Anatolia is the name given to a majority of Turkey’s land. It means, “the place where the sun is born.” Anatolia is also the place where many civilizations were born. The world’s first settlement (Çatalhöyük) and the world’s first temple (Göbeklitepe) are both in Anatolia. All of these discoveries helped rewrite history, including the world’s first life-sized human statue found in Şanlıurfa.
Over 11,500 years old, the mesmerizing Balıklıgöl Statue was carved out of a block of limestone in around 9,500 BC. To put things into perspective, this was 4,000 years before the pyramids were built, and 6,000 years before the invention of writing. It’s not only the oldest statue found in the continent of Asia, it’s also the first example of a life-sized human statue in the world. The discovery of this statue is significant, because it showed us that humans created art before the transition from nomadic hunter-gatherers to settled communities.
Nicknamed the “Urfa Man”, he stands 1.80 meters tall. His hollowed out eyes have pieces of black obsidian. He has a human face, ears, and nose. But he doesn’t have a mouth. A v-shaped necklace or garment points down at his abdomen, with his hands clasped in front of him. He doesn’t have feet. Instead, the statue continues down as a block that was embedded into the ground to erect the statue.
Who is this statue? Is he a god? A political figure? Not much is known about his story. But it’s a fascinating experience to visit him at the Şanlıurfa Museum, explore the hand-carved details in his face and body, and imagine the people who slowly and patiently chipped away at a block of stone to create this work of art.