According to researchers the finding may be the oldest known map.
In the early 1960s, James Mellaart (1925 - 2012), one of the most controversial archaeologists of the 20th century, discovered Çatalhöyük, the world's largest Stone Age city that contained not only the earliest textiles and pottery known to man but also the earliest paintings found on walls, reportedThe Telegraph.
"Mellaart explained that the original murals had proved impossible to remove or preserve. They were damaged, he said, and been impossible to photograph before they crumbled to plaster dust."
|"Indeed, the only evidence of their existence were hurried sketches made by Mellaart and not released to public examination until 1989, when they only added to the debate."|
There was no independent way of testing the accuracy, even the existence, of these frescoes, but according to Mellaart - they depicted erupting volcanoes, scenes of men sowing and tending livestock and formalised patterns of animals, birds and human figures."
Now, Axel Schmitt from the University of California Los Angeles and colleagues analyzed rocks from the nearby Hasan Dagi volcano in order to determine whether it was the volcano depicted in the mural from ~6600 BC in the Catalhöyük.
The analysis confirmed the interpretation that residents of Çatalhöyük may have recorded an explosive eruption of Hasan Dagi volcano.
The dating of the volcanic rock indicated an eruption around 6900 BC, which closely overlaps with the time the mural was estimated to have been painted in Çatalhöyük. The overlapping timeframes indicate humans in the region may have witnessed this eruption.
Alternative interpretations of the mural include the depiction of a leopard skin, consistent with other art at the Çatalhöyük site.
"We tested the hypothesis that the Çatalhöyük mural depicts a volcanic eruption and discovered a geological record consistent with this hypothesis. Our work also demonstrates that Hasan Dagi volcano has potential for future eruptions," Schmitt said.
The research work confirms the eruption between 9,500 and 8,400 years ago—a timespan including the era that the mural was likely painted.
"Our data are the first evidence for a volcanic eruption of Hasan Dagi coeval with human presence at Çatalhöyük," inform scientists in their paper.