bronze age toy
A toy chariot found by archaeologists at the site of the ancient city of Sogmatar in Turkey YouTube/Anadolu Agency

Archaeologists say they have discovered a 5,000-year-old toy chariot and rattle while digging in Turkey, giving a rare and fascinating glimpse into how children in the Bronze Age used to play. The items were discovered as part of ongoing excavations in the ancient city of Sogmatar in the south east of the country.

Thought to be one of the oldest settlements in the world, Sogmatar is also believed to be where Moses fled in Biblical times after escaping Egypt. Archaeological digs began in the area – 80km (50 miles) from the city of Şanlıurfa – in May 2017 and have uncovered several tombs, including one containing the toys.

"We have so far obtained important findings in the excavation field," Celal Uludag, the head of the Sogmatar excavations, told Turkish news agency Anadolu. "In a tomb in the necropolis area we found an earthenware toy horse carriage and its wheels.

"The toy dates back to the Bronze Age and is thought to have been produced for the children of kings or administrators in the city. It shows us the sense of art and children's sense of play 5,000 years ago."

Assistant Professor Yusuf Albayrak, of Turkey's Harran University, has been another archaeologist involved in the excavations. He said Sogmatar was once a thriving centre for Pagans and dedicated to the Moon god, Sin. It had a large mound at its centre and also acted as a vast necropolis, with some 120 tombs discovered following a 2012 survey of the area, he added.

"Seven in particular were really remarkable and almost all of the 120 tombs had a view of the mound," he said. "We carried out searches in the mound and ceramic findings showed that this place was a settlement until recently."

He said since his team began excavating in May, they had opened 45 tombs, including three that had even remained unopened during the Roman era.

"In one of these tombs, we found a four-wheeled miniature horse carriage, a children's toy, as well as a rattle with a bird motif," he said. "Children's toys were buried in children's tombs. We thus know that rattles existed for children 5,000 years ago."