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So Fair a House: Göbekli Tepe and the Identification of Temples in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of the Near East

E. B. Banning
Current Anthropology
Vol. 52, No. 5 (October 2011), pp. 619-660
DOI: 10.1086/661207
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/661207
Page Count: 42
Subjects: Anthropology
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Abstract

Archaeologists have proposed that quite a number of structures dating to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and B in southwest Asia were nondomestic ritual buildings, sometimes described specifically as temples or shrines, and these figure large in some interpretations of social change in the Near Eastern Neolithic. Yet the evidence supporting the identification of cult buildings is often equivocal or depends on ethnocentric distinctions between sacred and profane spaces. This paper explores the case of Göbekli Tepe, a large Pre-Pottery Neolithic site in Turkey that its excavator claims consisted only of temples, to illustrate weaknesses in some kinds of claims about Neolithic sacred spaces and to explore some of the problems of identifying prehistoric ritual. Consideration of the evidence suggests the alternative hypothesis that the buildings at Göbekli Tepe may actually be houses, albeit ones that are rich in symbolic content.

Notes and References

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