Category Archives: TURKEY

11,000-Year-Old Sculpture Uncovered in Turkey

11,000-Year-Old Sculpture Uncovered in Turkey

Archaeologists in Turkey have unearthed a nearly 11,000-year-old statue that may depict a giant man clutching his penis, along with a life-size wild boar statue.

This human-like sculpture was found at Karahan Tepe. The person represented may actually be depicted as being dead. The newly found sculptures date back about 11,000 years. 

The two statues come from the neighboring sites of Gobekli Tepe and Karahan Tepe, which are among the oldest temple sites in the world.

The wild boar statue, which is carved from limestone, was found at Gobekli Tepe and dates to between 8700 B.C. and 8200 B.C.

It measures 4.4 feet (1.4 meters) long and 2.3 feet (0.7 m) high, the German Archaeological Institute said in a statement. Archaeologists detected red, black and white pigments on its surface, indicating that the sculpture was once painted.

Archaeologists unearthed the large sculpture of the manat the site of Karahan Tepe, about 22 miles (35 kilometers) from Gobekli Tepe. It depicts a  7.5-foot-tall (2.3 m) man, according to a translated statement from Turkey’s ministry of culture and tourism.

The person’s ribs, spines and shoulders are particularly pronounced, and the person may actually be depicted as being dead, the statement said.

These discoveries, “represent the latest spectacular finds from these sites which are transforming our understanding of pre-agricultural communities,” Benjamin Arbuckle, an anthropology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who was not involved with the excavations, told Live Science in an email.

Researchers also found a small sculpture of a vulture nearby at Karahan Tepe. While archaeologists didn’t say how old the newfound statues at, Karahan Tepe are, the site is around 11,000 years old and contains other sculptures and buildings.

Archaeologists used to think that the hunter-gatherer communities in southwest Asia around 11,000 years ago “were relatively simple, small in scale, and generally egalitarian,” Arbuckle said. But the discoveries at Gobekli Tepe and Karahan Tepe over the last 30 years have disproved this idea, Arbuckle said.

Gobekli Tepe is a sprawling, megalithic site filled with T-shaped pillars and sophisticated sculptures depicting animals, abstract symbols and human hands.

The site was likely used in funerary rituals, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The presence of such a massive, sophisticated complex suggests that hunter gatherer communities in the region were not as simple as once thought but rather were organized in a way that allowed them to build great works of architecture.

What was the sculptures’ purpose?

The purpose of the recently found sculptures is unclear. “The Karahan Tepe finds strike me as the most interesting,” Ted Banning, an anthropology professor at the University of Toronto who is not involved with the research, told Live Science in an email.

“Any interpretation of the statue is conjectural at this point,” Banning said but suggested it was likely that the person shown is dead. It may represent “an important ancestor associated with the building in which it was found.”

The figure’s pose may give a further clue about its purpose. “The fact that the figure is clutching its penis is also consistent with this interpretation by potentially symbolizing that this person was the progenitor of a social group, such as a lineage or clan, associated with the building,” Banning said.

Banning thinks that structures at Karahan Tepe and Gobekli Tepe may have been used as houses rather than temples, “in which case it makes a lot of sense that each would have its own lineage ancestor,” Banning said.

It’s not surprising that the wild boar sculpture has pigments, he added. “I think it’s plausible that much or even most of the sculpture at these sites was originally painted”, Banning said, noting that paint doesn’t preserve well in the archaeological record.

Archaeologists involved with the excavations did not return requests for comment at time of publication.

The Marble Head of Alexander the Great was Unearthed in Turkey

The Marble Head of Alexander the Great was Unearthed in Turkey

The head of a marble statue of Alexander the Great unearthed in Turkey shows the enduring popularity of the ancient ruler hundreds of years after his death, experts say.

The Marble Head of Alexander the Great was Unearthed in Turkey
The head of the marble statue was found last month amid the ruins of a second-century theater at Konuralp, in northwest Turkey near the city of Düzce.

The object was found amid the ruins of the upper levels of a Roman-era theater at Konuralp, north of Düzce and near Turkey’s northwest coast, and is thought to date to the second century. Alexander the Great died in 323 B.C, so the statue may have been made more than 400 years after his death.

The remains of other marble statues, including heads of the Greek god Apollo and the mythical monster Medusa, have also been found in the ruins of the theater, the Düzce Municipality wrote in a statement in Turkish.

Alexander was a popular figure in the ancient world long after his untimely death at age 32 at Babylon beside the Euphrates river, historian Paul Cartledge, a professor at the University of Cambridge and the author of “Alexander the Great: the Hunt for a New Past” (Overlook Press, 2004), told Live Science.

One reason for Alexander’s enduring popularity was that his successors promoted him as an ideal ruler whom they hoped to emulate. “The contenders for his throne, and therefore his empire, used his name and said ‘he was terrific,'” said Cartledge, who wasn’t involved in the new discovery.

It also became common for later rulers to make coins containing Alexander’s image as a way to legitimize their reigns, he said.

Experts say the marble head has many distinctive features from a statue of Alexander the Great, including a hairstyle meant to look like a lion’s mane and upward-looking eyes.

Macedonian king

After analyzing the marble head, historical experts determined it was a portrayal of Alexander, according to the statement.

“[He] is depicted with deep and upward-looking eyes … and a slightly open mouth that barely reveals its teeth,” Düzce Municipality officials said in the statement, which also noted the distinctive hairstyle on the statue.

“The two tufts of hair in the middle of the forehead, which are separated from the back and sides, are like a lion’s mane,” they said in the translated statement. “This depiction is a hairstyle unique to Alexander the Great.”

Alexander was one of the most famous rulers of the ancient world. Born in 356 B.C., he became the king of Macedonia, a territory north of Greece, in 336. His father, Philip II of Macedon, had already succeeded in uniting Greece under his rule.

Although not born in Greece, Alexander was enamored of Greek culture and spread it as he began a campaign of military conquests to the south and east, which culminated in his defeat of the powerful Persian Empire in a series of battles between 334 B.C. and 331 B.C.

Alexander the Great died in 323 B.C. but he remained a popular figure for hundreds of years under the Roman Empire, which ruled this region at that time.

Mighty empire

At its height, Alexander’s empire stretched from Greece and Egypt to Bactria, roughly in what’s now Afghanistan, to the Punjab in what’s now Pakistan. But his army refused to go any farther, and Alexander returned to Babylon, where he died a few years later—probably from an illness, but possibly from drinking too much or because he was poisoned, Cartledge said.

When the Romans conquered much of the ancient world—including the kingdom of Bithynia, in the region where the new statue was found—they, too, regarded Alexander the Great as an ideal ruler.

Indeed, Alexander’s habit of shaving his face—as opposed to sporting beards, like most past rulers did—influenced Roman emperors and led Romans to shave, because it was thought to be the correct thing for rulers to do, Cartledge said.

Alexander seemed to have taken up the habit because he wanted to be seen like the Greek god Apollo, who was portrayed without a beard.

For the same reason, many statues of Alexander portrayed his eyes looking upward toward the gods, Cartledge said, and upward-looking eyes are one feature of the statue discovered at Konuralp.

Archaeologists recently unearthed the remains of a Roman cosmetic and jewelry shop in Turkey.

Archaeologists recently unearthed the remains of a Roman cosmetic and jewelry shop in Turkey.

Archaeologists recently unearthed the remains of a Roman cosmetic and jewelry shop in Turkey.
Archaeologists found makeup fragments in brightly-colored hues in the remains of a cosmetics shop in Aizanoi.

Excavations of the ancient city of Aizanoi in modern-day western Turkey have focused on the area near the Temple of Zeus in Anatolia, which was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2012, according to the Anadolu Agency.

The team of archaeologists has been focusing on the agora, or marketplace, east of the Temple of Zeus, said excavation head Gokhan Coskun, an archaeologist at Dumlupinar University.

“We determined that the place we completely uncovered was a shop that sold cosmetic products such as perfumes, jewelry, and makeup materials,” Coskun said.

“During the excavation here, we encountered a large number of perfume bottles. In addition to these, there are jewelry items. Among these, there are various beads belonging to products such as hairpins and necklaces used by women.”

Makeup kits found at the site still contained brightly-colored eyeshadow and blush, similar to makeup used today. During the Roman Empire, makeup materials were often placed inside oyster shells.

The makeup found at the Aizanoi agora was mostly in shades of bright pink and red.

“One of the most surprising findings was that we came across were makeup pigments similar to blush and eyeshadow used today,” Coskun said.

“Of course, they are not in a very well-preserved state. Sometimes they are found in 1- or 2-millimeter pieces. We also found well-preserved pieces during the excavation.”

Coskun said they found “a large number” of oyster shells in the shop area. They uncovered makeup in 10 different colors, but the vast majority were in bright hues of red and pink.

The excavations at the Aizanoi marketplace have been yielding stunning results over recent years, with another discovery in 2021 producing a bone workshop with tools and an oil lamp shop with intact lamps.

“Findings from both shops show us that local products were manufactured in Aizanoi,” Coskun said at the time. “It is an important finding for us that important production activities were carried out in Aizanoi during the Roman era.”

Excavations in Aizanoi more broadly have been ongoing since 1926, with excavations of the agora site dating back to 1970, according to Arkeonews.

The city of Aizanoi has been a significant focus of excavation in recent years. Archaeologists have found evidence of several different settlements dating back to 3000 B.C.E., and in 133 B.C.E., it was captured by the Roman Empire.

Archaeologists believe that Aizanoi was an important political and economic center during the Roman Empire. Many remains of ancient buildings and statues have been excavated, including the temple, one of the most well-preserved Zeus temples in the world.

The Temple of Zeus in Aizanoi is one of the most well-preserved Zeus temples in the world.

There was also a combined theater and stadium complex, the only known one of its kind in the ancient world, according to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Aizanoi was also home to one of the first stock markets in the world.

Aizanoi likely fell into decline around the seventh century C.E. European travelers discovered the remains of the city in 1824.

Excavations between 1970 and 2011 revealed the remains of several other notable buildings and structures, including public baths, a gymnasium, bridges, a necropolis, and a sacred cave believed to be an ancient cultist site.

3,000-Year-Old Cuneiform Tablet Reveals Previously Unknown Language

3,000-Year-Old Cuneiform Tablet Reveals Previously Unknown Language

Words from a “lost” language spoken more than 3,000 years ago have been discovered on an ancient clay tablet unearthed in Turkey.

3,000-Year-Old Cuneiform Tablet Reveals Previously Unknown Language
Almost 30,000 clay tablets covered in cuneiform writing have been unearthed at Boğazköy-Hattuşa. Most of them are written in Hittite; this one at the British Museum records a peace treaty.

Archaeologists discovered the tablet earlier this year during excavations at Boğazköy-Hattuşa in north-central Turkey, the site of Hattusha, the Hittite capital from about 1600 B.C. until about 1200 B.C. and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Annual expeditions to the site led by Andreas Schachner, an archaeologist at the German Archaeological Institute, have unearthed thousands of clay tablets written in cuneiform — perhaps the most ancient written script, created by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia more than 5,000 years ago.

The tablets are “mainly found in clusters connected to half a dozen buildings,” sometimes described as archives or libraries, Schachner told Live Science. “But we find text all over the [site] that are moved around by erosion.”

Most of the tablets unearthed at Boğazköy-Hattuşa are written in the language of the Hittites, but a few include words from other languages — apparently because the Hittites were interested in foreign religious rituals.

The words in the previously unknown language appear to be from such a ritual, which was recorded on a single clay tablet along with writing in Hittite explaining what it was.

“The introduction is in Hittite,” Schachner said in an email. “It is clear that it is a ritual text.”

The words in the “lost” language were written in cuneiform script on a clay tablet found at Boğazköy-Hattuşa. They seem to be from a foreign religious ritual written down by Hittite scribes.

Lost language

The clay tablet was one of several sent to Germany to be analyzed, where it was studied by Daniel Schwemer, a professor and chair of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the University of Würzburg.

From the Hittite introduction, he identified it as the language of Kalašma, a region on the north-western edge of the Hittite heartland near the modern Turkish city of Bolu.

The scholars don’t know what it says yet, and they’re not releasing any photographs of the tablet until it has been fully studied.

But they’ve determined that it belongs to the Anatolian group of the Indo-European family of languages, which the Hittite language also belonged to; other ancient languages in the region, including Akkadian, Hebrew and Aramaic, belong to the Semitic family of languages.

The ruins near the Turkish town of Boğazköy were discovered in the 19th century. They have since been revealed as the remains of Hattusha, the capital city of the Hittite Empire.

Schwemer said in a statement that “the Hittites were uniquely interested in recording rituals in foreign languages.” Extracts of rituals in other foreign languages have also been found in the tablets from Boğazköy-Hattuşa, including in the Indo-European languages Luwian and Palaic and a non-Indo-European language known as Hattic.

Such ritual texts were written by Hittite scribes and reflected various Anatolian, Syrian and Mesopotamian traditions and linguistic milieus. 

“The rituals provide valuable glimpses into the little-known linguistic landscapes of Late Bronze Age Anatolia, where not just Hittite was spoken,” Schwemer said. 

The Hittite Empire was a major power in the eastern Mediterranean during the Bronze Age, ruling most of Anatolia (modern Turkey) and what’s now Syria From about 1600 B.C. to about 1200 B.C.

Hittite Empire

For centuries, the Hittites, who ruled over most of Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) and Syria, were among the most powerful empires in the ancient world. In 1274 B.C., the Hittites fought the Battle of Kadesh against the Egyptians for control of Canaan — what’s now southern Syria, Lebanon and Israel. 

The battle may be the earliest military action ever recorded. It seems to have been a defeat for the Hittites; although they kept control of the city of Kadesh, the Egyptians kept control of Canaan.

Hattusha became the Hittite capital in about 1600 B.C.; and more than 100 years of archaeological excavations at the site have revealed a vast ancient city there.

But it was abandoned in about 1200 B.C. during the cataclysmic “Late Bronze Age collapse” that suddenly ended or damaged many ancient states in the eastern Mediterranean; the collapse has been ascribed to invasions by migrants called the “Sea Peoples”, sudden climate changes, and disruptive new technologies like iron — but historians and archaeologists debate the causes. 

Schachner said it wasn’t possible to foresee if any other writings in the “lost” language would be found, or if extracts from still other ancient languages would be found in the tablets from Boğazköy-Hattuşa.

A mass grave of children unearthed in ancient city

A mass grave of children unearthed in ancient city

Archaeologists have unearthed a mass grave of children dating back to the fifth century in the ancient city of Savatra in the Central Anatolian province of Konya.

Excavation work has been ongoing for the past three years in the ancient city of Savatra, under the leadership of İlker Işık, the head of the Department of Cultural Heritage Preservation and Restoration at Selçuk University.

During surface surveys in 2020, a remarkable discovery was made — an inscription in the Greek alphabet bearing the word “Türkoğlu,” the descendant of a Turk in Turkish, marking the first occurrence of the term “Turk” in Anatolia.

This year’s excavation efforts led to the discovery of mosaic floors in a 400-square-meter area, presumably belonging to a church foundation.

As the excavation continued, a collective children’s burial site dating to the fifth century was revealed.

“We encountered two different burial typologies in terms of east-west orientation, consisting of chamber tombs and tile graves.

We identified a children’s cemetery, primarily consisting of non-adult individuals, ranging from fetuses to approximately 13-14 years of age. In total, we found 42 skeletons here,” Işık explained.

Highlighting the distinct burial techniques found, Işık added, “For example, we encountered instances of stacked burials, even finding five skulls in a single grave. Whether due to familial connections or the functional continuity of the burial sites, we observed these overlapping burials.

Various small artifacts, such as coins, rings, and earrings, were also discovered during the excavation.

Starting this year, excavation efforts are continuing in the area known as the narthex, situated at the rear of the church. Significant discoveries have already been made in this approximately 400-square-meter mosaic area.

“This is indeed a crucial find for Anatolia. The presence of such a splendid mosaic area in Konya not only underscores the richness and grandeur of the region but also serves as a significant testament to the city’s historical importance.

In light of this, we intend to persist in our excavation efforts this year, with a particular focus on the mosaic area, to unveil more of its hidden treasures,” Işık said.

Huge Ancient Sarayini Underground City Is Twice As Large As Previously Thought

Huge Ancient Sarayini Underground City Is Twice As Large As Previously Thought

Scientists knew the ancient underground city they examined was huge, but now it’s obvious it’s twice as large as previously thought! What secrets does this mysterious ancient place hide? How many underground tunnels, galleries, chambers, and unknown rooms still await discovery?

Huge Ancient Sarayini Underground City Is Twice As Large As Previously Thought
The ancient Sarayini underground city covers at least 20,000 square meters. Image credit: Anadolu Agency (AA)

The ancient underground city in Sarayönü, a district of Konya in Turkey, dates back to the Roman period. When first examined by archaeologists, it was thought the subterranean city covered an area of  ​​5000 m2, but a recent investigation reveals this enigmatic ancient place is at least 20,000 square meters, if not even more!

In co-operation with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Sarayönü Municipality, scientists are investigating the ancient underground city for the second year.

What has been discovered so far is fascinating. There are dozens of underground rooms connected to each other by tunnels of different lengths and widths. Many corridors, tunnels, and galleries are still waiting to be cleaned, so it is currently difficult to determine where they lead.

Is Sarayini Turkey’s Largest Underground City In Horizontal Architecture?

The history of the subterranean place, which includes domestic spaces, connected galleries, room-like living spaces, water wells, furnaces, workshops, chimneys, oil lamps for lighting, cellars, warehouses, ventilation, and spaces whose quality has yet to be investigated, dates back to the 8th century.

Hasan Uguz, archaeologist and head of excavations of Konya Museums Directorate, said that based on the findings, scientists determined that “the local Christian people used the underground city in the 8th century to protect themselves from the raids that lasted for 150 years” the Konya News reports.

Uguz explained that elderly people who had lived here all their lives used to play in the tunnels as children. Locals knew a very large underground city was here, but no one could even guess how vast it was. Scientists did not think the underground tunnels, corridors, and rooms could spread over such a large area.

Uguz said it is possible this is the largest underground city in Turkey ever discovered in horizontal architecture.

“We may have found one of the largest underground cities in Central Anatolia. The rumors of the people of the region and the collapses in different places show us that the underground city can spread over a very wide area and that it can be a very long tunnel system.

The openings and dents we caught give positive signals at this point. It is an important historical and tourist discovery, as no other underground city is known in the region,” Uguz told the Konya News.

Ancient Sarayini Underground City Was A Comfortable Place

“In our research, we noticed that 19th-century European travelers refer to this region as Sarayini. The people living here also say this. The real name of this place is Sarayini. It has been determined that the caves resemble a palace because of their very spacious, comfortable, interconnected, and high-quality-of-life architecture, and in this sense, it is called Sarayini,” Uguz told the Anadolu Agency.

The archaeologists explained that scientists discovered a very wide corridor resembling what could be best described as a main street. On the left and right sides of the corridor were galleries connected by tunnels and other corridors.

The ancient underground city gives the impression of being prepared for people to live as comfortably as possible, almost like residing in a palace.

In an interview with the Anadolu Agency, Uguz said the archaeological investigations continue. During excavations, the science team discovered altar-type tombstones, tomb stelae made in the Roman period, sophisticated artificial walls built, and a north-south oriented structure reminiscent of a wooden cross.

Uguz explained that the underground city’s human capacity and exact size will become clear as the work progresses.

Soil currents coming from some submerged places with water filled the spaces between 30 and 80 cm. After the spaces are cleaned and exposed, the capacity and size of human accommodation will become clear. There are domestic spaces and interconnected galleries that excite us.

The most important thing for us is the discovery of this place and the start of the work. This underground mystery, how people lived here, how these places were created at that time attracts attention,” Uguz said.

8,000-year-old Cave paintings found in Türkiye’s İnkaya Cave depict life and death

8,000-year-old Cave paintings found in Türkiye’s İnkaya Cave depict life and death

8,000-year-old Cave paintings found in Türkiye’s İnkaya Cave depict life and death

A number of cave paintings dating back some 8,000 years have been found in İnkaya cave in the Marmara province of Balıkesir during a field study conducted by Associate Prof. Dr. Derya Yalçıklı from Çanakkale (18th March) University, in 2015.

During the same studies, another cave located 5 kilometers away from the İnkaya cave was discovered. The discovery of both caves is known as the most important archaeological discovery made in Anatolia in recent years.

The cave paintings discovered in the Baltalıin and İnkaya Caves, which are situated in the Delice neighborhood of the Dursunbey district in the Balıkesir province of Turkey, offer information that sheds light on Neolithic Age life.

One of the remarkable findings showing that people in the Prehistoric Age were undeniably knowledgeable about the phenomenon of childbirth is the scene found among the cave paintings of İnkaya Cave.

The painting depicts a woman becoming pregnant, the pregnancy, and childbirth in an expression that has yet to be matched.

The western part of the panel, which is well-preserved and situated close to the entrance of the İnkaya cave, constitutes the main scene of the picture.

When Baltalıın and İnkaya caves were analyzed separately, it was revealed they were used for different functions, as the paintings in one of them depicted hunting figures, while the other depicted figures of beliefs. The paintings found in the two caves date back to the Late Neolithic period.

Associate Professor Derya Yalçıklı, who discovered and examined the cave paintings, told Arkeonews in an email, “Social and belief systems in Western Anatolia during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods constitute an important question of Anatolian archeology, and examining the wall paintings in Baltalıin and İnkaya caves may provide some important answers.”

The floor and northern wall of the İnkaya Cave were greatly damaged by past treasure hunters using dynamite, however, despite this damage, the cave continues to reflect important information about the Neolithic era.

Southwestern painting.

Inkaya Cave is located 2.5 km northwest of Delice neighborhood. The cave, with its karstic quality, consists of a gallery that is 4.5 m deep, 8 m wide, and 4.4 m high. It features two murals located on the northern and southeastern outer edges of the cave entrance.

The panel located on the left side (southwest) of the cave entrance measures 1.43×0.87 meters. There are also four people dancing in the main part of the painting on the left side of the entrance.

A different depiction of a human wearing fur on the right side of two women and two men is depicted, while on the left side of this painting, there is a depiction of a fetus growing in the womb.

Across from a human wearing fur, a human is depicted with a snake behind. It was believed that the snake represents death in this figure, which was interpreted as “the moment of death” by the experts.

The depiction of a human wearing fur and extending his hand forward is believed to be a shaman who is helping human spirits to go to the land of the dead at the moment of death. A portrayal of a dead human without a head offered to the vultures is also depicted.

Detail of southwestern painting.

Life and death are the themes of the cave paintings in İnkaya Cave. The panels representing Life are based on the formation of a fetus inside a pregnant woman’s abdomen, its development, and birth, as well as the celebration of a new individual joining the community, with an emphasis on the shaman’s role throughout this process.

In cave paintings, reliefs, and figurines from the Neolithic period in Anatolia, scenes of sexuality, pregnancy, and childbirth are presented to the viewer from various angles.

The successful use of the “X-ray” style -The rays pass through the painting and create a negative of the darker areas on film- in the creation of the İnkaya Cave painting in the Neolithic period fills a gap in the history of Anatolian painting and sculpture.

2,700-year-old ‘extremely well preserved’ skeleton found in fortress in Turkey may be an earthquake victim

2,700-year-old ‘extremely well preserved’ skeleton found in fortress in Turkey may be an earthquake victim

Archaeologists in Turkey have unearthed the skeleton of an elite individual who may have met an untimely death during an earthquake in the region 2,700 years ago.

2,700-year-old 'extremely well preserved' skeleton found in fortress in Turkey may be an earthquake victim
Aerial view of the skeleton found this year at Ayanis Castle.

Wearing jewelry and surrounded by weapons and artifacts, such as a double-sided inscription, and seals – small items used for “designating signature, private property, ownership and authority,” this individual no doubt lived an opulent life in the eighth century B.C. until they fell to their death within the fortress, with their personal belongings in tow, said Mehmet Işıklı, head of the Ayanis excavations and professor in the Atatürk University Department of Archaeology.

The fortress was built in Ayanis, an Urartian center in Turkey’s Van province where the skeleton was found.

The Iron Age kingdom of Urartu reigned from the ninth to sixth centuries B.C.and spanned from what is now Armenia to western Iran to eastern Turkey, where Ayanis is located.

Scholars have long speculated that an earthquake and subsequent fire caused the downfall of Ayanis. Since excavations began there in the late 1980s, there has been a “lack of such evidence to support the proposed earthquake scenarios for the end of the city,” Işıklı told Live Science via email. The finding of this skeleton lends critical evidence to the earthquake hypothesis, Işıklı said.

 Anthropological analysis will be conducted on the skeleton to determine the individual’s age and sex, and to verify if any traces of the brain remain, although there is debate among researchers as to whether any soft tissue remains.

The recently restored Haldi Temple. 

A double-sided inscribed cuneiform tablet, found with the skeleton, will be translated and published soon. Depending on the content of the inscription, it may be possible to determine this individual’s role and class in Urartian society, as well as to give valuable context to the social or political activities at Ayanis.

According to Işıklı, not only is the skeleton “extremely well preserved” but “the skull is in good condition, and according to the preliminary information we have received,” there may be chemically degraded traces of the brain remaining.

Aerial view of the temple area.

Erkan Konyar, an associate professor in the Department of Ancient History at Istanbul University who is not involved in the finding but has excavated other Urartian findings, warned that brain tissue does not typically survive in the climate of Van, which includes the massive Lake Van and is over a mile above sea level (5,380 feet, or 1,640 meters).

Rather, brain tissue is likely to survive only in swampy or glacial environments. Evidence that first appears to be brain tissue are actually “traces formed by hardened soil,” Konyar told Live Science in an email.

Işıklı said further anthropological testing is needed to confirm the remains of tissue, along with other characteristics of the skeleton.

After the “magnificent” city of Ayanis was built by King Rusa II in the mid-seventh century B.C., “the kingdom quickly entered the process of collapse and collapsed shortly after,” Işıklı said.

Therefore, clues to the kingdom’s collapse may lie within the walls of the Ayanis citadel. Ayanis is “the only excavation project that has the potential to solve the problems of this peak and collapse of the kingdom,” Işıklı said.

Previous excavations within the citadel have unearthed the Haldi Temple, which has undergone restoration since 2020, along with its stone carvings honoring Haldi, the premier god in Urartian religion.

A number of rooms in the temple have been excavated recently, and there are plans to create an open-air museum for tourists to visit the temple.