During underwater excavations in Lake Van in November 2017, a team of Turkish archaeologists led by Van Yüzüncü Yıl University and the governorship of Turkey’s Bitlis Province discovered remains of what is believed to be a 3,000 years old castle of the times of the Iron Age Kingdom of Van (Urartu), an ancestor state of Armenia.
Currently, the water level of Lake Van is about 150 meters higher compared to what it has been during the Iron Age.
One of the researchers Tahsin Ceylan said, “Civilizations living around the lake set up large villages and settlements while the water level of the lake was low, but they had to leave the area after it increased again.” Researchers hope to conduct further archaeological excavations to fully uncover the scale of the Armenian castle, which is expected to attract tourists in the future.
Lake Van has been the center of the Kingdom of Van since ca. 1000 BC. Subsequently, the lake has become the center of the Satrapy of Armina, Kingdom of Greater Armenia, and the Armenian Kingdom of Vaspurakan. Lake Van along with Lake Sevan and Lake Urmia was one of the three great lakes of the Armenian Kingdom, which have been referred to as the seas of Armenia. Lake’s name, Van, is one of the oldest Armenian words for “town.” The name is still reflected in many Armenian toponyms such as Nakhichevan (meaning: “place/town of descend”), Vanadzor (“valley of Van”), Stepanavan (“town of Stepan”), and the capital city of Armenia Yerevan.
Lake Van along with the adjacent town of Van are now located in Turkey. There is a plentitude of Armenian traces there visible to this day: as an example, the very center of Lake Van houses an island called Akhtamar, which in its turn holds a 1,000 years old Armenian church, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
Armenians have lived in the Van region until the early 20th century when the Ottoman Turks carried out the Armenian Genocide. In the Resistance of Van, one of the last stands of the Armenians, more than 55,000 Armenian civilians were killed by the Ottoman bandits and militias. This event has received extensive coverage in media back in those days. The Resistance of Van plays a significant role in the formation of the Armenian national identity as it represents the Armenians’ will to withstand extermination in the very heart of the Armenian homeland.