A team of researchers, divers, and underwater photographers recently uncovered a mysterious castle at the bottom of a huge lake. Diving in Lake Van in Turkey’s eastern Van Province, they discovered a 3,000-year-old fortress that has been hidden beneath the water for decades.
Project leader Tahsin Ceylan, from Van Yüzüncü Yıl University, was at first searching the lake for another legend – the frightening Lake Van monster. Although he hasn’t found the monster, discovering an ancient castle is still pretty exciting.
"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," Ceylan told the Daily Sabah. But the rumor rang true. After about a decade of searching, the team's efforts were finally rewarded.
The castle is about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) in length, with walls reaching 3 to 4 meters (10-13 feet) high. Luckily, the alkaline conditions of the lake have kept it in fairly good condition.
As it is made mainly from cut stones, the castle is thought to be from the Urartu civilization, which existed during the Iron Age. It reached its peak between the 9th and 6th centuries BCE. The civilization is sometimes referred to as the Kingdom of Van.
The Lake's water levels have changed a lot over the past few thousand years, so it's likely that many groups could have lived there back when it was shallower than it is today.
"Many civilisations and people had settled around Lake Van," Ceylan told Hurriyet Daily News. "They named the lake the 'upper sea' and believed it had many mysterious things. With this belief in mind, we are working to reveal the lake's 'secrets'."
The castle isn’t all the team have found buried beneath the water. In fact, just last year they found 4 square kilometers (1.5 square miles) of stalagmites, which they nicknamed “underwater fairy chimneys”. They even found gravestones dating back 1,000 years. This year, they uncovered a Russian ship thought to have sunk in 1948.
"It is a miracle to find this castle underwater. Archaeologists will come here to examine the castle's history and provide information on it," Ceylan added.
There’s still a lot to find out about the castle. For example, it’s still unclear how far the walls are buried in the sediment at the bottom of the lake. Learning more about the fortress could provide new clues about the people who created it.
"We now believe we have discovered a new area for archaeologists and historians to study," said Ceylan.