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Unique rock paintings reveal traces of prehistoric human settlement in Anatolia

ANKARA – Turkish Daily News | 1/18/2007 12:00:00 AM |

On the shores of Lake Bafa in southwest Turkey, prehistoric rock paintings found on Mt. Latmos in the Five Fingers Mountains have been classified as unique anthropological works because of their use

On the shores of Lake Bafa in southwest Turkey, prehistoric rock paintings found on Mt. Latmos in the Five Fingers Mountains have been classified as unique anthropological works because of their use of language and social themes.

Archaeologist Annelise Peschlow has been conducting a survey of the area, the ancient city of Miletusare, since 1974 as part of the Latmos Project to find early traces of human settlements in the area. The city's evolution extended from prehistoric times to the Ottoman era. She found the first rock paintings in 1994.

According to her, the rock paintings found on Mt. Latmos were a significant discovery because they provided unique insight into the prehistoric culture of Anatolia.

“There are numerous rock paintings in the world. However, those in Mt. Latmos are unique in terms of their language and theme. The rock paintings discovered in Western Europe featured mainly animal figures as well as war and hunting scenes whereas the representation of family and mother-child figures are the principal motives in the rock paintings found on Mt. Latmos. There are no hunting scenes or scenes from nomadic life here. They also don't focus on the individual but show man in a social context, emphasizing social life.” 

“I found the paintings featured on the rocks of Mt. Latmos to be unique piece of artwork when I compared them to those found in western Europe,” Peschlow said in a Tuesday press conference promoting the exhibition titled “Prehistoric Rock Paintings” which will open on Wednesday in the State Painting and Sculpture Museum in Ankara. 

Sponsored by the Berlin-based German Archaeology Institute and Koç Holding, the exhibition, which is the culmination of five years of work, marks the beginning of the German term presidency of the European Union and features over 80 rock paintings as well as graphical works.

Peschlow said so far they had found 170 rock paintings dating back to 6,000 B.C. in the region, which also offered a wide array of traces of human settlements which began in prehistoric times and continue through the Middle Ages in western Anatolia.

National park project: 

Stating that they also found ornaments and symbols during the survey, she said: “The images belonged to the settled communities who used to live in caves at the time. They also shed light on the conceptual and imaginary world of the prehistoric communities living in Anatolia and they are the first to give testimony to prehistoric human settlement in western Anatolia.”

“The most common figure in the paintings is the figure of Mt. Latmos. There is an important link between the images and Mt. Latmos, which is a volcanic formation. People reflected the volcanic change of the mountain into the rock paintings in which they sometimes depicted the mountain as a dragon or a sacred place. The mountain signified a holy place of worship for them because they used to believe that the changes were the will of a mountain god. That's why the mountain is an important motif in their paintings,” she noted. 

Peschlow is now trying to convert the Five Fingers Mountains, one of the richest regions of Turkey in terms of archaeological remains, into a National Park.

“It is not only because I am in love with the region,” she said, adding: “The natural landscape of Mt. Latmos is unique in the world and there is no protection. The area should be preserved and utilized for tourism. Tourists are bored of sun and sea holidays in Turkey and it is an ideal site for cultural tourism. The site can be a great source of income for Turkey and the locals can be the natural protectors of the area.”

Peschlow also officially applied to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the inclusion of the Five Fingers Mountains on UNESCO's World Heritage List but “this is not enough,” she says. 

The exhibit, which will be open until Feb.25, ran in Germany, Italy and Istanbul where visitors showed great interest and will move to the Muğla Archaeology Museum for a permanent display starting May 25.

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