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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

Comments

Amazing find.

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

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.

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.

 

Massive world wide flood at the end of the younger dryas.  Goblecki Tepi was built right after that. Cappadocia likely connected.

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