Schmidt, of the German Archaeological Institute, continued to uncover more exceptional finds over the years. Indeed, the site turned out to include in excess of 200 columns formed into some 20 circles. Moreover, many of the columns featured intricate carvings in the stone. Since the time when the stones were made is earlier than the invention of metal tools, these must have been painstakingly carved using flints.
Ian Hodder of Stanford University told Smithsonian that most of the carvings are representations of nightmarish creatures. This is unusual, he explained, because prehistoric carvings typically show prey animals. “It’s a scary, fantastic world of nasty-looking beasts,” he said. Hodder theorized that the carvings may be a symbolic attempt by prehistoric hunters to allay their darkest fears.
Archaeologists have also made other fascinating finds at the Göbekli Tepe site. More than 100,000 animal bones have been discovered, many with the telltale signs of butchery and cooking. Some 60 percent of the bones are from gazelles, with other species including wild sheep, red deer and boar. “It was pretty clear we were dealing with a hunter-gatherer site,” archaeozoologist Joris Peters told Smithsonian.