Identifying the Volcanic Eruption Depicted in a Neolithic Painting at Catalhoyuk, Central Anatolia, Turkey

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PLOS ONE, vol.9, no.1, 2014 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 9 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Doi Number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084711
  • Journal Name: PLOS ONE
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


A mural excavated at the Neolithic Catalhoyuk site (Central Anatolia, Turkey) has been interpreted as the oldest known map. Dating to similar to 6600 BCE, it putatively depicts an explosive summit eruption of the Hasan Dagi twin-peaks volcano located similar to 130 km northeast of Catalhoyuk, and a birds-eye view of a town plan in the foreground. This interpretation, however, has remained controversial not least because independent evidence for a contemporaneous explosive volcanic eruption of Hasan Dagi has been lacking. Here, we document the presence of andesitic pumice veneer on the summit of Hasan Dagi, which we dated using (U-Th)/He zircon geochronology. The (U-Th)/He zircon eruption age of 8.97 +/- 0.64 ka (or 6960 +/- 640 BCE; uncertainties 2 sigma) overlaps closely with C-14 ages for cultural strata at Catalhoyuk, including level VII containing the "map'' mural. A second pumice sample from a surficial deposit near the base of Hasan Dagi records an older explosive eruption at 28.9 +/- 1.5 ka. U-Th zircon crystallization ages in both samples range from near-eruption to secular equilibrium (>80 ka). Collectively, our results reveal protracted intrusive activity at Hasan Dagi punctuated by explosive venting, and provide the first radiometric ages for a Holocene explosive eruption which was most likely witnessed by humans in the area. Geologic and geochronologic lines of evidence thus support previous interpretations that residents of Catalhoyuk artistically represented an explosive eruption of Hasan Dagi volcano. The magmatic longevity recorded by quasi-continuous zircon crystallization coupled with new evidence for late-Pleistocene and Holocene explosive eruptions implicates Hasan Dagi as a potential volcanic hazard.