The World's First Sheela-na-gig at the World's Oldest Temple
by LYDIA RUYLE, guest blogger
The World’s First Sheela-na-gig appears at the World’s Oldest Temple, Göbekli Tepe, in Turkey.
I have a long relationship with Turkey and the Goddesses there. My first exhibition of Goddess Icon Banners was at the Celsus Library at Ephesus in 1995. A dozen of the banners were based on images from the neolithic excavations at Catalhoyuk including the earliest human figure seated on a throne giving birth—Ana Tanrica, the Great Mother of Catalhoyuk, who was found in a grain bin. I’ve visited the site half a dozen times since 1990 and will be returning in 2009. Please join me if you’re interested.
Hence, I was excited to see the November/December 2008 issue of Archaeology magazine had Göbekli Tepe on its cover with the caption “oldest temple in the world” and Smithsonian Magazine featured Göbekli Tepe in the November 2008 issue. I opened both magazines eagerly wanting to see the images and stories. I was disappointed but not surprised. No mention was made of what I consider the most important human image found at Göbekli Tepe on the floor of the Löwenpfeilergebäude (lion pillar building) of a birthing, hocker, sheela-na-gig female! I discovered the image in a book several years ago in Istanbul titled Neolithic in Turkey: The Cradle of Civilization: New Discoveries. The only text along with a full page photo in the book about the image states:
Göbekli Tepe means “navel mountain” in Turkish. It is on top of a hill that is the highest point on the windswept Urfa Plain, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This is the area where emmer wheat was domesticated and hunter gatherer cultures settled into agricultural communities. As early as 12,000 years ago, humans spent much time and effort to cut stone and create circular structures with twelve foot tall pillars with carvings of animals, vultures, snakes holding up a roof. Gobekli Tepe’s impact reached to other later megalithic temples that follow a similar plan including Jericho in Syria.
The motif of a female is found only in a drawing carved into a stone slab on the floor of the Löwenpfeilergebäude. The naked woman is depicted in a sitting position with straddled legs, obviously representing a sexual scene (Fig. 35) Schmidt sees similarities to figures known as “dejenoun” in the rock art of North Africa.”
--p. 80, Neolithic in Turkey:The Cradle of Civilization: New Discoveries, edited by Mehmet Ozdogan/Nezih Basgelen, 1999.
In 2006, I created a Goddess Icon Banner of the image and named her Göbekli Tepe. She has been flying around the world ever since. My banner description states:
Göbekli Tepe is a Neolithic Sheela-na-gig incised into stone on the floor of a rock cut temple which appeared to have ritual purposes.Two standing pillars with lions sculpted in relief protect one of the earliest known Sheelas. Göbekli Tepe, which means navel mountain, is in eastern Turkey near the source of the Euphrates River. Emmer wheat was domesticated in the area. All life comes from and returns to the mother.
Source: Incised rock. 9600 BCE. Göbekli Tepe. Near present day Urfa, Turkey
After reading the articles last fall, I wrote to Klaus Schmidt, the German chief archaeologist of the site, asking him why the omission of the female figure in the articles in Archaeology and the Smithsonian magazines which had excellent photos of the rock built temples with carvings of animals, vultures, snakes. It would seem that the ONLY human figure found is worth mentioning and illustrating. I asked Schmidt if She was the only human image found at Göbekli Tepe and where the image is displayed today. I also asked if he had written about the image.
He replied that the authors of the magazines choose what to write not he. I suspect She was ignored because She is a splayed hocker sheela female. I realize, unfortunately, that the image could be considered pornographic and too much for a general audience U.S. publication to print. Schmidt told me he has written more about her in a new book published last year in German.
I e-mailed my Turkish friend Resit Ergener asking him where the image is housed. He contacted Mehmet Ozdogan at Istanbul University who said the last time he saw Her She was under a shed at Göbekli Tepe. I want to SEE HER. If you are interested in joining me please contact me through my website at http://www.lydiaruyle.com/
Here are some links to my stories of Catalhoyuk.
Goddess Conversations at Catalhoyuk (pdf)
Turkey Goddess Conversations (pdf)
Catalhoyuk Herstory (file)
© LYDIA RUYLE 2009
TAGS: news archeology Turkish Göbekli Tepe Goddess spiritual feminism