In 1963, a gentleman was repairing his house in Nevsehir province, Turkey. Suddenly, he knocked down a wall in the basement and got collapsed. Soon, he discovered himself in a dark room under the ground. As he approached the door of the room, he saw an unknown passageway in the darkness beyond the door. That Turkish man entered into the passageway with a fearful mind. No one knows that this man would discover the ‘Derinkuyo’, a 2,000-year-old underground city. He was exposed to the entrance of a unique mysterious city of human civilization.
It was the underground city of Derinkuyu, located at Cappadocia in central Anatolia, Turkey. The city had 18 levels of ground extending to a depth of approximately 280 feet. These levels were covered by a whole city with schools, churches, kitchens, graves. The city was a shelter for up to 20,000 people. In 1963 during the renovation of an ordinary house, the discovery of this hidden underground city occurred. That day, people find a mysterious underground city that has been hidden for thousands of years.
History of Derinkuyu:
The Cappadocia area of Anatolia, Turkey, was famous for its volcanic eruptions. This area is located at 3,300 feet high. A few million years ago, the whole area of Cappadocia got under fire caused by a volcanic eruption. The whole area was submerged in ashes and lava. Later, the ash and lava turned into the soft rock.
The ancient inhabitants of Anatolia realized that it was possible to build houses by engraving the rock. So, they dug up the soft rock and built houses and dwellings. In Cappadocia, many such structures have been found under the ground. But the biggest and deepest of them is Derinkuyu.
Who Built Derinkuyu?
It is not exactly known when the city was built. However, the Hittites ruled the Anatolia region from about 1600 BCE to about 1200 BCE. After that, the Hittite empire got divided into smaller groups due to various conflicts and wars. Then, the Phrygians came to the area from the Balkans. Some think that the Hittites built Derinkuyu to prevent the attacks of the Phrygians. And if Hittites had built this city, they built it before 1200 BC.
Another group of experts thinks that this underground city was built by the Phrygians between 1200 BCE and 800 BCE. Later, Egyptian, Greek, American, Syrian people migrated to Cappadocia. The underground cities of Cappadocia were first mentioned in the writings of Greek soldiers and historians, Xenophon. He had been wandering around the area for a long time. In his book Anabasis, he says,
‘The houses here were underground, with a mouth like that of a well, but spacious below; and while entrances were tunneled down for the beasts of burden, the human inhabitants descended by a ladder. In the houses were goats, sheep, cattle, fowls, and their young; and all the animals were reared and took their fodder there in the houses.’
Many think that Derinkuyu was developed and modified in the Byzantine era. It was known as ‘Malacopia’ at that time. Christians used to take shelter here to escape the attacks of Muslim forces. Many nations used it as a shelter during various natural disasters as well.
Structural Features of Derinkuyu:
According to researchers, there are almost a thousand underground cities in Cappadocia. Among them, Derinkuyu is the deepest one. The excavation work in the underground city is still incomplete. Only eight levels of this ancient 18-story underground city are now open to the visitors. The city was built by carving soft rock. There are some huge tunnels all over the city connecting to some engraved caves. These caves could accommodate up to 10,000 people. Apart from these caves, there were some temples, food shops, wine stores and schools. There were also a few places to save the dead bodies. Until they were safely taken to the ground for their funeral obsequies, they were stored in the underground pits. There were about a hundred entrances hidden behind various bushes, walls and courtyards. Every entrance of this underground city was closed with a round stone-made door of about 5 feet wide and 500 kg.
These round stone doors protected the city from various dangers. Each level of this city was set up in such a way that each of them could be closed separately. There were some ventilation shafts for distributing air throughout the city. Each of them was 100 feet deep. There was a river flowing through the city. Many wells were built all over the city and they were connected to the river. Local inhabitants collected water from those wells. Derinkuyu was much more than a shelter or a residential place. It was like a fortress. When the city dwellers took shelter in the underground city under enemy attack, business or other activities in the area would not stop. The city was a place for mass gatherings, grocery stores, huge food stalls and even the entire market. Weapons were always stored in the armory. And there were several ways to escape the city at times of danger.
Some Unique Features of Derinkuyu:
Derinkuyu was different from any other underground city. It is hard to find an underground city as much self-sufficient as Derinkuyu. There was a barrel-shaped spacious room on the third floor of Derinkuyu. It was used as a religious education center. This education center had separate parts for each department.
A 180-foot wide trench was used as the main well of the city. People from both sides, on the ground or under the ground could use the well. There was a three-mile-long tunnel situated on the third floor of the city. This tunnel connects Derinkuyu to the nearby underground town of Kaymakli.
This passageway is currently closed due to landslides. Derinkuyu was also a protection against adverse weather. This city protected people from the heat or the intense cold and snow. When it was intense cold or hot on the top, the city below was in a comfortable state. As a result, animals or food items could be easily stored in this underground city.
The Current State of Derinkuyu:
The mysterious city of Derinkuyu has been open to visitors since 1969. But only 10 percent of this underground city is currently accessible. Tourists from all over the world gathered here to visit this unique symbol of human civilization. When you will enter the city, you will be amazed by those incredible histories and beautiful ancient dwellings. You can have a time travel to that ancient civilization. Touching those stone walls will remind you of the people who took refuge in this city thousands of years ago!