Some places house very unexpected discoveries. The castle of Van being one of the oldest structures in the world seems to be underrated & its historical importance seems to be undervalued. You will not find much information online. There will not be much info signs in the castle itself if you visit it now (September 2012).
But it has ancient features which survived hundreds of years. On the Southern wall of the monolith on which the castle is bulit there is a cuneiform inscription which dates back to 5th century BC. The castle itself is said to be more than 2000 years old.
According to Wikipedia: A stereotyped trilingual inscription of Xerxes the Great from the 5th c. BC is inscribed upon a smoothed section of the rock face, some 20 meters above the ground near the fortress. The niche was originally carved out by Xerxes’ father King Darius, but left the surface blank.
The inscription survives in near perfect condition and is divided into three columns of 27 lines written in (from left to right) l. It is the only Achaemenid royal inscription located outside of Iran.
It states that:
“A great god is Ahuramazda, the greatest of gods, who created this earth, who created that sky, who created man, who created happiness for man, who made Xerxes king, one king for all, one ruler for all.
I am Xerxes, the great king, the king of kings, king of all kinds of peoples with all kinds of origins, king of this earth great and wide, the son of king Darius, the Achaemenid.
King Xerxes says: King Darius, my father, by the grace of Ahuramazda built much that was good, and he gave orders to dig this niche out, but because he did not make an inscription, I ordered this inscription to be made.
May Ahuramazda and the other gods protect me, my kingdom, and what I have made.”
I also found another inscription on the Northern wall of the monolith close a dug in stone room. I am not sure it dates to the same time. It is strange that such important historical landmarks are left without any explanation or signs.