Göbekli Tepe: A Brief Description of the Environmental Development in the Surroundings of the UNESCO World Heritage Site
2. Overview of the Natural Characteristics in the Environs of Göbekli Tepe
2.1. Bedrock and Soils
2.2.1. Model-Based Late Quaternary Climatic Development
2.2.2. Proxy-Based Late Quaternary Climatic Development
3. Assessment of Geomorphodynamics and Landform Classification
3.1. Geomorphometric Analyses
- Slope, a continuous parameter, is used to show the gradient of the site and its hinterland (Figure 6a). The highest gradients are mainly present in the areas of upper midslopes adjacent to the limestone plateaus. With the exception of the more gentle slopes in the area of the basalt plateau, southwest of Göbekli Tepe, the slopes in its immediate surroundings are very steep. The rolling hills are characterized by intermediate inclinations, and the undulating and flat plains towards the east and south show the lowest slope values (cf. Figure 6a and Figure 8a).
- Profile Curvature, a continuous parameter of surface curvature in the direction of gradient , is used to identify the nature of steps and breaks in topography e.g., between the plateaus and the lower lying slopes (Figure 6b). The extended plateau, upon which Göbekli Tepe is located, is separated from the slope by a pronounced convex break. The convexities decrease toward the rolling hills and pronounced convex breaks in slope are absent. High concavities are present along the drainage ways of the low order catchments surrounding Göbekli Tepe and in the basin to its west and diminish when approaching the flat plains surrounding the archaeological site (cf. Figure 6b and Figure 8a).
- Topographic Index, a continuous parameter showing the liability of relief to concentrate water , is used to distinguish areas of more concentrated, linear runoff from areas with a more extensive and less distinct runoff (Figure 6c). It is evident that only the flat basalt plateau southwest of Göbekli Tepe, as well as the midstream-sections of the first-order streams of the Culap Suyu basin, show a tendency toward extensive converging flows. The limestone plateaus and the rolling hills, however, show strongly diverging flows (cf. Figure 6c and Figure 8a).
- Geomorphons , a nominal parameter showing different landforms, is used to identify areas with similar geomorphometric characteristics (Figure 6d). The intense dissection of the limestone plateaus and the rolling hills is shown by the close proximity of the classes ridge and spur and the class valley. In contrast, in the direction the undulating plain of the Culap Suyu basin and the northern Harran Ovası, the distance between the classes ridge and spur and the class valley increases, thus indicating that the relief of the basin is less structured than the limestone plateaus and the rolling hills (cf. Figure 6d and Figure 8a).
- Slope length factor, i.e., a topographic factor mirroring the dependence of erosion on the length as well as the gradient of the slope, is derived from a digital elevation model.
- The soil erodibility is influenced by organic matter content, soil texture, its permeability and profile structure. Due to the absence of extensive and systematic soil survey, we link the soil erodibility to geological information (Section 2.1 and Figure 2). This is appropriate, since soil types in the area are strongly determined by bedrock properties. Soil texture characteristics are derived from representative, published soil profiles: It follows that Chromic Vertisol soil (, p. 173) is related to the geological unit alluvium (unit “undifferentiated” in Figure 2), Chromic Ochric Vertisol (, p. 114) is related to the basalt regions, Petric calcisol chromic (, p. 151) is related to limestone areas, and Cambisol, i.e., Karataş soils (, p. 114), is related to terrigenous clastics.
- The other factors of the erosion model require information on Land-use and soil conversation measures. They are omitted owing to lack of data.
3.2. Geomorphological Mapping
3.3. Landform Characterization
4. A Short Description of Göbekli Tepe’s Environment
- We consider that the general characteristics of bedrock and topography around the site are currently similar to those in the Early Holocene, though changes in the course of the last eleven millennia cannot be ruled out.
- The climate conditions have indeed changed in the last c. 25 ka albeit that the magnitude of variation strongly depends on the datasets used for reconstruction (cf. Section 2.2.1 and Section 2.2.2). Generally, paleoclimate proxies suggest that substantially higher precipitation and temperatures prevailed during the Early Holocene in the Eastern Mediterranean [28,32,33,34,36,37]. However, in the absence of reliable paleoclimate archives from the research area these results cannot be elaborated further, nor can it be verified whether precipitation rates also increased in the environs of Göbekli Tepe. Nevertheless, the model-based and the proxy-based reconstructions show that neither glacial nor periglacial conditions have prevailed in the region since at least c. 25 ka BP, as this would have hampered chemical weathering, soil formation and the development of a steppe or forest-steppe vegetation. Therefore, we can assume that at least c. 15 ka prior to the establishment of Göbekli Tepe, the climatic conditions more or less continuously fostered chemical weathering, soil formation, and the establishment of a vegetation cover.
- Accordingly, we assume that the limestone plateaus and upper midslopes were covered by loose material, created by in situ weathered bedrock and characterized by developed soils—fixed by the roots of the vegetation. This assumption rests on the evidence that agricultural practices such as arable farming and animal husbandry are not attested at Göbekli Tepe and it can be assumed that potential disturbances of the persisting steppe-forest  were minimal. In consequence, soil erosion and sediment redistribution triggered by human influences were largely absent. Furthermore sediment transport to the foot slopes, alluvial plains, and streams would have been negligible. The loose material which we expect to have formed on the plateaus and the sediments that we expect to have accumulated on the slopes in the Late Pleistocene were likely eroded during the Holocene due to varying climatic conditions, human impact, or—most likely—a combination of both. Indications that human activities fostered soil erosion and sediment redistribution are known from archaeological sites in the area at least since the Bronze Age (cf. [22,45,57]). Today, soil erosion is largely absent at the upper midslopes due to lacking soil cover (cf. Figure 8b) and erosion features only occasionally occur mid- and downslope. Rills at the footslopes that are incised in the bedrock are sediment-filled today and prove that linear erosion took place at a yet unknown time (cf. Figure 5). One possible interpretation of this seemingly contradictory observation is a scenario in which erosion and deposition alternate, depending on the general climatic conditions.
- The present-day climatic conditions would allow a vegetation cover that is comparable to the one that existed during the settlement period of Göbekli Tepe [42,43]; however, past and present land degradation and modern agricultural practices have prevented the development of this potential natural vegetation cover . Animal husbandry, mainly sheep and goat pasture, prohibits the re-establishment of a steppe like vegetation, especially grasses; arable farming prohibits the re-establishment of a light steppe “forest”; arboriculture, e.g., olive plantations and afforestation, prevents the formation of natural steppe. Changes in the hydrological system, as most obvious in the Harran Ovası and the Culap Suyu basin, in combination with irrigation measures constitute an entirely human-managed agro-landscape that has nothing in common with conditions that prevailed 100 or 10,000 years ago.
Conflicts of Interest
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Of course, the model can only be considered as rough estimation since it utilizes modern data as well as simplifying assumptions concerning substrate and climatic information.
|Soreq Cave||C Israel||stable and isotopes from speleothems||[32,33,39]|
|Lake Hazar||C Anatolia||-XRF multi element data and and isotopes from ostracods||[34,36]|
|Sofular Cave||N Anatolia||stable and isotopes and ratio from speleothems||[35,38]|
|Lake Nar||C Anatolia||stable and isotopes and carbonate mineralogy from limnic sediments|||
|Lake Eski Acıgöl||SE Anatolia||multi-proxy|||
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Knitter, D.; Braun, R.; Clare, L.; Nykamp, M.; Schütt, B. Göbekli Tepe: A Brief Description of the Environmental Development in the Surroundings of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Land 2019, 8, 72. https://doi.org/10.3390/land8040072
Knitter D, Braun R, Clare L, Nykamp M, Schütt B. Göbekli Tepe: A Brief Description of the Environmental Development in the Surroundings of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Land. 2019; 8(4):72. https://doi.org/10.3390/land8040072Chicago/Turabian Style
Knitter, Daniel, Ricarda Braun, Lee Clare, Moritz Nykamp, and Brigitta Schütt. 2019. "Göbekli Tepe: A Brief Description of the Environmental Development in the Surroundings of the UNESCO World Heritage Site" Land 8, no. 4: 72. https://doi.org/10.3390/land8040072