A fascinating article from Smithsonian Magazine, now available online, includes a brief description and remarkable pictures from the oldest known humanly constructed place of worship. Gobekli Tepe (translation, "Belly Hill"), a 22 acre site in southern Turkey that contains multiple rings of carefully carved seven-ton stones, may be 11,000 years old -- predating the domestication of animals and even the cultivation of grain crops.
Indeed, one of the more intriguing proposals put forward by excavator Klaus Schmidt is that the mammoth organizational effort required to carve the stones (with stone tools!) and construct the sacred site may have inspired the shift from a society of hunter-gatherers to a more settled form of civilization. Previously, it's been thought that humans would not have had the leisure to pursue such spiritual quests until after they'd settled into farming communities.
I haven't been in southern Turkey, but I once stood near the summit of a mountain in Armenia, just to the north, and the stars were amazing. It's not hard to imagine that the view from Gobekli Tepe would have inspired thoughts of divinity.
For a fascinating read, take a look at the article and the pictures. Then take a few moments to ponder the powerful urge we have to worship something/someone bigger than ourselves -- and do so.
[Photo from Mathilda's Anthropology Blog]