When an ancient discovery came to light in a 600,000-year-old lake, nobody could quite believe that it had been submerged alone for all these years.
For decades, intrigue has surrounded a stunning turquoise lake, that is enclosed by staggering mountain terrain. Boasting a landscape of breathtakingly green foliage and beautiful flowers there sits an ancient church that rests on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the whole lake. But the most enchanting thing about the area was hiding in the depths below Lake Van.
In ancient times, there was a devastating volcanic eruption, which led to the lake’s outlet being blocked. Amazingly, despite its altitude being 5,380 ft, the salinity stops the lake from freezing, yet adds beauty to the area as snow sits on the peak of the mountains. Was it during the eruption that a piece of history was concealed?
So Long Ago
Remarkably, the lake was formed more than 600,000 years ago and as you can imagine, the water levels have significantly risen since that time. Was it because of this natural development that the building was lost?
Something To Discover
The lake has always been a desired place for scientists due to its age, but the discovery was not something they previously knew anything about.
During the 9th century, the lake was located close to Tushpa, the capital of Urartu, a forgotten kingdom from the Iron Age. The Urartu kingdom ruled over the entire area of Lake Van in the forgotten times of 860-560 BC. Following that time, legends had been passed down, but no evidence had ever been uncovered until now.
The Tales Of The Lake
It was in 2017, that a group of archaeologists and historical photographers set off on a mission to find something that they had only heard about in stories. Were the tales of Lake Van true? After all, with all the time that had passed since the lake was formed, would they make a historical discovery?
600,000 Years Old
In a piece of land so steeped in history, there had to be something lurking in the depths of the lake and if there was, would they finally find the proof? Thousands of years later, during the 1950s and 1960s, researchers conducted a survey of the lake and found something unusual.
It Could Have Already Been Discovered
The survey stated that there, in the lake, was a structure of some sort that dated way back to the Middle Ages, a time that lasted between A.D. 476 to 1450. Of course, during the ‘50s and ‘60s, they didn’t have the technology that we have today and nothing much could be said about the find.
The archaeological group gathered together some of the very best researchers, historians, and divers in the business and set off on their discovery. The team was brought together by Yan Yüzüncü Yıl University, where they were creating an underwater excavations study. Little did they know, they were about to make history.
City Of Atlantis
For decades, many searched the lake for lost pieces of history, to no avail. Lost cities, similar to Atlantis, are typically spoken about in storybooks, therefore this was the last thing anyone expected to find, so when they did, they couldn’t quite believe their eyes.
There, hidden hundreds of meters beneath the surface of Lake Van, they discovered a lost kingdom. The team was overwhelmed with their find. Although they set out with one thing in mind, deep down they didn’t truly believe they would come to identifying a 3,000-year-old building.
Deep In The Water
Resting deep in the water, there on the lake bed, was a vast castle which had been preserved almost perfectly by the water. After a thorough search, the researchers and divers had found the golden prize. However, the head of the diving team, Tahsin Ceylan, originally set out on a completely different mission and he was stunned with the find.
Not What He Thought
Ceylan set out on a quest to find a mythical Lake Van Monster, something that had been rumored to be swimming around the lake for centuries. Speaking out about the find he said, “There was a rumor that there might be something under the water, but most archaeologists and museum officials told us that we won’t find anything.”
The castle stood tall and appeared to be in astonishing condition. As the team looked around, they wondered how the castle had got there. How had a whole kingdom been drowned without anyone knowing anything about it? The castle walls stood high at around 4 meters and the construction spans around a kilometer. What had they found?
Indeed, according to legend, the researchers had unlocked evidence dating back to the lost Urartu civilization of the Iron Age. The area also went by the name, Kingdom of Van, that had existed from the 9th to the 6th centuries BCE. Due to the lakes fluctuating water levels, all had been lost, up until now, that is.
Finding The Truth
In the era of the Urartian society, historians believed that the water levels were dramatically lower and had only risen over the millennia, leading to parts of the city finding its place on the lake bed. The find has initiated an even wider search as people now believe there is much more to the rumored legends of the lake.
Buried Deep Into The Floor
Sections of the castle stood strong with smooth walls while some areas had depleted into piles of loose stones. Further parts of the city still exist in the area above the lake today with each piece complimenting the sunken fortress. Upon the discovery, divers were only able to measure the castle from the bed upwards, but how deep were the walls buried into the floor?
Drawing In The Rock
The find opens many new pathways to discover. Who were the people that built the castle and the surrounding area? Better yet, who inhabited the castle up until it was drowned by the lake? The castle was made up out of mostly cut stones and Ceylan’s team were overwhelmed to discover a drawing of a lion etched into the rock. What could this mean?
Which Time Period?
At the time of the Urartian era, they used a lion motif to represent their kingdom. Upon further inspection, an archaeologist named Geoffrey Summers came forward and claimed the drawing was indeed from an even later time period, saying, “it looks more medieval than something from the Urartian kingdom”.
It came to light that some of the stones the Urartian’s used to build the castle had been re-used from an earlier time period. An archaeology professor at Marmara University said, “The walls [seem] medieval or late antique period rather than Urartu. Urartian never used any material between ashlar wall stones to connect each other.” Could another expert shed any more light on the find?
A scholar by the name of P. Hulin published a report on the ancient mystery in Lake Van and wrote, “a lofty wall of later than Urartian times runs under the lake.” He went on to share some interesting information.
News Of The King
As part of his research, Hulin discovered inscriptions that spoke about the Urartian King, Rusa. As time had passed, the writings had become distorted and only a small fraction could be read.
King Rusa became the King of Urartu after he succeeded his father, King Sarduri II. During his father’s reign, he had expanded the Kingdom of Urartu to cover the southeast area, conquering multiple Anatolian territories along the way, due to a weak spot in their Empire. Little did Sarduri know at the time, that his work would cause a serious problem for his son once he became King.
Taking Back Their Land
With King Rusa now on the throne, the Assyrians had an idea. With a new king of their own, King Tiglath-Pileser III had summoned his people to regroup and build strength amongst each other, ready to head to battle
They were preparing to take back the land that the King Rusa’s father had taken control of. Was this the moment where the Urartu Kingdom would begin to disappear into the lake?
Fight For The Kingdom
It was due to the force of Tiglath-Pileser III’s people that King Rusa spent the first few years of his reign fighting for his kingdom. It was clear they wanted to take the land back and there was nothing that would stop them.
Urartu was repeatedly invaded and had little time to repair itself after each attack. The kingdom was quickly deteriorating, and even its King was running out of resources. The battle’s had taken its toll on the economy, and King Tiglath-Pileser III knew he was in reach of his goal.
With the Urartu economy and its people suffering, they were forced to admit defeat and hand over their territory to the people of Assyria. Throughout his reign, King Rusa was in a constant battle as he tried to protect his kingdom, but in the end, he lost his kingdom and his mind.
Since the discovery of the ancient castle in Lake Van many archaeologists, researchers and divers have flocked to the area, with the hope to find out more information on the find so they can determine exactly where the ruins came from. Head diver Ceylan commented, “The area needs to be thoroughly researched by [an] archaeologist.” Let’s see what happens.