In the heart of Şanlıurfa lies a profound mystery dating back 11,500 years — the Balıklıgöl Statue. This remarkable sculpture is not just a relic of the past but stands as the world’s earliest known life-size representation of the human form.
Discovering Urfa: A Neolithic Marvel
Unearthed in the vicinity of the Balıklıgöl excavation site in the 1990s, the Urfa Statue reigns as the best-preserved and earliest life-sized sculpture from the Neolithic era. Found beneath the ancient Urfa homes, it belonged to the Çanak Çömleksiz Neolithic Period settlement. The existence of the settlement is evident from terrazzo-style floors and flint tools from that era.
The Balıklıgöl Statue
Standing at 180 cm, crafted from limestone, and sculpted around 9,500 BCE, the Balıklıgöl Statue showcases intricate details. Deep-set eye sockets house obsidian pieces, resembling a “V”-shaped necklace. The sculpture, though naked, portrays folded hands, a face with ears and nose, yet curiously without a mouth. Instead of feet, a “U”-shaped base suggests placement in a niche.
The Oldest Human Sculpture
Crafted 6,000 years before the invention of writing and 4,000 years before the pyramids, this statue isn’t just the oldest in Asia but also the world’s inaugural life-sized human sculpture. Its story, shrouded in mystery, leaves much to speculation. Unlike abstract anthropomorphic T-shaped standing stones found elsewhere in the region, the Urfa Man distinctly displays the Neolithic sculptors’ ability to create reasonably naturalistic forms. Unfortunately, sparse contextual clues make determining its original purpose challenging.
The city hosting the statue, Şanlıurfa, known as Edessa in ancient times, boasts a rich historical tapestry. Home to various civilizations, it holds significant historical heritage. The discovery of the Urfa Man, now exhibited in the Şanlıurfa Archaeology Museum, sheds light on prehistoric art, particularly Neolithic depictions of the human figure.