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Mystery Surrounds Underwater Castle Found in Turkey

Earlier this month, a team of archaeologists in eastern Turkey claimed to have discovered the ruins of of a 3,000-year-old castle under the waters of Lake Van. The castle is said to measure over a kilometer in circumference and has cut stone walls standing as high as three or four meters in some places. Diving team leader Tahsin Ceylan was on the dive which found the ruins and told The Daily Sabah that “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.” Well, they did find something – something incredible – but just what exactly the structure is and who built it remains a mystery.

Lake Van is the largest lake in Turkey.

Lake Van is the largest lake in Turkey.

When the news of this discovery broke this month, headlines were quick to proclaim that a “3,000-year-old underwater castle” was found in Turkey since researchers from Van Yüzüncü Yıl University claim the structure likely was built by the Iron Age Urartu civilization who lived in the Armenian Highlands as far back as the third or second millennium BC. It turns out, though, that archaeologists have been aware of ruins in the Lake Van area since at least the 1960s. These ruins were believed around 900-1,000 years old and belong to one of the medieval Turkish kingdoms, however, not a 3000-year-old culture. Several archaeologists not involved with the discovery have weighed in to say that while some of the cut stones might date back to the Iron Age, the construction methods seen in photographs of the castle suggest the medieval period. It is quite common in archaeological sites to find that prior cultures reused the building materials of ancient civilizations.

A Urartian stone arch found in medieval ruins near Lake Van.

A Urartian stone arch found in medieval ruins near Lake Van.

So what exactly is at the bottom of Lake Van? Unfortunately, while the dive team behind this “discovery” photographed some type of cut stone structure down there, the site has yet to be excavated by a specialized underwater archaeology team. Many of the original claims in this month’s headlines were based on the finding of the dive team alone, which included an underwater photographer, a fishery professor, and a diving instructor. Thus, it is difficult for any of the claims to be verified before a formal excavation by trained archaeologists takes place. Still, the fact that there are still unexcavated underwater ruins waiting to be discovered is a pretty fascinating thought in itself. Atlantis has to be down there somewhere, right?

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Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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