Archaeologists have been exploring an intriguing ancient site in southeastern Turkey since the mid-1990s. The dig has yielded an extraordinary set of stone megaliths set into holes hacked out of the rock bed. Moreover, these limestone columns, some of them 20 feet high and weighing 20 tons, were created 11,000 years ago. That pre-dates Stonehenge by a good 6,000 years.
The site is called Göbekli Tepe, which is Turkish for “Potbelly Hill.” It was first discovered in 1963 by a team from the University of Chicago and Istanbul University. However, they believed it to just be a medieval burial ground that was unworthy of any further attention. Nonetheless, a German archaeologist, Klaus Schmidt, had other ideas.
Schmidt, who first visited the site in 1994, saw something that other researchers had failed to spot. He was sure that this was no medieval site. “It was clear right away this was a gigantic Stone Age site,” Schmidt recalled in an interview with Smithsonian. Indeed, the carved limestone rocks were not tombstones, but something much more exciting. So, he started excavating in 1995 and subsequently unearthed some extraordinary stone columns.