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Archaeologists in Turkey discovered an 11,000-year-old, two-panel carving depicting humans and animals in what they consider to be one of the earliest known narrative scenes, Art Net reported.

Researchers found the engraving – depicting two male figures facing dangerous animals – on the benches that line the walls of a communal area at the Sayburç site in southeastern Turkey, a complex made up of residential buildings and a large communal structure, they wrote in a new study.

One of the images – a flat relief – shows a squatting figure holding a snake or a rattle against a bull. The other, high-relief depiction shows a male holding his phallus as two leopards approach.

The archaeological team added that certain features of the animals, such as the leopards’ teeth, were heavily emphasized to highlight the danger of confronting the creatures.

“These figures, engraved together to depict a narrative, are the first known examples of such a holistic scene,” co-author Eylem Özdogan said. “This was a picture of the stories that formed the ideology of the people of that period.”

Özdogan and his colleagues said the Sayburç site was populated by Neolithic populations that were shifting from mobile hunter-gatherers to more sedentary, farming lifestyles.

While the engraving is not the first example of narrative art, it is the first one to show a progressive narrative structure, they explained.

The authors added that the scene possibly portrayed historical or mythical characters related to the region’s traditions.

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