I have now completed five days of investigation and exploration at the extraordinary 12,000-year old megalithic site of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey. Yesterday and today I Interviewed Professor Klaus Schmidt the discoverer of the site, a remarkably modest, hard-working, kindly man who clearly has enormous passion for his subject. He told me that his site surveys, including ground-penetrating radar have indicated that the areas excavated so far represent only a small fraction of the total. To be specific, four enclosures with circles of upright T-shaped megaliths have so far been exposed and are familiar to the public from photographs widely available on the internet. However according to Professor Schmidt at least a further twenty enclosures of similar size, and possibly as many as fifty, still remain underground. What secrets about the lost past of humanity will the excavation of those enclosures reveal?
Photograph (by Santha Faiia) shows me interviewing Professor Schmidt in front of a new excavation to the north-west of the main site. In the background behind us is the top section of a massive largely-buried pillar with the figure of a lion carved in high-relief. Stratigraphic and radio-carbon dating of associated organic materials has not yet been completed in this area of excavations but from the size and style of the pillar Professor Schmidt is of the opinion that it may be as old as the oldest pillars so far excavated at Gobekli Tepi. This would date it to 11,600 years ago or earlier. Professor Schmidt believes that pillars still to be excavated may prove to date back as far as 14,000 years ago.