Researchers from the USA, New Zealand and Turkey have provided new evidence that supports the hypothesis suggesting that the mural excavated at the Neolithic Çatalhöyük is the oldest known map. Çatalhöyük site is located in Konya province, Turkey, and it provides a unique insight into daily life of humans in the period of transition from hunter-gatherer to settled societies. One of the interesting finds from this site is a mural from level VII, which has been described by its discoverer as depicting a volcanic eruption. Alternatively, the interpretation as a leopard skin underlain by geometric patterns has been proposed.
According to the volcanic interpretation, the explosion depicted on the mural is the painting of the twin-peak volcano Hasan Dağı, located approximately 130 km north-east of Çatalhöyük. Thus the mural painting can be seen as the oldest known map or landscape art. This, however, has been contested due to the lack of any other similar paintings or landscape representations for the next 4 millenia.
In the recent paper published in Open Access journal PLOS One, researchers present a detailed zircon geochronology which provides an argument supporting this interpretation. The researchers were able to identify an eruption of the Hasan Dağı which took place during the Holocene, around 9 thousand years ago. The eruption age for pumice veneer from the summit of Hasan Dağı closely overlaps with the occupation of Çatalhöyük, and it is plausible that it had been witnessed and depicted by humans living there.