Turkey unearths contender for world’s oldest temple

Turkish archaeologists have unearthed an ancient site in the southern province of Mardin that is likely older than Göbeklitepe, recognised as the oldest temple in the world, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported

İbrahim Özcoşar, the rector of Mardin Artuklu University, told Anadolu Agency that the discoveries at Boncuklu Tarla (Beaded Field) in Mardin were similar to those unearthed in Göbeklitepe, located in Turkey's southeastern Şanlıurfa province 300 km west of the excavation site in Mardin.

The excavation work began in 2012 in the area, which is known to have been home over its history to Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Hittites, Assyrians, Romans, Seljuks, and Ottomans, among others. 

Ergül Kodaş, an archaeologist at Artuklu University and advisor to the dig, said that the history of Boncuklu Tarla was estimated to stretch back to around 12,000-years ago.

“Several special structures which we can call temples and special buildings were unearthed in the settlement, in addition to many houses and dwellings,” Kodaş said.

“This is a new key point to inform us on many topics such as how the [people] in northern Mesopotamia and the upper Tigris began to settle, how the transition from hunter-gatherer life to food production happened and how cultural and religious structures changed,” he said.

Göbeklitepe was discovered in 1963 and excavations began in 1995. The ancient site is made up of a series of circular and oval-shaped structures with stone-age installations that are believed to have mainly been used for religious and ritual purposes. 

Gobeklitepe was declared an official UNESCO World Heritage Site last year.