It has long been considered the world's oldest temple and even thought by some to be the site of the Garden of Eden.

But a scientist has claimed that the Gobekli Tepe stones in Turkey, built in 9,000 BC and 6,500 years older than Stonehenge, could instead be a giant home 'built for men not gods'.

Ted Banning, a professor at the University of Toronto, has branded it 'one of the world's biggest garbage dumps,' with piles of animal bones, tools and charcoal found there proving that it was an ancient home rather than a religious site.

Gobekli Tepe_1
© AlamyAncient: Much of the 11,000 year-old site is still yet to be explored and it has even been considered the place of the Garden of Eden.
When excavation started at Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey in 1994, archaeologists were sure it was a temple and largely uninhabited.

Remarkably it was deliberately buried under thousands of tonnes of soil and only a small amount of the 20-acre area has been excavated since its discovery.

The incredible site was put up long before humans mastered language or skills like pottery or metal work, making it one of the true wonders of the world pre-dating any previously discovered religious site by 1,000 years.

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© The Daily MailGiant: The stones of Gobekli Tepe are huge and are generally thought to form part of the world's oldest religious site.

Professor Banning has shaken up the theory behind its construction, not questioning its age, but saying that rubbish surrounding the intricately carved giant stones, which are up to five metres high and weigh 16 tonnes, prove it was a settlement.

It is possible that a giant roof could have been placed on top of the giant pillars, which are engraved with snakes, scorpions, foxes, and other animals.

To date, around 45 of these stones have been dug out - they are arranged in circles from five to ten yards across.

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© The Daily MailRemarkable: The intricate carvings were done by humans who had not mastered language or other basic skills.
'I'm uncomfortable with the automatic conclusion whenever we come across a building that is large and impressive that it has to be a temple,' he told The Times.

'The presence of this evidence suggests that the site was not, after all, devoid of residential occupation, but likely had quite a large population.'

Professor Banning has put forward his vision in a a new paper in Current Anthropology, but it has been met with disbelief by other academics.

German Klaus Schmidt, who helped develop theory on Gobekli Tepe's use, says he will debunk the the new theory in a paper he will now write.

'I don't agree with his ideas, however, I welcome any competing explanations,' he said.

It has been considered a potential site for the Garden of Eden.

Experts also say biblical Eden is by four rivers, including the Tigris and Euphrates and the stones lie between both of these.

And in ancient Assyrian texts, there is mention of a 'Beth Eden' - a house of Eden. This minor kingdom was 50 miles from Gobekli Tepe.

Gobekli Tepe Location Map
© The Daily Mail