To break out of that circle, Schmitt and some colleagues, including some Turkish volcanologists, gathered volcanic pumice rock from Hasan Dağ and applied to them a new mineral dating technique using uranium-thorium-helium in zircon crystals.
"We've been pushing this dating technique to younger and younger ages," said Schmitt. "As we do that it overlaps with archaeological timescales."
The zircons revealed two explosive eruptions. One was about 29,000 years ago and the other at about 9,000 years ago. The latter was compared with the carbon-14 dating of artifacts at Çatalhöyük, including the strata that contains the mural.
"It agrees," Schmitt said. "It overlaps give or take 1,000 years." He will be presenting the results on October 30 at the meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver.
"It has gotten a lot of play," said Stanford University archeologist Ian Hodder, who is considered an expert on the Çatalhöyük site. "There are books written about that painting."
The mural is especially well known in Turkey, where it is generally accepted as a warning from the past of Hasan Dağ's potential danger, Hodder said. And now there's even more reason to believe it.