By Graham Hancock
Photographs by Santha Faiia

For more than a year I’ve been deeply immersed in a major new project that involves Karahan Tepe, in Turkey’s Anatolia region, it’s better-known sister site Gobekli Tepe, and many other enigmatic ancient sites in many different parts of the world. I was in Turkey in November and December 2020 in connection with this project and, at Karahan Tepe, we found a Turkish archaeological team far advanced in a series of new excavations that are bringing to light a mysterious hidden chapter in the past of humanity.

Out of consideration for the archaeologists who kindly gave us access to their excavations before they’d yet made any official announcements about what they’d found, I agreed not to share anything publicly about my visit until the site was officially “introduced to the world” – which has now happened (on 24 September 2021, see reports here; and here

I therefore feel comfortable in sharing below a selection of Santha’s photographs of some of what is being revealed.

Click on any image to enlarge:

Graham Hancock with Dr. Necmi Karul of Istanbul University, lead archaeologist at Karahan Tepe.

Above: Views of the deep enclosure at Karahan Tepe

I found this place eerie, unsettling and powerful. The enclosure itself is entirely cut down into and carved out of solid bedrock. Ten of the pillars within the enclosure are also directly carved out of the bedrock to which they remain connected at their bases. The eleventh, notably curved, pillar is freestanding and rests in a shallow groove. Some of the archaeologists working on the site speculate that it might have been used to produce tones, like a tuning-fork or musical instrument — a suggestion that is enhanced by evidence that the enclosure once contained water (which could perhaps have been used to modulate tones) to a depth of up to a metre. There is a general assumption that the other pillars in the enclosure are phallic symbols and this may very well be true. However, consideration might usefully be given to an alternative possibility. Nearby Gobekli Tepe, Karahan Tepe’s famous “sister site”, has a very distinctive name, often translated “Potbelly Hill” but more accurately rendered as “Hill of the Navel”

This invites us to consider the possibility that Gobekli Tepe was recognised as an Omphalos or “Navel of the Earth”, a notion found at other ancient sites around the world (Delphi in Greece, Cuzco in Peru, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and Easter Island in the Pacific to name but a few) that are connected in myths and traditions to geodesy – the science of accurately measuring and understanding the Earth’s geometric shape and orientation in space. Could Karahan Tepe also have been one of these “navel” sites, and could the rock-hewn pillars represent not phalli but omphali?

The undulating body of a serpent coils across the base of a water-channel

Art and stone at Karahan Tepe

Immediately visible from the entrance (see below) the most compelling mystery of Karahan Tepe is this inscrutable human face. Mounted on a sinuous, serpent-like neck it seems to thrust itself forward out of the bedrock

Karahan Tepe in context

The Turkish prehistoric site of Gobekli Tepe, which I wrote about extensively in my 2015 book Magicians of the Gods, turned archaeological timelines upside down when it was confirmed to be 11,600 years old. But Gobekli Tepe was just the beginning. Now a dozen other sites of similar antiquity are under excavation in the so-called “Stone Hills” area, a zone of intense interest to archaeologists extending for 100 square kilometres around Gobekli Tepe.

The region is gearing itself up “to compete with the Egyptian pyramids” according to local officials. Gobekli Tepe is already open to the public, Karahan Tepe will open in 2022, and it is expected that other sites will also begin to welcome visitors when excavations are complete.

Santha and I first made our way to Gobekli Tepe in 2013, before its current canopy and other amenities were put in place.

Graham Hancock at Gobekli Tepe, 2013

Our first visit to Karahan Tepe was in 2014. We found the site almost completely unexcavated and unattended as Santha’s photographs from that visit show.

Karahan Tepe in 2014

Knowing what has been discovered beneath the earth at Karahan Tepe between 2014 and 2021 I await further discoveries in the Stone Hills area with confident anticipation. As Karahan Tepe and Gobekli Tepe both show, seemingly unpromising landscapes in this part of Turkey conceal archaeological treasures of the first magnitude.

A rethink of everything we’ve been taught about the origins of civilization is long overdue.

Fingerprints of the Gods (1995)

Magicians of the Gods (2015)

America Before (2019)

57 thoughts on “Karahan Tepe, Gobekli Tepe’s 12,000-years-old “Sister Site”, Begins To Reveal Its Secrets”

  1. Heidi Gibson says:

    This is truly fascinating. Thank you so much for publishing information about this historic site.

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Thank you Heidi. Glad you found the article useful.
      Best wishes

  2. Tony clark says:

    Absolutely amazing news Graham, been following your work fir years now and it doesn’t surprise me that so called archeologists try to discount your work. Screw them keep it up!.

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Hi Tony,
      Thank you for the encouragement and solidarity. Much appreciated!
      Best wishes

  3. cm says:

    Thank you, Graham, for your efforts in bringing us new information on Gobekli Tepe and its sister sites. If we are lucky, you have another book in the works on lost civilizations. Thanks again.

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Thank you CM, and I do have another book in the works.
      All the best,

      1. Rowan Sarawan says:

        Best news I’ve heard all day!

  4. Jesse Emerson says:


    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Many thanks Jesse
      All the best

  5. Evolucian says:

    Mushrooms look very phallus like

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Agreed. That is another possible interpretation of the pillars. Visionary substances were almost certainly used at Gobekli Tepe and Karahan Tepe.
      Best wishes

  6. Edmond Furter says:

    Thank you Graham for breaking news from the coalface of archaeology. Perhaps the Harran area will force anthropology and the other human sciences (history, art history, psychology, sociology, etc) to study culture as a naturally given set of crafts, innate in our species and macro environment, instead of the assumed “invented, developed, diffused, evolved” paradigm that science and popular science likes to sustain. Biology, culture, and technology, are three different things, with three different maturity curves. Karahan Tepe is a good opportunity to study these three curves.
    Karahan, according to earlier publications, is about 5km south-east of a former wadi stream paleo-channel of 500m. This may have been a game path enabling easy hunting or trapping. As at Gobekli, the houses or communal houses are on a high point, here about 500m x 250m, on the north and east slope. Sunken houses are still built in northern Europe. Perhaps the head with pouted lips pictures a wind. Some houses seem to have engravings of one species dominating, supporting the Gobekli artworks of specific animals on hut roofs as totems, perhaps of a family, or seasonal festival, or ‘troupe’ (as in Hopi kachina groups). Water cisterns are oval, as at Gobekli (Hauptmann 1999). Karahan has about 266 pillars (Celik 2000), some from bedrock, some unfinished. The site is at N 37 05’ 30”, E 39 18’ 7” in the Tektek range, 7km from Harran ENE, on the Harran Plain east edge, and 64km east of Urfa. Gobekli area pillars probably served as a base for wooden rafters to carry a dome roof (‘womb’) of skins, reeds, or sods. T-shaped pillars are good for tying down beams by leather straps (given purchase by some dents in the top, as at Gobekli), and for keeping the pillars in place.
    Perhaps Karahan is where T-pillar building technique came into its own as the most appropriate technique for the climate and population density of the time. At the scale of about 15m to 20m diameter, the best use of space is to have orthostat (embedded) pillars around the walls, and two in the centre, limited by the lengths of available wood. Top beams just under the roof cover was probably made by lashing about four wooden boughs together.
    Since the defining feature of Pre-Pottery Neolithic (Late Stone age) buildings are pillars, It may be worth noting the two clusters of currently known archetypal meanings associated with pillars (after Furter 2014, 2016, 2019) with their average frequencies of occurrence worldwide:
    Type 8/9 Healer; bent forward 28%, strong 28%, pillar 28%, heal 22%, disc 14%, smelt 8%, ritual 6%, bag 6%, head 4%, canid 4%, ram 4%, scorpion (at a low frequency of occurrence);
    Type 9c Basket Lid; disc 27% (hat 15%, lid 12%); tool? 25%, reveal 16%, arm-link 54%, leg-link 20%, planet 10%, weave 8%, enforce 7%, pillar 6%, snake 5%, metal 4%;
    These two clusters are part of a list of twenty clusters. This is not my speculation, but data backed by five layers of structure, demonstrated in 800 artworks, 100 built sites, several iconic sets, and a myth cycle. And the theory of subconscious re-expression of archetypal structure. It means that we are as hard-wired as other species, but our conscious minds have limited access to our subconscious motivations.
    These optional features occur, at these average frequencies, in all complex artworks, built sites, iconic sets, myth cycles (Furter 2021), and rituals, in all cultures and ages, including the two complex Gobekli pillar relief engravings, and each of the four largest excavated Gobekli house plans, and in the Gobekli hill village (where most of the houses await excavation but are already outlined by P-scan radar):

  7. Edmond Furter says:

    In my comment above, the link is not directly relevant. I wanted to post three links about Gobekli art, and Gobekli house plans, and the Gobekli village plan (the Comments column does not enable editing after pressing Reply). Here they are:

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Thanks for your two comments and links, Edmund. Very interesting.
      All the best

  8. andy says:

    hi graham
    love your work. very much doubt the navel name theory tho. “gobekli” is a turkish name and the turks only came to anatolia 1000 yrs ago. the names they gave were unrelated to the previous names in other languages… also, not sure that gobekli is really turning our knowledge upside down? i believe there are several other settlements of a similar date in northern iraq/syria. this area is an origin area for a type of rice. good chance people came to ferment it for alcohol mash linked to rites. maybe fixes a date for symbol carvings and religious type behaviour – which is already speculated for ‘shamanism’ in the paleolitihic eg 30k yrs ago – but all fairly straight forward there, really, i think…
    andy xx

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Hi Andy
      You might want to look at the former (Armenian) name of Gobekli Tepe before it was given its name in Turkish. The Armenians call the place Portasar — meaning “Mountain Navel”. I’ve travelled extensively in Armenia and can tell you this is a very hot issue with the Armenians. A hint here:

    2. Madeleine Daines says:

      Never forgetting that these sites are neither Turkish nor Armenian at their origins, but Mesopotamian and beyond. Both names, Gobek and Portasar are relevant in that they are descriptive of the place in the language and the time of those civilisations but ultimately the name will be Sumero-Akkadian which was the language of the region long before they came along. I have already made the case that Gobek stems from there through GU₂-BI (found in The Story of Sukurru/The Instructions of Shuruppak), as most probably also does Portasar through BUR, the ‘bowl’ or, even more interestingly, through DUR (which is closely linked to GU₂). The English navel is sourced in NA which is ‘stone’.
      Karahan is another interesting name, potentially derived from Sumerian KAR/KARA, a combination of words also identifiable as source of French Carnac, given as ‘harbour’ and translatable as a ‘joining together’, – with the added NA – of stones. From KAR-AN-NA (perhaps with AK). Egyptian Karnak appears to derive from KUR-NA, the stone mountains, a combination found numerous times in my ongoing re-translation of Enki’s Journey to Nibru.
      Absolutely no case can be made for appropriation of those places by any group through the modern versions of their names.

  9. Janneke Kernkamp says:

    What role would Mt. Nemrut play in this?

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Hi Janneke,
      The ruins on Mount Nemrut are thousands of years younger than Karahan Tepe and Gobekli Tepe. Unless further excavations reveal much older traces of a megalithic culture at Mount Nemrut the archaeological site there, while picturesque, is irrelevant to Karahan Tepe and Gobekli Tepe.
      Best wishes

  10. Dennis Igou says:

    Dude you are the voice of the ancients. Your work/learning is key. Thankyou so very much. 87

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Thank you for taking the trouble to write and for your kind words about my work.
      All the best

  11. Miten Patel says:

    Fascinating stuff, Graham! Can’t wait to see what other lost secrets are dug up and mysteries uncovered.

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Thank you!

  12. Tomi Owens says:

    Thank you for this wonderful update. What you and Santha have done to reawaken a collective interest in the Mystery of History is profoundly inspiring. What was a “hard stop” to human history with the Sumerians was really just a thin crust, a superficial band-aid, over a deep well of collective consciousness. Thank you, Thank you Santha, thank you to all those who have helped make human history richer and ultimately closer to the truth of who we are.

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Hi Tomi
      Much appreciation from Santha and myself for your generous words.
      All the best

  13. amber munster says:

    Is it possible it was a pond of some sort?

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Some of the archaeologists at the site do believe the rock-hews enclosure contained pooled water — up to about half a meter above the base of the pillars. Possibly for accentuating sound effects when the pillars were struck?

  14. cameron krause says:

    Santha has once again done brilliant work with her photographs. Her contributions to Graham’s work are indispensable.

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Hi Cameron
      I completely agree! I’d be lost in the wilderness without Santha, and her work is genius. I’m super fortunate to have such an amazing partner.
      All the best

  15. Coll Doll says:

    As others have noted, the mysterious protruding face is reminiscent of Tiahuanaco in Bolivia.

    And the phalli or omphali as Graham suggests are reminiscent of Inca Uyu, a fascinating archaeological site in the Titicaca Basin, in the village of Chucuito, Peru which has 86 carved stones in the shape of five-foot (1,52 meters) mushrooms.

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Thanks for drawing my attention to the interesting site of Inca Uyu, Coll, and for sharing the link. I agree that there are strong similarities to Karahan Tepe. I’ll be looking into this further.

  16. Edmond Furter says:

    Nemrut hill mound and its monumental arrays play no role in the Gobekli area, or in the Younger Dryas era. Nemrut is isolated, and much later, and a mixture of known cultures (Futer 2016: Stoneprint, p238-241). At the time of these empires, the Harran area pillar houses were long covered and forgotten, and architecture in minor kingdoms followed Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek and Persian models.
    But Karaca Mt ENE of Gobekli, visible on the horizon, is where a productive strain of crop (not rice) had survived the Ice Age, and was cultivated from, probably for beer and bread.

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Hi again Edmund — to avoid confusion it’s worth mentioning that your comment here is a reply to the query by Janneke Kernkamp. I have also replied to that query in the comments above.

  17. Manu Seyfzadeh says:

    Graham’s idea reminds me of something I just saw in the Pyramid Texts written into the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh columns of the east gable of the burial chamber inside the Pyramid of Unas. There, this is written about the emmer and barley tillers in Heliopolis, and the power of seasonal growth and regeneration of life through plant food:

    “They have swallowed the bright Eye of Horus in the City of the Pillar, Finger of Unis, the little one, take this out from the navel of Osiris, and Unis will not thirst or hunger.” Looking at Santha’s photo taken opposite the rock face I then thought this looks like the fingers of two hands coming out of the Earth, the right one holding the T-shaped being in its palm.

    I think Graham’s is on the right track. The key observation he made is that the pillars are hewn out of Mother Earth, not erected over like the T’s.

    Oh well, loose associations, but sometimes a wide net catches a rare fish.

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      These are interesting observations, Manu. Thank you and wishing you well with your ongoing excellent work in Egypt.
      All the best

  18. Tony says:

    It’s great that you get to be a part of this discovery, Graham. Considering all that you’ve carried into the light, it’s richly deserved.

    1. Graham Hancock says:

      Many thanks Tony. Kind of you to say that.

    1. Scott says:

      Forgot to add, ywould love to see you do another JRE with Michael Schumer again now that these new evidence is cropping up (taurids article I linked to and Greenland crater and dogs in SA 12,000 years ago etc.

  19. Ron Ellsworrth says:

    Some day, Graham, unfortunately likely posthumously, you are going to be recognized as one of the greatest of archaeological historians, and likely THE most progressive. I have read much of your work and really enjoy the way you address the issue of prehistory. Keep it coming. Someone said you ruffle feathers. I think the time will come when it will be said that you PLUCK them. Cheers.

  20. Kennan says:

    This is both interesting and exciting. Thank you for sharing it!

  21. Edmond Furter says:

    Pre-Pottery Late Stone Age means no clay pots, but they made many stone pots or vases or beakers, probably for food and beer. Here is a link to two images of chorite stone vases at a similar sites, Kortik Tepe, by nine authors:
    These stone beakers were probably carried in a rope net. Their use in ritual could solve the ‘handbags’ assumption about some Persian images of priests carrying a pot of pollen in one hand, and an acorn dispenser in another hand (I note the similar use of an acorn in Roman Catholic iconography, in some pages about the Vatican City site plan in Stoneprint 2016). Basketry texture is engraved in the decor, indicating they used nets for fishing, birding, storage, and probably around the precious vases. I think they wove matted walls and doors too, stacking dry stone as insulation against the mats.
    But the Gobekli relief art ‘handbags’ are probably Gobekli house walls and roofs, as emblems of clan totem houses, as I had argued in two earlier comment strings.
    The Kortik article has an image of a stone figurine head of a tortoise. Perhaps the Karahan protruding head with puffed cheeks is a Tortoise Person or Turtle Person.

  22. Samuel says:

    I have never encountered a Mind such as Grahams. All his body of work is astonishing. Mankind will slowly learn all Truths.

  23. Ryan Kantrud says:

    I am always fascinated with your work. I am anticipating another book from you in the works. Thanks for all that you do. You remain at the top of my list of people I have been lucky enough to meet. Thank you.

  24. John Goessaert says:

    Another amazing discovery. Was Karahan Tepe intentionally buried as Gobekli Tepe was said to be?

  25. Mark Tolley says:

    Graham, you have blazed a trail for other like minded to follow. In the end you’ve been exonerated from the character assassination you endured and your faithful following as well. Carry on sir!

  26. Danny G says:

    Thanks once again Graham, for sharing more on this incredible discovery. I will be waiting with great anticipation to see what else gets discovered in this area. And hope one day be able to visit!

  27. Casey says:

    Graham, your investigative work in the field of archaeology is unparalleled. Excited for your next book!

  28. Anne says:

    That thrusting head is so a birth face, I’ve seen it when I gave birth to my children, their faces when meeting life ✨ magic thank you so much for sharing this knowledge 🙏

  29. Rita Roberts says:

    Thank you Graham for this outstanding news with regard to KARAHAN TEPE I have just finished reading your book “Magicians of the Gods” which was absolutely fascinating. Looking forward to your next book and your wife’s wonderful photo’s.

  30. Peter Bryce says:

    Literally, scratching the surface. As you have noted, what else is there still to discover? Just finishing Fingerprints. Thank you for the enlightenment.

  31. Tim C Spindler says:

    I’ve read and watched everything I can find of yours. You and Randall Carlson have changed my world view and made me understand that academia is just another controlling system much like religion. Thanks for researching outside the box. Very few have the courage to do so and the truth is hard enough to find without the organized hiding of it.

  32. Doug Craft says:

    Both my wife and I love your books – thanks for your research!

    I was wondering if Gobekli Tepe and the other hill sites are related to the cave complexes in Cappadocia. Seems like some flood myths include episodes of hiding underground for the comet impact winter. As you often point out, the cave complexes may be much older than the traditional timeline suggests…

    All the best to you and Santha!

  33. Tony says:

    Glad you are still at work, investigating another mysterious site. Just a random thought.. the “inscrutable human face” reminded my of an ancient greek depiction of one of the winds. The right sort of wind would be crucial for this site if it indeed was meant to produce a tone. As well, the winds accompany certain sorts of weather which would have benv vital if you are audacious enough to dream up agriculture

  34. William Terrell says:

    This post brings back a question I have for you. Often we see archeological time stamps about a site like it was created 12000 years ago because of its location in the earth strata. However, how do we know it was “created” at that time? Doesn’t it make more sense that it was “abandoned at that time” as in, it stopped being kept clean and organized. When a culture stops taking care of a site it starts to accumulate dust/debris and slowly disappears under it. But if the site was created 30000 years before and had been used for that whole time, it would have been kept “dust/debris” free, repaired, improved and seem new until it was abandoned. Since these sites are built on bedrock that has been there for many geological eras, wouldn’t it be more likely at least 12000 years old, but much older considering how much development is showing up in the area. Based on your YD event hypothesis, wouldn’t these Turkey sites be evidence that they were more likely abandoned during that global crisis, rather than build right after it?

    I think this question also applies to the Olmec and Mayan ruins. We date them as later than when they were built because the remains date from when they were abandoned. We really can’t tell when they were created, except that the technology used was superior to that which the people had after YD impact events. All of these prehistoric sites were abandoned around the same time, or kept clean for a few more thousand years but not improved ( like the foundations under Roman ruins).

    I hope this make sense.

  35. Tibor Motsilnik says:

    Thank you Mr. Hancock!
    Again… another night went on, reading your work! 🙂 (and my Wife complaining of course…)

    It may be not the right platform to ask, but I am trying to contact your friend, Randall Carlson with a question about the ice free, warmer siberian area while there was an ice age ice sheet covering most of america. I had no luck so far… and an observation keeps bothering me for months.

    May I ask You, which is the best form to address him with a question like this?

    Thank you very much again! And please, NEVER stop!

    Greetings from Hungary!

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