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Göbekli Tepe – Developing tourism & the Urfa region

Göbekli Tepe (Turkey) has become a major factor in the development of the Urfa region. This rising public interest is reflected in a growing stream of visitors on-site.

For this reason, it has become essential that a) adequate facilities are provided for the visiting public and b) sufficient measures are taken to ensure the protection and preservation of the ancient structures.

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In order to fulfill these objectives, plans have been made to cover large parts of the Göbekli Tepe over the last several years with protective shelters which will also feature so-called walking floors that will provide visitors with unprecedented (contact-free) access to the archaeological site. A Visitor Centre erected by the government in Winter 2012/13 is situated at the entrance to the archaeological area. Its doors are expected to open officially in Spring 2014. The visitors’ centre includes a cafeteria, several shops and rest rooms. A shuttle service will be installed to transfer visitors from the parking areas at the visitors’ centre to the excavation area which is about 800 metres away.

Canopy planned at the main excavation area at the southern slope of the artificial mound of Göbekli Tepe
Canopy planned at the main excavation area at the southern slope of the artificial mound of Göbekli Tepe

Due to the increasing prominence of Göbekli Tepe and the rising numbers of visitors in Şanlıurfa, not only have artistic monuments been created, but several 5* star hotels have opened in recent years. One of them is the Nevalı Hotel, which has its name from the excavations at Nevalı Çori, a site contemporaneous with Göbekli Tepe and belonging to its cultural sphere. The team working in the Nevalı Çori project (field work 1983-1991) was in fact the team that had originally started the work at Göbekli Tepe 1995.

Community Development

Since the beginning of the Göbekli Tepe projec, the local community has always been a key resource and have been very much involved. As in all previous spring and autumn fieldwork seasons, in 2013, some 40 workmen from the village of Örencik, located in the immediate neighbourhood of Göbekli Tepe, were employed at the excavation site. Similarly in 2013, four guards were employed for the entire year at the site. Three guards from Örencik village are at the site permanently and one guard from Urfa resides at the excavation house in the Camii Kebir Mahalle in the old town of Urfa, where the project find depots are located. During the working seasons, a driver and a cook, together with two women assisting him are employed in the excavation house. All are local people from Urfa.

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Excavations and activities at Göbekli Tepe in 2012 and 2013 focused primarily on preparations for construction work soon to begin on a permanent shelter for Enclosures A-D in the main excavation area and for a second similar shelter structure at Göbekli Tepe´s northwestern depression, where new excavation areas were opened in 2011. In the main area, in the southwest side, a preliminary wooden shelter was installed in 2013. This not only addresses the urgent need for the protection of the excavations and revealed architecture in this area, but it will also serve as a platform for the erection of a permanent membrane shelter, work on which is expected to start next year.

Parallel to the erection of the temporary shelter at the southern slope of the mound, seven deep soundings were made to test suitable locations for supporting struts of the planned second shelter on the north-western mound. Bedrock was reached in four of these soundings. Interestingly enough, in two of the soundings the bedrock appears to have been artificially worked.

Partially utilising and expanding natural faults, channels were worked into the bedrock which were then covered and protected by stone slabs. Large-scale excavations will be required to reveal the extent of these modifications and to show if and how these structures were connected to the cisterns located on the plateaus (comp. Herrmann and Schmidt 2012).

A positive effect of the soundings – which in some cases exceeded a depth of five metres – has offered unique insight with regards to the structure of the site. Several soundings produced significant quantities of charred botanical remains, thus providing sufficient organic material for the generation of an extended series of radiocarbon ages (comp. Dietrich et al. 2013).

The second shelter will cover Enclosure H and two other structures, so far untouched by excavation. Investigations of Enclosure H began in 2011 when one of the central pillars and four pillars of the surrounding ring were excavated. Meanwhile, it has become apparent that the central pillar was significantly disturbed in antiquity when it was dug out, toppled and broken. In the autumn season of 2013, we were also able to excavate part of the southern ring-wall of this enclosure.

Removal of Vegetation

The first activities of the workmen at the beginning of a new excavation season is the removal of vegetation, because every spring the site is covered with scrub and grass. This measure is important because it reduces the risk of fire when the plants are getting dry in late spring.

In 2010, the architectural committee of the DAI decided to erect the shelter at the site, which had been designed by the architects Koblitz-Kleyer and Freivogel from Berlin. As the necessary planning and building process was expected to take several years, it was also decided that a temporary shelter should also be installed, this too was designed by Koblitz-Kleyer and Freivogel. The temporary shelter comprises a wooden superstructure supporting a wooden roof covered with roofing felt.

The upper (external) surface of the roofing felt is reinforced by a layer of green sand and it is completely waterproof. Finally, a V-shape gutter (also waterproof using the same material) was installed to ensure sufficient drainage.  As the architectural structures exposed in the southern areas are extremely unstable and fragile it was decided that construction work should only be undertaken by the trained and experienced workmen from the excavation. These workmen not only know the site well but are also accustomed to moving around the prehistoric enclosures without causing damage. No one else was permitted to enter the excavation area during the construction.

Fire resistant paint will be applied to the wooden parts of the shelter in Spring 2014. The final membrane shelter will be a steel construction, the membrane itself will be fire resistant. After the erection of the permanent shelter the wooden temporary structure will be removed completely.

Contributing Source : Global Heritage Foundation

Header Image : Göbekli Tepe : WikiPedia

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
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