Erected around 9,000 BC, 6,000 years before Stonehenge, before even the invention of agriculture, this series of stone circles on a hill 15 km (9 miles) northeast of the town of Urfa have been popularly declared the "World's Oldest Temple." The stones' purpose has been subject to wide interpretation: Some believe this was a burial site; others, a place of ritual initiation, or that each circle belonged to a different tribe that gathered here for ritual and trade. What is clear, though, is that no one lived here, and that it would have taken hundreds of people to transport and erect the pillars. The site is formed by a series of circles and ovals formed by large T-shaped pillars of equal height, usually with two larger pillars inside. The pillars are thought to have held a roof. Many of the outer surfaces are carved, some are anthropomorphic, others depict the savage nightmares of a hunter-gatherer's life, such as snakes, foxes, vultures, scorpions, and wild boar. Most curiously of all,
the structures were deliberately buried when the site was abandoned. Four structures have been exposed since excavations began in 1995, and another 16 have been identified by geophysicists; excavations continue in spring and fall. The circles themselves are off-limits and enclosed by low fences, but visitors are welcome to follow pathways from which all are clearly visible. Take the old highway the D400 east from Şanlıurfa and look for the marked turning on the left just as you leave the built up area. This road continues about 15km (10 miles), crossing over the new highway. Shortly after this is a turn, left for the last few miles up the hill to the site. While the site is open year-round, many of the pillars are covered in winter for protection from the elements.
15 km (9 mi.) northeast of Urfa, Turkey