Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient Persian temple from the fifth century B.C. in Turkey's northern Amasya province that could rewrite the history of the region.
Istanbul University Archaeology Professor Şevket Dönmez said discoveries at the ancient Persian Oluz Höyük settlement in the village of Toklucak have the potential to change long-held notions of religion and culture in Anatolia.
In 11 seasons of excavations, the team uncovered thousands of artifacts as well as a temple structure.
"In this settlement from the fifth century B.C., we discovered a temple complex that is related to a fire culture, more precisely to early Zoroastrianism, or to the very original religious life of Anatolian people," Dönmez told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Zoroastrianism, one of the world's oldest extant religions, is believed to have originated from the prophet Zoroaster in what is now present-day Iran. The discovery of a temple for fire worship suggests the religion was present in Anatolia, as well.
"No 2,500-year-old artifacts have been found in Iran, yet they appeared in Anatolia. [With this discovery] Anatolia has entered the sacred geography of today's Zoroastrians," Dönmez said.
Describing the temple, Dönmez said it includes a holy room for burning fires and other stone-paved areas with many items used in worship practices.
"They built a massive religious system here," Dönmez said.
Dönmez also said Oluz Höyük is the only discovered Persian settlement in the region.
Excavations at Oluz Höyük started in 2007, after the site was first discovered during surface research near Toklucak in 1999.
Dönmez and his team plan to continue research at the site, possibly working to restore the temple area in the future.