt, K. 2012. Materialien zur Deutung der zentralen Pfeilerpaare des Göbekli Tepe und weiterer Orte des obermesopotamischen Frühneolithikums, Zeitschrift für Orient-Archäologie 5: 14-43.

Clare, L., Dietrich, O., Notroff, J. 2015. Göbekli Tepe, Türkei. Die Arbeiten der Jahre 2014 (Herbst) und 2015, e-Forschungsberichte des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts: 149-151 [read online – external link].