Ancient rock art seems to indicate that humans witnessed a dangerous volcanic eruption during the Bronze Age and they drew a picture of it. And according to ancient footprints found in fine-grained volcanic ash, they also hiked near the volcano with their dogs in order to get a better look at the aftermath.
According to lead researcher İnan Ulusoy, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Geological Engineering at Hacettepe University in Turkey, “I think that people excited by the noise of the first hydrovolcanic eruption then started to approach the eruption site, walking on wet hydrovolcanic ash and leaving the footprints behind.”
Workers first noticed the well-preserved footprints – known as the “Kula footprints” – back in the 1960s at Kula Volcanic Geopark where Çakallar volcano is located. At first, researchers believed that the footprints were made 250,000 years ago, but recent studies using two dating methods indicate that they’re actually 4,700 years old.
The prints also showed that the humans used walking sticks and had some sort of canis species that accompanied them, such as a type of coyote, wolf, or dog. While it was previously thought that the people were running from the volcanic eruption, further analysis of the distance between the footprints indicate that they were in fact walking.
In the study (which can be read here), the researchers wrote, “Our observations confirm that the traces show a walking direction from west to east towards the Çakallar cone,” adding, “This may indicate a brief hiatus after ash deposition, which was long enough for humans to approach the volcano after its initial outburst.”
Additionally, the Bronze Age humans documented what they saw by using ocher to create an illustration of the volcanic eruption. The drawing was discovered on a rock in the western part of Turkey only 1.2 miles from the footprints. The ancient rock art – known as the Kanlitaş rock painting – shows a crater-like round shape in the middle with a line drawn underneath it which could be the lava coming out of the volcano. There were additional lines drawn around the crater as well as thumbless handprints.
Pictures of the ancient rock art can be viewed here.
Since the rock art appears to represent a volcanic eruption, these Bronze Age humans could very well be one of the first people to have ever witnessed and then recorded a volcano erupting.