Several years ago I visited Turkey as a member of a small delegation of folks from Austin who had been invited to participate in an interfaith learning experience. During our trip we were taken to Harran, an archaeological site outside of the city of Urfa. It was a fascinating experience - the site had been a center of the Hittite Empire and a far flung outpost of the Roman and Byzantine Empires, Later, it was the site of a great Islamic university which was destroyed by the Mongols. So much history!
Unbeknownst to me, just a few kilometers away, archaeologists were excavating Gobeki Tepe, a very ancient temple. In fact, it is the oldest religious structure ever found, predating the pyramids by THOUSANDS of years!
Now, it appears as if the temple may have been constructed as a place to worship the "dog star" Sirius which had just "popped into view" at the time the temple was built. Fascinating.
Check out this article from New Scientist.
The 11,000-year-old site consists of a series of at least 20 circular enclosures, although only a few have been uncovered since excavations began in the mid-1990s. Each one is surrounded by a ring of huge, T-shaped stone pillars, some of which are decorated with carvings of fierce animals. Two more megaliths stand parallel to each other at the centre of each ring.
Göbekli Tepe put a dent in the idea of the Neolithic revolution, which said that the invention of agriculture spurred humans to build settlements and develop civilisation, art and religion. There is no evidence of agriculture near the temple, hinting that religion came first in this instance.