According to University of Toronto archaeologist Ted Banning, the 10,000-year-old Göbekli “temple” discovered in southeastern Turkey may in fact have been used primarily as a large communal house. The early Neolithic site of Göbekli, discovered in 1995, is famous for its immense buildings with large monoliths, many of which are decorated with carvings of snakes, scorpions, foxes and other animals.
While the excavators identified the site as the world’s earliest temple, Banning believes recently discovered evidence for daily activities like flintknapping and food preparation suggests Göbekli may also have been a large communal residence hall. He also points to archaeological and ethnographic examples of residential areas decorated with monumental art. “There is generally no reason to presume a priori, even when these [structures] are as impressive as the buildings of Göbekli Tepe, that they were not also people’s houses,” said Banning.