2800-year old ancient seeds discovered in eastern Anatolia, to be resurrected


Haykaberd (or Çavuştepe in Turkish) is an archaeological site in Van Province in Turkey’s Eastern Anatolia region, known for its ancient 8th century BC fortifications and royal palace of the Urartian kings. But this time around, beyond ramparts and walls, archaeologists are interested in seeds. Originally discovered in 2014, from the Çavuştepe Castle that was constructed by Urartian King Sarduri II (circa 8th century BC), these batches of wheat and sesame seeds are almost 2800-years old. And now the researchers are looking forth to resurrect these ancient specimens inside a laboratory environment.

Professor Rafet Çavuşoğlu (Archaeology Department) from the Van Yüzüncü Yıl University, said –

In the storages, that are made up of two parts and were reinforced after fires, we have found 120 pithos containers, where cereals, sesame oil, wine and other food were kept. The containers had a capacity of 36 tons of products. Each pithos has a capacity of 300 kilograms. Buried underground, the pithos storages has units of measure written in cuneiform. Cereals obtained from the Gürpınar Plain were kept there. They were used as granaries and met the needs of the people living there. The Urartian kept all of their supplies there to meet the needs of officials in the palace.


Pithos storage vessels at Çavuştepe Castle. Credit: Hurriyet Daily News

Now from the architectural perspective, Çavuştepe Castle and its proximate complex had already revealed a network of urban structures, including city walls, cisterns, temples and other enclosures. And beyond the spatial scope, the site of the fortification had a strategic angle to it, with the castle aptly perched on the trade route that ran through northwestern Iran during the 8th century BC time-period. To that end, the new findings can shed more light into the trading ambit of the region that connected Persia, Armenia and Anatolia.

But as for the seeds, these organic components are probably the legacy of a thriving farming culture in Gürpınar. However, while the notion of regenerating these ancient seeds is surely commendable, the task of achieving the results might not be as easy as one would be inclined to think. As Çavuşoğlu said –

We packed the wheat and sesame with due care. We will analyze these seeds in laboratories. If the seeds were carbonized by themselves, the possibility of regenerating them is quite high. However, if it was because of a fire, we have less chance of resurrecting them.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

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