The Göbekli Tepe complex in southeastern Anatolia, Turkey, is 11,500 years old
CNN  — 

Researchers have discovered part of the mystery behind the construction of the earliest known temple in human history.

The Göbekli Tepe complex in southeastern Anatolia, Turkey, is a 11,500-year-old stone structure that predates Stonehenge, according to a news release.

The researchers used a computer algorithm to trace the architectural design, especially three of the complex’s monumental round structures, to determine that the pillars were placed in their particular positions on purpose.

“The layout of the complex is characterized by spatial and symbolic hierarchies that reflect changes in the spiritual world and in the social structure,” researcher Gil Haklay from the Israel Antiquities Authority explained.

Haklay and Avi Gopher, an archaeology professor at Tel Aviv University, led the project. Their findings were published in the May volume of the Cambridge Archaeological Journal.

The Göbekli Tepe complex is believed to have been made by hunters and gatherers and has been the subject or archeological debate since its discovery by German archaeologist Dr. Klaus Schmidt in 1994.

“Our findings suggest that major architectural transformations during this period, such as the transition to rectangular architecture, were knowledge-based, top-down processes carried out by specialists,” Haklay said.

The discovery is important because it was assumed that architectural planning methods such as geometry and floor plans came about much later in history, according to the researchers. In fact, some believe these methods were introduced over 10,500 years ago when hunter-gatherers turned into food-producing farmers.

“This research introduces important information regarding the early development of architectural planning … It opens the door to new interpretations of this site in general,” Gopher said.

The two plan to use the same method to investigate other archeological sites from the same time period.