Gobekli Tepe, an archaeological site in Turkey home to the world's oldest monument, will receive an investment of over $15 million over the next 20 years, it was announced Wednesday at The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Promoted by the Sahenk Initiative, the main sponsor, and the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the project will support new excavations, build a world-class visitor center, and encourage tourists to visit a unique site which is believed to predate Stonehenge by 7,000 years and Egypt's pyramids by 7,500 years.
Standing at the top of a mountain ridge in the southeastern Anatolia region of Turkey, Gobekli Tepe comprises a series of mainly circular and oval-shaped structures which date from roughly 12,000 years ago.
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The Neolithic site lies at the northern end of what the ancients called the Fertile Crescent, a part of Mesopotamia which was the location for the first city in history, the starting point of writing and the seed of civilization.
As the oldest known monument built by man, Gobekli Tepe goes beyond these firsts.
"It is our zero point in time," Ferit F. Sahenk, chairman of Turkey's Dogus Group, said.
Excavated since 1996 by German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt, the temple-like structures consist of T-shaped pillars finely carved with the images of wild animals. The tallest stones tower 16 feet and weigh between 7 and 10 tons.
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Until his death in 2014, Schmidt was able to uncover six of these structures that were built on top of each other, in a time period that exceeds 1,000 years.
"As Gobekli Tepe is still being unearthed, our views about the history of settlement and civilization are ever-changing," Abdullah Kocapınar, cultural heritage and museums general director at the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said.
He noted the site is crucial to understand the origins of civilization, in particular the formation of religious sites, the emergence of temple architecture, the birth of art, and the transformation of agriculture and livestock breeding.
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Despite its importance, Gobekli Tepe has so far received limited attention globally.
"We have placed this Turkish treasure at the heart of the World Economic Forum because I want the whole world to know about it," Sahenk said.
To promote Gobekli Tepe in the international arena, its T-shaped pillars have been recreated in ice in Davos as part of the launch of the multimillion-dollar project.