Spotlight: Turkey's ancient marvel Gobeklitepe creates global tourism buzz

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-18 03:39:29|Editor: zh
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ANKARA, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Turkey's ancient archeological site of Gobeklitepe, dubbed "the ground zero for human history," is creating a global buzz, attracting millions of tourists every year.

Chinese Internet singer Zhang Chi, whose hit song sings of "I want to take you to romantic Turkey," recently visited Gobeklitepe in Turkey's southeastern province of Sanliurfa.

The 20-year-old Zhang and his seven-member crew came to the site in late January, accompanied by Turkish Ambassador to China Abdulkadir Emin Onen, while Celal Uludag, director in charge of Gobeklitepe's excavation and museum, welcomed the Chinese guests at the UNESCO World Heritage site.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared 2019 as "the Year of Gobeklitepe" in a bid to boost tourism around the prehistoric site.

Located in Upper Mesopotamia near the Syrian border, Gobeklitepe, which means Potbelly Hill in Turkish, is the world's oldest known megalithic structure.

Dating back to nearly 12,000 years ago, the ancient temple features massive carved stones and T-shaped pillars in limestone that predate the invention of agriculture.

It is believed that hunter-gatherers from different regions of the Fertile Crescent, a crescent-shaped area of fertile land in the Middle East extending from the eastern Mediterranean coast to the Gulf, used to meet at the site on a regularly basis to affirm their social beliefs.

Mehmet Oz, a Turkish-American surgeon, author and presenter of the globally popular talk series "The Dr. Oz Show," featured the ancient site in his show, which runs in 100 countries.

Stretching on an area of around 10 hectares, the site was reopened to tourists in early 2018 following extensive restoration work, in which a 4,000-square-meter steel roof was erected.

Scientists believe the structure, older than the Egyptian pyramids or Stonehenge, is where modern human civilization originated.

In addition, the mystery site has been featured in several theories about ancient aliens, which are expected to keep archeologists busy for many years to come.

"We expect tens of thousands of people to visit the site in the coming years. People are fascinated with the story of the site which also baffles scientists," an official from the Turkish Ministry of Culture told Xinhua.

This official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said local and international tour agencies have included Gobeklitepe in their programs, adding that the number of guided tours to the site is expected to increase by 10 times in spring and summer.

Necmi Karul, a member of the scientific board of Gobeklitepe, told Xinhua that "there is still a lot to be discovered" at the site.

"Not only in Gobeklitepe, but also in the areas nearby, we are discovering each digging season very significant materials and data," he explained.

One of the values of the site is that it redefines the history of how the ancestors transitioned from hunter-gatherers to sedentary settlers, said Karul.

According to tourism professionals, more than 3 million tourists from Turkey and abroad visited the site in 2018.