The task of sucessfully interpreting the iconography at Gobekli Tepe in totally new ways that make sense of the rapid and mysterious transition that small groups of hunter gatherers took, resulting in one of the first settled societies of  megalithic stone builders, is extraordinarily difficult to explain.


Although no domesticated animal remains or agriculturally sown wheat or barley has ever been discovered at Gobekli tepe, many archaeologists still advocate that large social groups of hunter gatherers built this enormous and complex monolithic site. One of the biggest problems this theory raises is the question of how the first nomadic peoples built such large and sophisticated stone structures without the security of an argicultural based system of food production.

The iconographic narrative carved onto the massive stone T-shaped stelae at Gobekli Tepe appear to illustrate a simple pre-agricultural existence based on the numerous wild animals  they hunted in the surrounding landscape and then transported back to their hill top village.


Archaeologists have gradually became more and more concerned that such small and loosely structured groups of previously nomadic people would not be physically capable of undertaking such large building works on the gigantic scale we see at Gobekli Tepe. The harvesting of wild wheat and barley  grains to supplement their dietry needs hardy seemed an adequate or practical way to sustain a healthy and well nurished community who needed to spend a large part of their day gathering food.


What was plainly evident is the huge number of birds and wild fowl clearly carved and displayed on many stelae inside the principle and most important round structures that dominate the site. Any evidential proof of the first domestication of birds and wild fowl by this neolitchic stone age culture would be an immensely  important  precurser to normal farming practices, which became firmly established at a much later date in the surrounding geographical area. 

Large square stone grain threshing platforms were carved and illustrated on the top section of stele 43, with three small round grain storage pits along the top edge. Surrounded on all sides by stacked sheaves of harvested wild wheat, the grain crops were threshed and put into dry circular underground storage pits for later consumption.

Further down the stele in the mid section a variety of wild fowl are illustrated in a  domesticated setting. To the right two large birds can be seen: a goose and another large beaked bird perched on a wooden log, and on the bottom panel a pigeon or dove. All these species could be easily tamed and domesticated with wheat and barley feed. 

A captive heron is displayed drying out it’s outstretched wings. A rope gag can be seen tied around it’s neck, preventing it swallowing it’s catch. This form of traditional fishing was  carried out in Macedonia on lake Dojran at a much later date, a reasonably short journey from Gobekli Tepe across the Dardenells.

Ducklings can be clearly identified securely penned inside a stone wall enclosure

Rows of ducks decorate one of the most important and iconic Stele inside this structure depicting a very tall man,  shown with his hands resting above his elaborately decorated belt buckle

A Flamingo pays a flying visit to the site from nearby Lake Cuz in South West Turkey, proving that the same ancient migration routes maybe still in existence today.

The extra food security of harvested wild grain crops and the additional  consumption of domesticated  birds and wild fowl would have helped the first hunter gatherers establish themselves securely on this site, and provided ample resources along with the proceeds of sucessful hunting trips to support a sophisticated society capable of erecting monolithic structures.


Further research into the middens surrounding the site where food waste bones and carcasses were dumped will ultimately tell whether this new theory has any merit, and go on to establish if enough quantities of domestic wild fowl were consumed to maintain large groups of people in a monolithic  pre-agricultural based society.

Short-format paper.

6 Comments »

  1. If man gave birth and 3. m.y.a with bipedalism birth became life threatening requiring intervention from other men with birthing knowledge. Then we could be looking at prehistoric man’s greatest achievement a Hospital where Medicine is practised in all its connected departments. However man does’nt give birth, I know some Women who can but that wont do, best bury this monument on Pot Belly Hill, we are not prepared to consider a Matriarchal Prehistory in the 21st century shame on us.

    • You make a very good point. Afaik there is only one iconograph depicting a woman in the whole site, but that in itself does not mean that woman did not exert considerable influence over the community.

  2. How was ecology changed in this region over the course of the last 11,000 years? I read that the sahara desert wasnt as barren and that before the last ice agre, much of north america and northern europe was under ice (twice the size of antarcticanow). If the only available agriculture is dependent on the environment (temperature, climate, ecology etc), what do we know about the society who lived there and what kind of agriculture would they have available/accessible?

    Thank you for the great article!

    • The wheel was considered to not be a part of the Mayan culture for many years due to lake of evidence. We can only go on what the pictures show us. I thought the prain storage looked like vw bugs lined up:) or a little train? The stork, I swear, was playing ball. Amusement park perhaps?

    • Yep, and when you see how barren it is now it’s hard to believe it was called the fertile crescent during this period. The big mystery is why they built it on top of a rocky hill, without some sort of fortification it had no stragic advantage. Very curious site with no obvious answers.

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