Volcanic rock textures and ages suggest that the painting of a mural by residents of Çatalhöyük was recording an explosive eruption of the Hasan Dagi volcano.
Scientists 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 Neolithic site in central Turkey.
To determine if Hasan Dagi was active during that time, scientists collected and analyzed volcanic rock samples from the summit and flanks of the Hasan Dagi volcano using (U-Th)/He zircon geochronology. These ages were then compared to the archeological date of the mural.
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.
Lead author Axel Schmitt from the University of California Los Angeles says, "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."