A Guy Knocked Down His Basement Wall, Discovering Ancient Underground City That Housed 20,000 People

Credit: Yasir999, CC BY-SA 4.0

In 1963, a guy decided to break down one of his basement’s walls, leading him to discover an unknown underground city.

The underground city may be several thousand years old and has depths of up to 280 feet and as many as 18 stories in some areas.

The Derinkuyu Underground City is the largest of its type; it has the potential to accommodate 20,000 people.

tunnel derinkuyu 2

There is no mention of the Turk’s name in any of the reports, but he discovered a massive underground metropolis up to 18 floors tall, 280 feet (76 meters) deep, and could accommodate 20,000 people. Who constructed it, and for what purpose? When was it given up, and who did it belong to? There are some answers to be found in history and geology.

The town of Derinkuyu can be found in Cappadocia, a region in the center of Turkey that is well-known for the remarkable cragginess of its topography, which is peppered with so-called fairy chimneys.

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The erosion of a kind of rock known as tuff has left behind these impressively high stone structures. Despite its name, the stone was formed from volcanic ash and covered a significant portion of the region. However, it is not as durable as one might expect.

The people have, for millennia, carved their excavations in the soft stone for underground residences, storage chambers, temples, and refuges, taking their cues from the wind and rain that blows through the area.

There are hundreds of underground houses in Cappadocia, roughly forty of them having at least two stories each. None of them are as big or as well-known as Derinkuyu at this point.

There is not a lot of information that can be definitively gleaned from the historical record on the beginnings of Derinkuyu. Some archaeologists believe that the Hittites, the dominant population in the area at the time, excavated the first portion of the complex around 2000 B.C., while others think that the Phrygians dug it around the year 700 B.C. Some people believe that local Christians founded the city in the early centuries after Christ.

Whoever they were, they had a tremendous skill: the soft rock makes digging reasonably straightforward, but cave-ins constitute a significant concern. As a result, there is a requirement for very tall pillars of support. At no point has any of the floors at Derinkuyu been unstable and collapsed.

Two aspects of the underground complex may be stated with greater assurance. To begin, the mammoth effort’s primary goal must have been to conceal themselves from the forces of their enemies.

It would explain, for instance, why rolling stones were employed to shut off the city from the interior. Second, the last additions and adjustments to the complex, which have a decidedly Christian imprint, date from the 6th to the 10th century A.D. These additions and alterations can be traced back to this period.

tunnel storage

When the city was cut off from the world above, ventilation was provided through a network of more than 15,000 shafts, the majority of which were around 10 centimeters wide and reached down into the first and second floors of the city. This meant that there would be ample airflow down to the eighth floor.

It makes perfect sense that the levels that were utilized for living and sleeping were the ones that were the highest since these levels had the most effective ventilation. The lower floors were used mainly for storage, but they also had a dungeon for adventurers to explore.

In the areas in between were structures that served various functions, such as housing for domestic animals, a convent, little churches, and even a wine press. The most well-known of these is the cruciform church that can be seen on the seventh floor.

Some of the shafts extended further down and doubled as wells as they descended. The local Turkish inhabitants of Derinkuyu utilized them to acquire their water even while the underground city remained unknown; they were unaware of the secret their buckets went through on their way to the water source. The primary definition of “deep well” in the Turkish language is “Derin Kuyu.”

tunnel school

Another idea suggests that the underground city was a temperate shelter for people seeking to escape the region’s severe seasons. The winters in Cappadocia may be rather harsh, while the summers can reach scorching highs.

Below the earth, the temperature is always stable and not too cold or too warm. It is also much simpler to store the harvest yields and protect them from robbers and dampness once harvested.

Regardless of the significance of the underground city’s other functions, its primary use was as a haven for the local population during the wars that took place between the Byzantines and the Arabs from the late 8th to the late 12th centuries, during the Mongol raids in the 14th century, and after the Ottoman Turks had taken control of the region. These conflicts lasted from the late 8th to the late 12th centuries.

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