Potbelly Hill – otherwise known as Göbekli Tepe in Turkish or Girê Mirazan or Xirabreşkê in Kurdish – is home to the world’s oldest known megaliths, dating back to approximately 9500 and 8000 BCE and the Pre-Pottery Neolithic era of the Fertile Crescent. This was the period, commencing at the end of the last Ice Age, which marked the switch from the more nomadic forms of life in within the region towards the establishment of village life, producing some of the earliest evidence for permanent human settlements in the world.
Occupying some 8 hectares of land, Göbekli Tepe is one of the earliest examples of this move to settlement living, occupying as it does a tell, an artificial hill created from the accumulation of the debris from successive generations of people living in the same location, their detritus mixed with natural sedimentation.
Sitting in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains, many of the megaliths at Göbekli Tepe are richly decorated with figurative anthropomorphic details, clothing, and reliefs of wild animals, providing archaeologists rare insights into prehistoric religion and the particular iconography of the period. The tell also includes many smaller buildings, quarries, and stone-cut cisterns from the Neolithic, as well as some traces of activity from later periods.
First noted as site of historical significance in the 1960s, the tell has been subject to continued study since then, and in 2018 it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status in recognition of its universal value as “one of the first manifestations of human-made monumental architecture”. Yet despite almost 60 years of continuous study and excavation, it is estimated that only around some 5% of the site as been exposed for investigation.
However, you don’t have to travel to the Anatolia region of Turkey in order to witness Göbekli Tepe; it has been brought – at least in spirit and part – to Second Life by Konrad (Kaiju Kohime). It is located within the Homestead region of Natthimmel, held by Konrad’s SL partner, Saskia Rieko, a region with its own little story: Natthimmel being Swedish for Night Sky (Saskia herself being Nordic) as a creative open space and photogenic spot for people to enjoy.
In bringing Göbekli Tepe to Second Life, Konrad has shown extraordinary dedication, having built many of the elements used within the setting himself, whilst he and Saskia have shown further creativity in using the natural presence of Linden Water in-world within their interpretation rather than trying to hide or ignore it, given the inland nature of the physical Göbekli Tepe. This gives the setting a unique appearance, the stones of the ancient monument mixing equally with natural rock formations as both dip their toes into the waters meandering across the setting.
As with the original, the landscape here is crossed by boardwalks which prevent unwary feet from damaging the exposed stonework and former structures as they have been exposed through excavation, whilst a further element of individuality is offered by in the way the megaliths have been made to look like they have naturally extruded from the ground and grown naturally, rather than being the result of the hands of ancient humans.
A further echo of the original comes in the form of the carved reliefs of animals on the ground, which are in turn nicely balanced by the presence of foxes wandering through the site, whilst cormorants and heron again help link the landscape the surrounding waters, again linking the two together into a single whole.
Carrying with it a slight sense of the alien in its broader appearance – something itself not unbecoming of an interpretation of a site of antiquity, for would not our own world appear alien were it to be seen through the eyes of those who once lived at Göbekli Tepe? – the build offered by Konrad and Saskia is both highly picturesque and engaging. It awakens the curiosity about its physical world namesake – a curiosity which might be fed / further prodded by the inclusion of some historical notes at the landing point (which make a recommended read).
I’ve no idea if this is to be the first of a series of region designs at Natthhimmel, or whether it is intended to remain as-is; what I will say is if – like me – you are interested in seeing locations from the physical world in a manner that is more immersive than relying on images and film, I strongly recommend a visit to the region to se Göbekli Tepe, just in case it is to be replaced by another idea springing from the imaginations of Saskia and Konrad.
- Natthimmel (NewMoon, rated Moderate)