Gobekli Tepe was discovered in 1995, and excavations have been going on ever since at the site in southern Turkey. The site consists of dozens of t-shaped dolmens covered with carvings of animals, some known and some unknown. The site has been positively dated to the 10th to 8th millennium BC, making it the oldest known structure in the world. Remains found on the site indicate that people came to it from as far away as the middle east and even southern Russia.
Incredibly, after the vast site was completed, it was then buried over a period of hundreds of years. It is not only the oldest human built structure, it is the only one known to have been intentionally buried.
Until now, its purpose has been an enigma. Whether or not it was a temple has not even been certain. But scientists have now found evidence to suggest that it could have been built to worship or in some way honor Sirius, the dog star.
Giulio Magli, an archaeoastronomer at the University of Milan in Italy, noted that Sirius was so clearly visible in the night sky that the original Egyptian calendar was aligned to its rise and set points, so it would have been a prominent astral feature for early man, but the position and visibility of each star does vary due to the movement of the Earth on its axis. A simulation of the prehistoric sky at the time of Göbekli Tepe's construction had to be created, and assessing the latitude of the site, researchers were able to determine that the dog star would not have been visible until around 9300BC, when it would have emerged to make a dramatic appearance in the heavens.
"I propose that the temple was built to follow the 'birth' of this star," says Magli. "You can imagine that the appearance of a new object in the sky could even have triggered a new religion."
Magli's calculations do seem to confirm the connection between the ancient monument and Sirius, as three of the circles which combine to form the 11,000 year old structure seem to be aligned with the star's estimated rise points on the horizon in 9100BC, 8750BC and 8300BC. A total of 20 circles are thought to exist, each one surrounded by massive T-shaped pillars, though since excavation work began towards the end of the twentieth century, only a small number have been unearthed. This makes it difficult to ascertain whether the circles were built to follow Sirius' appearance at different points along the horizon, or even whether the circles were open or enclosed by a roof.
Consequently, the evidence concerning the temple's use is far from conclusive and research work is still ongoing, but as Sirius is still one of the brightest stars in the night sky, after the moon, Venus and Jupiter, it is easy to see how it might have inspired our early ancestors to build a temple in its honor.
Of course the question remains of why primitive hunter gatherers would take such an interest in the sky. The Dogon People of Mali have a long tradition that a group called the Nommo came to Earth from Sirius, and taught mankind the basics of civilization.