Turkey’s Drought Reveals Ancient Cities In Lake Van

The ill-fated effects of climate change have devastatingly hit Anatolia, resulting in a constant lack of rain over the course of the last year. The natural disaster has left many in fear of what’s to come, but has also provided historians with a startling opportunity.

The worst drought experienced by Lake Van, Turkey’s largest lake, in 15 years has revealed ancient cities and a number of age-old artifacts that had until now long been hidden underwater. Parts of the old city of Erciş, which lies along the northern stretch of the enormous lake, as well as an Ottoman fortress, are now completely visible on the dried lakebed. What’s more, they’re also accessible by foot.

According to the Turkey-based source Hurriyet Daily News, a geographer from a local university says more early structures, like settlements and fortresses from the Urartian era, will be exposed if the country’s water level continues to fall.

“Settlements that were thought to be indestructible were submerged underwater. If the water level drops further, we will see more of the remains of an ancient city,” said Ali Fuat Doğu from Van’s Yüzüncü Yıl University.

The Urartian Kingdom was established in 1,000 B.C. and was one of the most important ancient civilizations to settle in Anatolia. Soon after, the kingdom opened out into the triangle formed by Lake Van, Lake Sevan in today’s Armenia, and Lake Urumiyah in western Iran.

Although the severe drought in Anatolia has been accommodating to the work of historians, the conditions currently being experienced have been increasingly alarming environmentalists. One of their heavy concerns relies on the fact that several main lakes in the region, which is also referred to as Asia Minor, are facing extinction.

Lake Meke in the Central Anatolian province of Konya saw its volume fall by 99 percent over the summer according to scientists, the Hurriyet Daily News reports. Nearby, Lake Tuz is consistently shrinking, having dwindled down to 50 percent of its original size over the last 40 years. Lake Sapanca in the province of Sakarya, east of Istanbul, has also experienced a disconcerting drop in its water levels, while local activists in the area have organized to try and save southwestern Lake Burdur, which has lost a third of its waters over the last three and a half decades.