Massive 5,000-year-old underground city uncovered in Cappadocia, Turkey

Massive 5,000-year-old underground city uncovered in Cappadocia, Turkey

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The region of Cappadocia in central Turkey is home to one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world – deep valleys and soaring rock formations dotted with homes, chapels, tombs, temples and entire subterranean cities harmoniously carved into the natural landforms. Cities, empires and religions have risen and fallen around these unique underground havens, and yet it seems they still hold a few more secrets. Archaeologists in Turkey have uncovered another massive underground city in Cappadocia, consisting of at least 7 kilometers (3.5 miles) of tunnels, hidden churches, and escape galleries dating back around 5,000 years.

Calling it the “biggest archeological finding of 2014”, Hurriyet Daily News announced that the ancient city was found beneath Nevşehir fortress and the surrounding area, during an urban transformation project carried out by Turkey’s Housing Development Administration (TOKİ). 

“Some 1,500 buildings were destructed located in and around the Nevşehir fortress, and the underground city was discovered when the earthmoving to construct new buildings had started,” writes Hurriyet Daily News.

Nevşehir province in Cappadocia, Turkey

Nevşehir province in Cappadocia, Turkey ( Wikimedia Commons )

Nevşehir province is already famous for its incredible subterranean city at Derinkuyu (pictured in featured image), which was once home to as many as 20,000 residents living together underground. It is eleven levels deep and has 600 entrances and many miles of tunnels connecting it to other underground cities.  It incorporates areas for sleeping, stables for livestock, wells, water tanks, pits for cooking, ventilation shafts, communal rooms, bathrooms, and tombs.

A reconstruction of what the Derinkuyu underground city is believed to have looked like

A reconstruction of what the Derinkuyu underground city is believed to have looked like (Wikipedia)

It is hard to imagine anything surpassing the Derinkuyu underground city in both size and scope, but archaeologists are saying they have reason to believe the newly discovered subterranean city will be the largest out of all the other underground cities in Nevşehir and may even be the largest underground city in the world.

Details regarding the dating of the site and how this was carried out, have not yet been released by those involved. However, researchers have reported retrieving more than forty artifacts from the tunnels so far, so archaeologists may have reached the estimated date of 5,000 years based on those. Numerous other known underground sites in Cappadocia have also been dated to this era.

Despite pouring 90 million Turkish Liras into the urban transformation project so far, the TOKİ has said it will move now move their project to the outskirts of the city so that the newly found city, which is now officially registered with the Cultural and National Heritage Preservation Board, can be investigated and preserved. TOKİ Head Mehmet Ergün Turan told Hurriyet Daily News that they do not view this as a loss considering the importance of the discovery.

“Hasan Ünver, mayor of Nevşehir, said other underground cities in Nevşehir’s various districts do not even amount to the “kitchen” of this new underground city,” reports Hurriyet Daily News.

Through the ages, the Hittites, Persians, Alexander the Great, Rome, The Byzantine Empire, Ottoman Empire, and Turkey have all governed the spectacular region of Cappadocia in Central Anatolia. One hundred square miles with more than 200 underground villages and tunnel towns complete with hidden passages, secret rooms and ancient temples and a remarkably storied history of each new civilization building on the work of the last, make Cappadocia one of the world's most striking and largest cave-dwelling regions of the world. Now a discovery has been made that may overshadow them all.

The incredible cave houses of Cappadocia, Turkey

The incredible cave houses of Cappadocia, Turkey. Source: BigStockPhoto

Featured image: Derinkuyu underground city in Cappadocia, Turkey. Source: BigStockPhoto

By April Holloway


Wow. Looks like these people have been attacked so many times, they preferre to live undergroud.

How incredible smart they made these cities.

Are they still useable?

Sunny Young

Roberto Peron's picture

What were they hiding from?  If they were simply hiding from invading human armies it would be insane to hide underground as all the invaders would have to do is smoke them out and cut off their air supply which would be a rather easy conquest.  So that leaves one possibility and that is what were they hiding from in the air? Another possibility is that they moved underground in an effort to escape some drastic climatic condition but what?  Underground structures like this have been found all over the world in various sizes and forms all made around the same time.  So what was going on?

Why not just good old practicality? As building styles and materials have tended to vogue in and out over history, going underground could have for a while seemed like a good way of constructing solid, defensible towns that would be highly insulated, very light in terms of materials needed, etc. Better options came along, but at the time it could have been seen as the future of living — much like we love high rises right now and parts of the world are building entire communities into them, but in the future they too could be seen as a strange and impractical approach.

Of course they thought it practical! The question raised amounts to "what made them think it was practical?"

I elaborated upon what could make it practical in my comment. I can make it more clear:

• Highly insulated, excellent for controlling temperature
• No need to produce/import building materials
• Inherently sturdy if carved into the correct terrain
• Straightforward to defend from wildlife and invaders due to less points of entry

In short, building down might have seemed to older civilisations as sensible as building up seems to us — making good use of space and benefiting from attributes specific to such construction styles.

While I'm not dismissing other possibilities, I find it a little presumptious to assume that some incredible event was responsible for this rather than it just seeming sensible to those doing it. It's somewhat asking to a future civilisation looking at New York and postulating that there were surely great floods and/or ferocious land animals forcing us to build upwards rather than that we merely wanted to.

If these systems were made by any kind of stone age culture, there was a survival imperative involved. If they were built by a technology driven culture (which I claim they were) there was still a survival imperative involved.

The general period in question just happen to fit a geological span of time when the heat index was somewhere (according to Dr.Robert Schoch) between 14 and 27 degrees higher than present. That was during the 3rd Meltwater Pulse that started at 11,200 YBP and ended abruptly at 7.000 YBP. During that 4,200 year period of time, Ocean Levels Rise as a result of Ice Melt was 195', globally. It takes some math to understand the magnitude of that statement, but a global increase of 195' in ocean level over that period of time requires a given increase in ambient heat index to convert that much ice into meltwater.

Around that time, several cultures worldwide built vast and complex city-tunnel (underground living) systems as a survival mechanism. (unfortunately for Archaeologists, much of the Ecuadorian tunnel system and most of the early megalith construction in Peru shows vitrification on the face of the rock particularly at the joint structures. (Those anomalies can be reproduced today almost perfectly with a thermite burning bar.) So it appears they had some technology after all. Which Archaeologists seem to have a problem with. You just can't explain away surface vitrification on precisely carved stonework without discussing some form of technology that assisted the process.

If not heat index imperative, then something close to it was the driver that forced building labor to increase 4 to 6 fold over conventional building methods and materials. Cutting rock (or making brinks) and stacking them up is a whole different level of labor than digging out chambers in the living rock, regardless of whether it was done with primitive or more advanced tools.

I will make the case from an Engineering standpoint, that design-construct always follows cost-value analysis of the project. Any grad level civil engineer would give you a lecture on project feasibility on those issues alone. Without discussing the capabilities to engineer precise Ventilation and Water distribution- drain systems hundreds of feet underground in any detail, the air ducts alone are a master engineering feat. I would appreciate an explanation how dozens of 16" hole could be drilled at various angles through bedrock to the depth of 80' to 100', that are also cross interlinked so that if one or a dozen surface outlets get plugged, the system will still function. The water delivery and waste water system is also master engineering technology.

It is mind blowing labor intensive to hollow out a living area in solid rock without technical capabilities to assist in the general nature of the project. Things like controlled blasting, power, power tools, etc. lighting, hauling out debris, etc. All required technologies to get down a regular mineshift today. The folks that were doing it for a living at the time, (miners) made small irregular (sometimes braced) holes in the ground. Look at the Copper Mines in Isle Royal, UP of Michigan. Those folks took some enormous amount of copper out of open ground pits that were often less than 10' deep. So the best in the business at the time didn't cut much out of living rock.

The increased ambient heat, as a driver fit the requirements nicely, although I am not making the case that was the exact driver, but it was close enough to understand the imperative. One last thought, I would mistrust the dating of the construction as stated above, as there is no clear record of any heat index increase or other celestial anomalies after 7K years ago. The next global catastrophe didn't occur until about 3,450 years ago. There were in fact major predators after the 7K event, as a vast majority of the more than 90,000 dolmens worldwide were built around 7,000 years ago, suggesting they were a cataclysm survival population's answer to a big heavy carnivore predator.

Less points of Entry? The author noted 600 entrances. So hmm. Lets see. If you go underground you are hiding from something in the air. Same as the cliff dwellings in the Southwest here in Arizona. Hiding from something above. These underground dwellings remind me of Bunkers in case of Nuclear War. But we know that Nukes weren't around back then or were they? Mohenjo Daro might give you a good place to start

Excellently said!

on your "sturdy" point -- I know nothing about the terrain where this city is - but Derinkuyu is built in an area where construction had to be carefully done to avoid collapses because the stone was / is fairly soft. There are over 200 underground cities in the area and it is commonly accepted that they were built for defense. The cities are far too large to be "smoked" out - and have many air shafts, entry to tunnels stretching in some cases for miles, and other sources of fresh air. Wells for water are delved hundreds of feet deep and often are not accessible in any way from the surface to avoid poisoning. Each level in Derinkuyu could be seperately cut off with solid stone doors. Extremely thin tunnels forced invaders to crawl in certain areas, where they were then killed. So it was built for defense, though neither I nor anyone else can say with surety from what.

Derinkuyu is literally translated as "deepwell". mb, it had something to do with access to water, thoughnot sure what it was called originally.

climate becomes less a factor in survival as temp only changes by 2 degrees from winter to summer underground very comfortable as long as not in breezy area then can be cold great storage for food

Roberto: Have you read "Worlds in Collision" by Immanuel Velikovsky or know about The Thunderbolts Project?  They believe that in the ancient past there were immense earth changes caused by realignment of planets in our solar system and that our ancestors not only witnessed this but were affected by it directly, so it's possible that people all over the world created these underground tunnels and cities to escape these cataclysms that many ancient texts refer to.  Of course these notions are automatically dismissed because of their improbability, their unthinkability.  These people were not afraid of some enemy tribe, they were literally trying to escape for their lives from something incredibly huge and devastating that had a tendency to last a very long time.

Roberto Peron's picture

Yes I have read Velikovsky and heard of the Thunderbolts Project.  A realignment of the planets would no doubt have caused massive earth changes and people living at the time may have retreated to the safest place (ie: underground).  Should such events happen in our own time modern society would likely move underground, or at least much of it for the same reasons (ie: safety and survival).  Fact is we don't really known why these people built these cities underground as we don't have any strong evidence for their reasoning.  So they could have gone underground for many reasons and not simply one.  Personally, I think it had to do with some great climate change event that lasted for a long time and these people were simply trying to survive whatever that event was.


The problems with "Worlds in Collision" start immediately with the main premise - Venus split off from Juptiter via a comet. No valid evidence is presented for this incredible claim. First, Jupiter and Venus are made of completely different substances. Second, to drop Venus into the orbit it currently occupies, in the same orbital plane, beggars belief. It would also have to have been dropped in such a way that the ratios of the planetary orbits, which follow a predictable pattern, would not be disturbed. Either that or completed in a staggeringly fortuitous way.

Next, the premise itself is flawed. The Sun and the Moon have vastly more influence on Earth's climate. Venus' contribution to our climate is infinitesimal.

Occam's Razor would say that the much more likely premise is that these builders found a ready source of building materials and a reliable method of climate control in the ground, as many other commenters have pointed out.

Good to see Velikovsky is still making money from 'tards.

Underground construction is, as described, easy in some locations, sturdy, resistant to weather and protective against certain types of attack. It also makes it easy to secure food and supplies.

But yeah, much more likely it's aliens or elvis.

I assume this abbreviation is meant to stand in for 'retard,' which is an offensive word to many. Please refraid from using this word out of respect for people with developmental disabilities and their families. "Retarded" is indeed an appropriate word in some instances, but you have used it pejoratively as if a 'tard' is less than another person.

I speculate these structures were built due to the 2 catastrophes that happened 12,800 years ago and then again 11,600 years. Both of these events were pieces of Comet Encke that hit earth. The 1st in upper North America on a 1 mile thick glacier that killed most large life in NA and seriously lowered human population numbers there and caused a huge drop in global temperature. The second piece hit somewhere in the ocean and it caused global temps to rise dramatically and this why I think all over the world you see these underground structures all built around this time.

Gallipoli Artist's picture

On this subject there is a local legend and a story based around the childrens book character Keloglan (bald boy) where the locals used to hide in Underground Cities to escape from giants that rampaged through the region....... Then these Underground Cities would make perfect shelter against giants. Also most of these structures have very large millstones that were propped up by a small stone, as the inhabitants escaped into the structure they would seal off the passageway only leaving a small hole used for stabbing with spears. Some passageways also had overhead strategic galleries where they could pour boiling oil or excrement on the invaders. Such an amazing place.

Great information concerning the Giants "legend"... thank you for that.... bit

They constructed these for a couple reasons. One is defense. They were very successful, while being attacked, in hiding and killing their enemies within these caverns.

Climate played a part too. No matter how hot out is outside, at certain levels they could dwell in temperatures around 65°. This made it very appealing to neighboring allies to visit and trade with them. The same hills true during winter when it gets cold.

Turkey is and has been for eons a major center for earthquakes due to colliding continents. Maybe underground city residents wanted housing that didn't fall on them and they didn't have to rebuild constantly. These cities are still largely intact at least 5000 years later.

You have to wonder if those people knew a great destruction of the earth had come and gone but would return. So they built these "bunkers" to protect the future people. Sort of like our governments around the world building and stocking their "bunkers" right now and waiting for the great destroyer to return. Of course I am talking Nibiru.

vietcong dug tunnels... it was not as straight forward to smoke them out as you may have implied. also there are some towering structures in combination w/ subterranean ones. Additionalky, they had decent ventilation and multiple exits entries. i can see how certansections could have been blocked off - I recon, they though of some sort air/liquid-flow regulatory method to prevent floods and smoke outs.

Very excellent point Roberto!

We should the bible the story about Noah was supposed to make a boat nd save a few people and animals but as you said, what was really coming for them. And how long did it take them to build it and for how long did they stay hiding. It can't be water or fire because either way they will die in there

All I can say is check out Nibiru if you haven't comes round every 3600 years or so...and we are about due for another visit...especially with this insane weather we are having...just keep an open mind ppl...we are being severely lied to by our governments...some crazy shit is about to go down in our lifetime!

Duh, to protect themselves from dinosaurs.

Good point! The practicality of living underground  is the removal of material, rather than having to generate/import and then fabricate it. What seems amazing now may just have felt like common sense back then.


You make a very good point! It could have easily been a situation where they were making use of the materials they had available to them. Additionally, it takes money to build homes and import materials, so they may not have had the financial means to build their homes. Therefore, building underground could have been the most logical and cost effective thing for them to do. We can theorize and ponder the question of why they built these large underground cities, but we will probably never know the answer. All theories that have been raised, such as building them for environmental threats, defensive strategies, urban planning, etc. all are good and sound hypothesis' for the reasons as to why the ancient Cappadocians built these amazing underground cities. I really enjoy hearing people discuss their thoughts about why the underground cities were built.

Another thing to consider is that one underground city could have been built for one reason and then they saw other advantages which led to additional reasons to continue building the underground cities. For example, let's say that the first, original underground city was built for defensive purposes, but as time went by the Cappadocians saw another advantage in that they could shelter the citizens of the region at a much cheaper cost and this led to them creating other underground cities. Please let me say that the example I just gave is an example and I am not stating that these are the exact reasons why these underground cities were built. I am just trying to show how one thing may have been the original catalyst that led the first city to be built, but other advantages that were later discovered could have added to additional reasons that the Cappadocians felt it was to their benefit to continue to build these underground cities.

Gallipoli Artist's picture

The entire area of Cappadocia is filled with these underground settlements. Most of them had humble beginnings as underground storage for animals and food during very hot summers and extremely cold Winters. Legend has it that these Underground cities might stretch and link up all the way from Nevsehir to Kayseri. I don't think that as the article suggests that Derinkuyu is the largest, I actually think that the site in Ozkonak may be larger but less excavated. In the nearby town of Avanos and indeed in most towns in the area, people find access to these places under their own homes.

In 1996 I led a group in search of a particular site near the Belhia Monastery,  the farmer that found the Ozkonak UC rememered playing in this site as a kid, so we used his directions and after three months found the entrance 10 metres further thanwhere we looked on the first day. We found ancient bones inside and several sealed passageways. Cappadocia is such a unique and beautiful place and I'm sure there are many more discoveries waiting to find the light of day

Amazing find.

Duhhh all underground cities were built to avoid outside seasonal weather conditions. Underground is always a comfortable 62 degrees no worry about freezing or burning up,bad thing was and unknown is constantly breathing all that moisture led to terrible sicknesses which eventually killed these under grounders off and on a large scale because in that damp situation disease spread rapidly

Bonnie: There was a discovery a while back where 36 underground cities were unearthed in Cappadocia with some going down eight levels.... Some of these cities can hold a population of thousands.  The relevant part about the discovery is that the ventilation system were so efficient that even eight floors down the air was still fresh.  This is a challenge even today to be able to circulate fresh air underground...

Constantly breathing stale/damp air might definitely lead to health issues but if these were to avoid seasonal weather, then it stands to reason they didn't spend ALL their time there but only during severe weather...  For having to go underground to prevent freezing/burning up, the temperatures would have had to be REALLY extreme and if they remained in there for prolonged periods, then what caused these conditions?

We have a lot of questions that are not answered...

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So.... how did they ventilate and light these places?

It would be interesting to know what there is radon concentration. And how well it coped with natural ventilation.

It was housing for massive slave populations, people who were controlled like farm animals.
Slaves were kept like ants, or bees, they were labor stock, and weren't allowed to experience the world.

Maybe they just liked to live that way.

There had been ancient nuclear wars. eg: the radioactive cities of India. This underground city was probably built in preparation for a nuclear war in the ancient past.

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