The modern story of Gobekli Tepe begins in 1994, when a Kurdish shepherd followed his flock over the lonely, infertile hillsides, passing a single mulberry tree, which the locals regarded as ‘sacred’. The bells hanging on his sheep tinkled in the stillness. Then he spotted something. Crouching down, he brushed away the dust, and exposed a large, oblong stone. The man looked left and right: there were similar stone outcrops, peeping from the sands.
Calling his dog to heel, the shepherd informed someone of his finds when he got back to the village. Maybe the stones were important. He was not wrong. The solitary Kurdish man, on that summer’s day in 1994, had made an irreversibly profound discovery – which would eventually lead to the penis pillars of Karahan Tepe, and an archaeological anomaly which challenges, time and again, everything we know of human prehistory.
And no, “penis pillars” is not a typo. But overlook all the jokes you can make – men’s obsessions were ever thus – and read the story. Readers of my site know I used to live in Turkey. I have not been back since my time there, but have often thought how great it would be to visit Istanbul again, now that I am no longer the messy, messed-up young woman I was and have grown into a messy, middle-aged woman. If I am so lucky as to return, I will add Gobekli Tepe to my itinerary.