Included on the UNESCO World Heritage List last year, Göbeklitepe sheds light on the unknown parts of the history of humanity with a cultural heritage of 12,000 years.
From the diaspora of humans out of Africa 70,000 years ago until 12,000 years ago, we have sketchy understanding of our ancestors' creations and their meanings. But something special happened in Göbeklitepe (whose literal translation is "Pot Belly Hill") that allowed humans to transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers.
UNESCO just added this site to its World Heritage List. Seeing Göbeklitepe is life changing, especially with the newly renovated facility which makes viewing the world’s oldest temples feasible even during the hot summer months of southeastern Turkey. The excavation at Göbeklitepe began 20 years ago after the local villager Şavak Yıldız found stone carvings while ploughing his land. Experts have concluded that this religious center is three times older than our prior estimates for other great civilizations, like the pharaohs of Egypt.
This prehistoric agricultural site also gives hints of humankind's early sustainable and healthy diet. Our eating habits have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years so the collection of wild grains like einkorn wheat as part of a sustainable agricultural system in Göbeklitepe was only a nudge forward biologically. Over time, we modified many of these crops to increase the ease and amount that could be harvested. However, not all of our bodies could cope with all rapid changes in our agricultural system, which might explain some of the food allergies and intolerance witnessed by many readers. For example, the einkorn wheat consumed in Göbeklitepe had different forms of the proteins in gluten, and this ancient wheat was processed and prepared differently, which impacted its nutritional density. Sprouting and fermenting grains increases key amino acids, reduces anti-nutrients (like phytic acid and lectins), and makes nutrients more accessible. Rediscovering some of these ancient crops at sites like Göbeklitepe is driving research into the impact of the changing food supply on our health and offering clues to improving the health of some sufferers, especially those with intestinal and allergic complaints.
I remain surprised by the relevance of Göbeklitepe to our modern lives. These people respected the need to live and work in harmony with shared values. The temples helped our ancestors organize their rituals around shared beliefs, but also reinforced the importance of social meetings to navigate the daily challenges and conflicts created by living in communities. Modern humans can honor the importance of talking about our problems with each other.