Drought in Lake Van exposes long-submerged Ottoman structures

Drought in Lake Van exposes long-submerged Ottoman structures

Drought in Lake Van exposes long-submerged Ottoman structures

AA Photo / Özkan Bilgin

Lakes and tributaries across Anatolia have been hit by climate change and a lack of rain over the last year, but what is a natural disaster for the environment has provided historians with an opportunity to check their facts in eastern Turkey.

The worst drought experienced by Lake Van in 15 years has exposed ancient cities and a number of historic artefacts that had until now long been submerged under water.

Parts of the old city of Erciş, which lies along the northern stretch of Turkey’s largest lake, as well as an Ottoman fortress are not only visible, but also accessible by foot on the desiccated lake bed.

A geographer from a local university says more ancient artefacts will be revealed if the water level continues to fall, including settlements and fortresses from the Urartian era.

“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 dates back to around 1,000 B.C. and was one of the most important ancient civilizations to settle in Anatolia. The kingdom spread between the triangle formed by Lake Van, Lake Sevan in today’s Armenia, and Lake Urumiyah in western Iran.

However, although a boon to historians, the sharp drought currently experienced in Anatolia is raising concerns among environmentalists, particularly as several important lakes 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. Not far away, Lake Tuz, which has shrunk to 50 percent of its original size over the last 40 years, continues to vanish. Lake Sapanca in the province of Sakarya, east of Istanbul, has also witnessed an alarming drop in its water levels, while local activists have mobilized to save Lake Burdur, which has lost a third of its waters over the last 35 years.