Animals in the symbolic world of Pre-Pottery Neolithic Göbekli Tepe, south-eastern Turkey: a preliminary assessment


en Anthropozoologica 39 (1) - Pages 179-218

Published on 30 July 2004

This article is a part of the thematic issue Animal domestications: social and symbolic dimensions. Homage to Jacques Cauvin

The recently discovered Pre-Pottery Neolithic site of Göbekli Tepe (SETurkey) is unparalleled in its architecture and art. The latter is particularly rich in animal depictions ? stone figurines, sculptures and megalithic pillars decorated with bas-reliefs ? and illustrates the prominent role animals played in the spiritual world of PPN human groups frequenting the site. Up to now, ten vertebrate taxa could be identified, nine of which also appeared in the archaeofaunal record of the site. Discussion focussed upon the possible role of the animal species figured at Göbekli Tepe, in particular whether the space demarcated by the pillars could have witnessed the performance of hunting rituals, initiation and passage rites, spiritual encounters or funeral practices. In view of our limited knowledge about the role animals played in the symbolic world of the PPN, in particular with respect to the logic and metaphysics governing the choice of species, the question of what purpose the enclosures served will take much more time to be properly answered.


Turkey, SE Anatolia, megalithic art, PPNB, animal symbolism, archaeofauna.

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