A relief sculpture of a man holding his penis that was found carved into a wall in Turkey in 2021 may contain the oldest known narrative scene. Photo courtesy of Eylem Özdoğan/Antiquity
Dec. 9 (UPI) -- A relief sculpture of a man holding his penis that was found carved into a wall in Turkey in 2021 contains the oldest known narrative scene, an archaeologist has claimed.
The discovery of the sculpture, believed to date back to the Neolithic era around 11,000 years ago, was published Thursday in the academic journal Antiquity.
"It constitutes the earliest known depiction of a narrative 'scene', and reflects the complex relationship between humans, the natural world and the animal life that surrounded them during the transition to a sedentary lifestyle," Eylem Özdoğan, the author of the study, wrote in the article.
Özdoğan said that, unlike other images from the time, the sculpture contains "the narrative integrity of both a theme and a story."
The image of the man is carved in high relief style -- meaning that the form projects at least half of its natural circumference from the background.
The man is seen holding his penis in his right hand and it appears as if his knees are bent, indicating that he is meant to be sitting.
"Although the head is damaged, a round face, large ears, bulging eyes and thick lips are evident. In particular, a triangular-shaped necklace or neckband is notable," Özdoğan wrote in her study.
The man is seen flanked by leopards, one on each side of him, which are carved in the flat relief style. The leopards are seen baring their teeth with long tails curled up towards their bodies.
"The leopard to the west is depicted with a phallus, whereas the other is not," Özdoğan wrote.
Özdoğan said that a similar scene is carved to the left of the man with the leopards, in which a second human figure and a bull are depicted.
That human figure also appears to be male with a penis-shaped extension on its abdomen and is depicted to be slightly squatting with its back turned to the leopards while facing the bull.
"Although the body of the bull is portrayed from the side, its head is depicted as if from above, with both horns visible," Özdoğan wrote in the study.
"This distorted perspective is comparable to that seen at other prehistoric sites and must have been deliberately chosen to emphasize the horns, which are exaggerated like the leopards' teeth in the previous scene."
Özdoğan did not describe her interpretation of the narrative being depicted in the study but told The Art Newspaper that she believes it "preserves one more related events."