Scholar and archaeologist Andrew Collins, who first visited the remote and unknown archaeological site of Karahan Tepe (dated to 9500-6000 BCE) in 2004, describes Karahan Tepe as a sister site to Göbekli Tepe. Both these sites are located near the ancient cities of Sanliurfa and Harran. According to Collins both these sites which were abandoned during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period (8800-6500 BCE) feature anthropomorphic (having human characteristics) T-shaped stone pillars with engravings either in high relief, which implies that the carving projects out or lifts-up from its background, or are three dimensional. Of the two, Göbekli Tepe has received widespread attention but for some reason, Karahan Tepe remains relatively obscure.

Not much is known about this site. Most of the information on Karahan Tepe has come to us from the descriptions and research of Andrew Collins, one of the few archaeologists – the other being Graham Hancock- to have visited the site. Collin describes the site in great detail. From his writings we know that the tepe is situated on a pastoral farm named Kecili. In his description of the climb to the mound, Collins states that partially exposed heads of stone pillars become visible to the visitor when ascending the hill’s northern slope. Further ahead two more pillars become visible at the northern base of the avenue and according to Collins perhaps formed an entranceway to the top of the hill. But because at least three other stones nearby have the same alignment, he observes that any interpretation of the layout becomes complicated. 

What Collins speculates might have been stone avenues, are visible on Karahan’s eastern and southeastern slopes. The avenues ascend toward the top of the hill, the twin sets of pillars forming an apparent zigzagging pattern. Collins is of the view that all three avenues are aligned toward the same spot which is an exposed rock ledge or knoll immediately north of the hill’s extended summit.

The exposed surface of the knoll has groupings of what Collins calls cup holes (15-20 Cms) similar to what are also observed at Gobekli Tepe. Further ahead one witnesses, similar but larger cupholes (40-50 cms in diameter) some placed in twins, which Collins says, gives the eerie feeling of two eyes peering at the climber. Various small finds, including carved fragments of mini T-shaped stones and right-angled corner sections of what appear to be porthole stones, like those found at Göbekli Tepe, are to be seen on Karahan’s eastern slopes.

What is interesting are the two T-shaped pillars found at Karahan Tepe on which carved snakes are seen to slither up their front narrow edge. According to Andrew Collins, “On one, originally found in 1997 and now removed to Harran University the snake looks like a human sperm, with a round, bulbous head and wavy body, while on the other example, exposed during illegal digging operations only the dome-shaped head of the creature is visible.” Also a fragment of a bowl dating to the same age as the T-shaped pillars, bears the relief of a zigzagging snake.

He further adds, “The prominence of serpentine art at Karahan might suggest that the creature held a special place among the local population responsible for the creation of its carved art. It is even possible that the zigzagging avenues of stones found at the site are meant to signify the winding path of snakes, which were seen to descend from the hill’s northern knoll down into the valley below, perhaps in the manner of lightning.”

Not much has been unveiled about the purpose of this site vide the information so far available about this site. In view of the lack of any leads that have been generated so far, one might look at Karahan Tepe through the Sanskrit-Vedic-Indic lens to evaluate if that avenue sheds a bit more light.

Making the assumption that the ancient most names of this site have survived in some form in its current name, one may take the name Kurahan to be a distortion of the Sanskrit ‘kuhan’ (कुहन ) meaning ‘snake’ and draw a few inferences. But before doing that one may also consider the argument that Kuruhan is not the true or original name of this hill. Its older name, more specifically of an ancient village close by, is Kecili. However, the meaning of snake may also be associated to Kecili. Kecili appears to be a distortion or a truncated form of a couple of Sanskrit words, one is kenchuli (केञ्चुलि) meaning snake-skin, the other kenchukin (केन्चुकिन) meaning snake. Yet another Sanskrit word for snake is kachaku (कचाकु) which too is a cognate of Kecili.

Second, the zigzagging snakes of Karahan Tepe could be a representation of the Kundalini of the Vedic culture. The rising kundalini is represented by a coiled serpent seated at the base of the spine which then uncoils through meditation and with different Vedic techniques rises up to the highest chakra located at the top of the head. The kundalini rises through each of the seven chakras like a zigzagging snake.

Vedic priests and ascetics aspiring to experience kundalini meditated at far off sites such as caves in the Himalayan mountains in the quest to awaken it. Of course, it is difficult to make any specific claims, but within the Vedic tradition, this could be one explanation for the existence of snake sculpture at this site. However in contrast with Collins’ contention, the kundalini explanation requires that the winding path of the snakes be ascending, rather than descending, which is how Collins had interpreted the path of the snakes at the site.

Collins also equates the zigzag path towards the mound of Kurahan Tepe with that of the path of lightning. Since kundalini is regarded as a path to enlightenment, to an extent one may link the zigzag path of Karahan Tepe to the serpentine path of the snake represented in kundalini.

The Turkish ‘tepe’ too is perhaps a truncated form of the Sanskrit ‘stupa’ (स्तूप) meaning ‘mound, also associated with sacred Vedic hill sites and later in history to Buddhist sites. Researchers such as Gene Matlock have already written in detail about the links between the Kurus of India who he claims emerged as the Turks in later history, but his work is largely ridiculed that he himself has commented, “I naively thought the world would applaud my work. I soon discovered that all the truths in the world won’t alter the mindset of people steeped in sectarian religious beliefs, and that their historical conditionings, though changeable, don’t become unfrozen easily, either.”

Even though Turkish is not categorized as an Indo-European language, many of its ancient river and place names can be decoded by Sanskrit, which is a topic dealt here in this blog. And for what it is worth, as suggested by Gene Matlock, the Turks must look at the links between them and the Kurus of India, who perhaps were their ancestors. That itself may shed some more light on what might have been the site of Kuruhan Tepe rather than Karahan Tepe as it is known today. It may also lend a cultural collateral to the story of this archaeological site.

Third, the ‘shikha’ or the tuft of hair that Vedic priests often wear represents the awakened serpent of kundalini. No discoveries pertaining to the ‘shikha’ have been made at Karahan but we know that the idea was not unknown in the region during the times to which the Kerahan site belongs. This view is supported by the fact that a Vedic priest head with a ‘shikha’ was discovered at Karahan Tepe’s sister site of Navali Cori in Turkey and has been linked by Collins to the Vedic priests of India.

The tuft of hair at the back of the Priest’s head
at Nevali Cori site may represent the rising snake of

Fourth, there are other legends associated with Karahan Tepe. Its older name Kecili, folklore says, is derived either from kec, the Turkish word for ‘goat’, or Kec, pronounced ketch, which is the Kurdish word for ‘bald’. In this context it may be said that close cognates are found in Sanskrit where kesha is ‘hair’, ‘keshat’ is ‘goat’ and ‘kulva’ is bald and reveals the Indo-European roots or Sanskritic explanations of these words.

One may also dwell a bit on ‘kacela (कचेल), ‘the string or cover that keeps together the leaves of a manuscript’, indicating perhaps that sites such as Nevali Cori, Goebekli Tepe or Kurahan Tepe were observatories -cum-libraries. Collins has speculated that these sites were built as a reaction to a global cataclysm and though they served as a gateway and map to the sky-world, they may have served as storage and preservation places for manuscripts, books, scrolls etc.

The real purpose of the site is yet not identified. Neither are there any records of its true ancient name. However, there is always some truth in the local legends and folklore and perhaps further research about Karahan Tepe may at some point reveal the real purpose and function of this site.

Related Links

Gobekli Tepe’s Sister Site- Karahan Tepe by Andrew Collins

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” — Arthur Schopenhauer


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