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Oldest temple in the world found in Turkey

March 17, 2010 at 4:10 PM

ANKARA, Turkey, March 17 (UPI) -- Archaeologists say a temple being excavated in southeastern Turkey is 12,000 years old and is likely the oldest temple ever uncovered.

The site was first identified in 1986 when a farmer tilling his field in Sanliurfa found a statuette in the soil, the Radikal newspaper reported Wednesday.

Since then, archaeologists have uncovered the foundation of the temple built in the Neolithic Age along with carvings of pigs, foxes, snakes, fawns and headless humans.

Officials with the Harran University Archaeology Department have yet to identify the culture that built the temple or their belief system, the newspaper said.

German teams were the first to excavate beginning in 1995, but the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry placed the site on its first-degree protection list in 2005, taking control of the research.

Prior to its discovery, the world's oldest known temple was in Malta, dating from 5,000 B.C.

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