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

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


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


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

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.

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.

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

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.


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