Archaeologists have found a mysterious 3,000-year-old castle deep in the waters of Turkey’s Lake Van.
Video by National Geographic
Most of the time, we think that the legends and local myths we hear are just that--legends and myths. However, there are times when these legends and myths prove to be true after all, no matter how much people say they’re not.
Such is the case of the ancient fortress long-hidden in the depths of a lake. Lake Van, which sits close to Turkey’s border with Iran, was once central to the Urartu kingdom. The Urartu kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of Van, rose in the Iron Age and flourished from 860 BC to 590 BC. There have long been legends that the ruins of this ancient kingdom lay at the bottom of the lake that once held its center--ruins that Tahsin Ceylan wanted to discover.
"Many civilisations and people had settled around Lake Van," said Ceylan, who was the head of Van Yuzuncu Yil University’s archaeological diving team. "They named the lake the 'upper sea' and believed it had many mysterious things.”
A map of the Urartu kingdom [Photo via Wikimedia Commons]
Lake Van doesn’t flow out to the ocean. It sits away from the coast, surrounded by land. Because of this, Lake Van has experienced dramatic rises and falls in water level throughout its existence. It’s possible that in the Iron Age, the people of the Urartu kingdom built their structures on what is now the lakebed. The waters slowly rose over the centuries, until these structures were lost to memory--as well as to the waters of the lake.
“[W]e are working to reveal the lake's 'secrets'," says Ceylan. Researchers now believe that the mysterious castle they found under the lake’s waters was build by the Urartu kingdom. The castle is quite vast, especially for something that’s been hidden underwater for thousands of years, measuring about a kilometer long. Its walls stood as tall as three to four meters, well-preserved by the lake’s alkaline waters.
This discovery almost didn’t happen. “There was a rumour that there might be something under the water but most archaeologists and museum officials told us that we won't find anything," said Ceylan. It’s a good thing he didn’t listen, then, since the discovery of this vast, 3,000-year-old castle was quite significant. If Ceylan had been discouraged, the castle may have gone on undiscovered at the bottom of the lake.
A diver glides over 3,000-year-old castle walls [Screengrab by National Geographic]
Ceylan’s gut instincts, or whatever it was that prompted him to ignore the warnings of experts, have paid off. This vast and ancient underwater castle wasn’t the first discovery made on the lakebed. Last year, Ceylan and his colleagues also discovered 1,000-year-old graves from the Seljuk era. Earlier this year, meanwhile, they also found a Russian ship that may have sunk in 1948.
Of course, this is just the beginning for the, well, renaissance of sorts of this underwater castle. There’s still a lot left to discover, like how far the walls go under the sediment at the bottom of the lake. Hopefully, further study will reveal more about the castle, as well as the people who once lived within its walls.
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