Archaeology and Volcanism

IV. Catal Huyuk: The Earliest Representation of a Volcanic Eruption

Although archaeologists have not yet discovered a fresco depicting the Theran volcano, the ruins of Catal Huyuk in central Anatolia (modern Turkey) contain a remarkable Neolithic portrayal of an active volcano, the earliest known visual record of a volcanic eruption. Dating to about 6200 B.C., the Catal Huyuk mural (Fig. 3) shows a cinder cone, looming steeply above a town nestled at its base, ejecting tephra from the summit vent. More than six millennia older than the fresco at Pompeii that portrays Bacchus (the Roman wine god) presiding over vineyards near Vesuvius, this painting bears witness that human interest in documenting volcanic phenomena began at an extremely early date.

FIGURE 3    Dating from about 6200 B.C., this wall painting from a shrine at Catal Huyuk (central Anatolia, Turkey) is the oldest extant picture of an active volcano, perhaps one of the cinder cones in the Karapinar volcanic field that lies about 30 miles east of Catal Huyuk. Although the volcano is shown exhibiting only mild Strombolian activity, the artist's placement of a Neolithic town in such close proximity to its base suggests some anxiety about its eruptive behavior. (Courtesy of James Mellaart, Catul Huyuk: A Neolithic Town in Anatolia, 1967, McGraw-Hill.)

GlossaryVolcanoes as Preservers of Archaeological SitesHerculaneum and Pompeii: Cities of the Early Roman EmpireAkrotiri: An Aegean Bronze Age CityCatal Huyuk: The Earliest Representation of a Volcanic EruptionMesoamerican Archaeological SitesNorth American Archaeological SitesGeomythology: Volcanoes in Prehistoric Oral TraditionsSummary

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