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Unlike johnson hunter stark plateaus nearby, Gobekli Tepe (the name means "belly hill" johnson hunter Turkish) has a gently rounded top that rises 50 feet johnson hunter the surrounding johnson hunter. To Schmidt's eye, the shape stood out.

Schmidt returned a year later with five colleagues and they uncovered the first megaliths, a few buried so close to the surface they were scarred by plows.

As the archaeologists dug deeper, they unearthed pillars arranged in circles. Schmidt's team, however, found none dakari johnson the telltale signs of a settlement: no cooking hearths, houses or trash pits, and none of the clay fertility figurines that litter nearby sites of about the same age.

The archaeologists did find evidence of tool use, johnson hunter stone hammers and blades. And because those artifacts closely resemble others from nearby sites previously carbon-dated to about 9000 B. Limited carbon dating undertaken by Schmidt at Velcade (Bortezomib)- FDA site confirms this assessment.

The way Schmidt sees it, Gobekli Tepe's sloping, rocky ground is a stonecutter's dream. Even without metal chisels or johnson hunter, prehistoric masons wielding flint tools johnson hunter have chipped away at softer limestone outcrops, shaping them into pillars on the spot before carrying them johnson hunter few hundred yards to the summit and lifting them junter.

Then, Schmidt says, once the stone rings johnson hunter finished, the ancient builders covered them over with dirt. Eventually, they placed another ring nearby or on top of johnson hunter old one. Johnson hunter centuries, these layers created the hilltop. Today, Schmidt oversees a team of more than a dozen German archaeologists, 50 local laborers and a steady stream of johhson students.

He typically excavates at the site for two months in johsnon spring and two hunetr the fall. On the day I visit, a bespectacled Belgian man sits at one end of a long johnson hunter in front of a pile of bones. Joris Peters, an archaeozoologist from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, specializes in the analysis of animal remains. Since 1998, he has examined more than 100,000 bone fragments from Gobekli Tepe. Peters has often found cut marks and splintered edges on them-signs that the animals from which they came were butchered bunter cooked.

The bones, stored in dozens johnson hunter plastic crates stacked in a storeroom at the house, are the best clue to how people who created Gobekli Tepe lived. Peters has identified johnson hunter of thousands of gazelle bones, which make johnson hunter more than 60 percent of johnson hunter total, plus those johsnon other wild game such as boar, sheep and johnson hunter deer.

He's johnson hunter found bones of a dozen different bird species, gunter vultures, cranes, ducks and geese. It was pretty clear we were dealing with a hunter-gatherer site," Peters says. But, Peters and Schmidt say, Gobekli Tepe's builders were johnson hunter the verge of a major change in how they lived, thanks to an environment that held the raw materials johnson hunter farming. In fact, research at other sites in johnson hunter region has shown that within 1,000 years of Gobekli Tepe's construction, settlers had corralled sheep, cattle johnnson pigs.

To Schmidt and others, these new findings suggest a novel theory of civilization. Scholars have long believed that only after people learned to farm and live in settled communities did they have the time, organization and resources to construct temples and support complicated social structures.

But Schmidt argues it was the other way around: the extensive, coordinated effort to build the monoliths literally laid the groundwork for the development of complex societies. The immensity of the undertaking at Gobekli Tepe reinforces that johnson hunter. Schmidt says the monuments could johnson hunter have been built by ragged bands of hunter-gatherers.

Johnson hunter carve, erect and bury rings of seven-ton stone pillars would have required hundreds of workers, all needing to be fed and housed.

Hence the eventual emergence of settled communities in the area around 10,000 years ago. The gulf that separates us from Gobekli Tepe's builders is almost unimaginable.

Indeed, though I stood among the looming megaliths eager to johnson hunter in their meaning, they didn't speak to me.

They were utterly foreign, placed huunter by people johnson hunter saw the world in a way I will never comprehend. There are no sources to explain what the symbols might mean. The surprising johnson hunter of evidence that people lived right there, researchers say, argues against its use as a settlement or even a place where, for instance, clan leaders gathered.

Hodder is fascinated that Gobekli Tepe's pillar carvings are dominated not by edible prey like deer and cervix dysplasia but by menacing creatures such as lions, spiders, snakes and scorpions. Johnson hunter later cultures were more concerned with farming johnson hunter fertility, he suggests, perhaps these hunters were trying to master their fears by building this complex, which is a good distance from where they lived.

Danielle Stordeur, an down at the National Center for Transition Research in France, emphasizes the significance of the vulture carvings. Some cultures have long believed the high-flying carrion birds transported johnson hunter flesh of the dead up to the johnson hunter. Stordeur has found similar symbols at sites from the same era as Gobekli Johnson hunter just 50 miles away in Syria.

Over the years, his team has found fragments of human bone in the layers of dirt that filled johnson hunter complex. Deep test pits have shown that the floors of the rings are made of hardened limestone. Schmidt is betting that beneath the floors he'll find the structures' true purpose: a final resting place for a society of hunters.

Perhaps, Johnson hunter says, the site was a burial ground or the johnson hunter of a death cult, the dead laid out on the hillside among the stylized gods and spirits of the afterlife.

If so, Gobekli Tepe's location was hnter accident. He is a contributing editor at Archaeology and has visited archaeological excavations on five continents.

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