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Ancient fortress hidden by lake

FOR a 3000-year-old ruin, this one is in remarkable condition.

Archaeologists from the Van Yuzuncu University spent years looking for it.

“There was a rumour that there might be something under the water but most archaeologists and museum officials told us that we won’t find anything,” project diving team leader Tahsin Ceylan told the news service Daily Sabah.

But there it was.

Several hundred meters beneath the lake’s surface, he and his divers encountered a vast structure.

Ancient stone walls — still reaching some 3 to 4 metres above the mud — spanned an enclosure about 1km across.

The outline of stone buildings could be seen within, all remarkably well preserved due to the alkaline nature of the lake’s water.

Turkish archaeologists believe the ancient fortress belonged to an Iron Age civilisation known as the Urartu, also sometimes called the Kingdom of Van.

It is believed to have ruled the region between the 9th and 6th centuries BC.

Rumours of a lost city under its waters have rippled down through the ages.

“Many civilisations and people had settled around Lake Van,” Ceylan told the Hurriyet Daily News. “They named the lake the ‘upper sea’ and believed it had many mysterious things.

“We have detected the castle’s exact location and photographed it and have made progress in our research. We now believe we have discovered a new area for archaeologists and historians to study.”

The lake’s depth has fluctuated dramatically over the centuries.

It was much lower when the Urartu established their fortress.

Exactly when and how it became inundated is unknown. But — from time to time — the waters would recede enough for the areas inhabitants to see its outline once again.

With the memory of the Urartu kingdom long since faded, it became a place of myth and legend.

Archaeologists aim to determine how deeply the structure is buried under several millennia worth of mud and map out its plan.

“It is a miracle to find this castle underwater. Archaeologists will come here to examine the castle’s history and provide information on it,” Ceylan said.

Lake Van is the biggest lake in Turkey. It is in the Eastern Anatolian region, near the border with Iran. It fills a crater left by an ancient volcanic eruption.

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