Fishermen in southeastern Turkey made an unexpected contribution to history when they discovered seemingly ancient carvings in the rock surrounding a reservoir of the Euphrates river. The remarkable art appears to depict a human figure with a bow and arrow hunting horned animals, as well as several more abstract shapes.
According to a release by the Turkish news agency, the entire scene measures 8 meters (26 feet) long and 70 centimeters (28 inches) wide. The three men reportedly spotted the carvings earlier this month, after water levels of the Lake Ataturk Dam dropped by about 10 to 15 meters (33 to 50) throughout the section within the Kahta district of Adıyaman Province. (Lake Ataturk Dam is the third-largest reservoir in the world.)
Realizing the potential importance of their find, they brought a video of it to archaeologists at the nearby Adıyaman Museum. After inspecting the carvings, museum director Mehmet Alkan stated that he believes the drawings were created in the Paleolithic, the period that extended from 3.3 million years ago to about 11,500 years ago.
"There will be detailed work from now on. If not identified before, then we will begin the registration process,” he said, adding that submergence in the lake did "very little" damage to the carvings. Although rising water could cover them once more, experts plan to study the art as it is rather than trying to excise the slab of rock it is on.
Like many of the regions surrounding the Euphrates – land that, together with the area surrounding the Nile river and its delta, forms the Fertile Crescent, aka the “Cradle of Civilization” – Adıyaman has a rich human history dating back to the mid-Paleolithic. Archeological explorations in modern-day Turkey have revealed that ancient hominins began inhabiting the European-Asian land bridge over 1 million years ago. About 12,000 years ago, the resident tribes of migratory humans began to switch into settled agricultural groups, thus forming some of the first complex societies.
Just across the Euphrates reservoir from the carving’s location lies Göbekli Tepe, a hilltop site believed to represent the world’s oldest temple. Predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, the arrangement of massive carved stones is estimated to be 11,000 years old. As of now, about 20 circular clusters comprised of around 200 pillars have been unearthed.
Other hotspots of antiquity in Adıyaman include Mount Nemrut, a UNESCO world Heritage Site featuring large stone statues of animals and gods, and the settlement sites of Gritille, Hayaz, Ancoz, and Samsat.