Ancient City With Temple and Burial Ground Found in Turkey

Erzurum has changed hands between many kingdoms over the ages. The city has been ruled at different points in history by the Armenians, Arabs, Russians and Turks. Now archaeologists have found an ancient settlement, perhaps up to 3,000 years old. nearby. Flickr/Panegyrics of Granovetter

An archaeologist in Turkey, tipped off by rumors of treasure hunting in the country's east, has found an ancient settlement, perhaps up to 3,000 years old, dating from the days of the ancient Middle Eastern kingdom of Urartu.

The site is nestled in the mountainous region of eastern Anatolia, near the city of Erzurum, and includes what is believed to be a temple and a 50-meter-deep water tunnel, possibly left behind by the region's dwellers between the 13th and 6th centuries B.C., the Hurriyet Daily News reports.

The Urartian Kingdom once rose to prominence in the lands shared today between eastern Turkey, Iran and Armenia, before being succeeded by the Armenians, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The Iron Age kingdom borrowed some practices from the Assyrians and once aspired to rival them as a Middle Eastern power.

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Researcher and writer Ömer Faruk Kızılkaya told Turkish state news agency Anadolu that he was inspired to study the area after hearing that treasure hunters were exploring in the mountainous areas in Erzurum's Dumlu region.

Climbing around the rural area's caves, Kızılkaya made the discovery of what he believes was a settlement and has now applied to the provincial directorate of culture and tourism to protect the site.

Researchers say that important ceremonies, including high profile burials, took place inside the rock carvings and sepulchres.

"This is the place where the funeral ceremonies of kings or people, who are highly respected by the public, were performed," Kızılkaya told journalists who had traveled out to see the uncovered site. "We think there is a tomb here that belongs to either a king, ruler or religious man."

Urartian religion was polytheistic, assumed to have as many as 69 deities, and the hierarchy among all of them was linked to the size of the sacrifice people would dedicate to them. The Urartu's war on two fronts with the Assyrians and Cimmerians weakened their kingdom and lead to their demise at the hands of the ancient Iranian people known as the Medes.