12,000 BP

Within the accuracy limits of carbon dating, 12,000 BP is when the first enclosure was built at Gobeckli Tepi. With no previous evidence having been found of humans constructing in quarried stone, the enclosures are not just built of monolithic blocks, but these blocks are carved. And this is not just carving inscribed into the quarried surface of the stone, it is relief carvings made by removing all the stone from the sides of the blocks except those parts the designers wished to leave to depict the animals and symbols. This is advanced stone quarrying and carving.

The dating of Gobekli Tepe can only be approximate, from datable material in the in-fill of the constructions, but that dates when they were filled in, not when they were created. What can be said with with a fair degree of certainty is that construction started either during the younger dryas period or shortly after it ended.

The key mystery of Gobekli Tepe is how construction was organised. For such megalithic constructions considerable labour is required. For this two conditions have to be met:
- The people must have been able to feed themselves reasonably well without having to spend every available hour hunting for food.
- Some powerful and persuasive people must have gained the agreement of the population and led the construction.

Linked with these mysteries is the mystery of why a series of similar constructions were built, and then filled in. This rather suggests that a key reason for their construction was the need to be continuously constructing one of the enclosures. No doubt they had a purpose and a use, but there must have been a reason accepted by the population why a serviceable enclosure, that they had put the effort into building, should be abandoned and in-filled and more effort be demanded from them to create another.

We must also not forget the two other things happening at this time, the younger dryas period and the start of agriculture and farming. These are of course linked. During the cold younger dryas period hunting and gathering will have been much harder. Plant growth will have been slower and hence the number of animals it could support will have been less than before this period. Farming is a more intensive way of producing food. Cultivation of certain plants might have been a response to the colder climate. Or it might have started when the climate warmed at the end of the younger dryas period.

An important question to ask is which came first, successful agriculture or the building of the first enclosure at Gobekli Tepe. Did secure food supplies free-up the time and effort, and create the desire to construct a megalithic enclosure, or was construction of the first enclosure in some way linked to the development of effective farming - by people who previously were hunter-gatherers.

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