A Man Demolished His Basement Wall and Discovered an Ancient Underground City With 20,000 Inhabitants

Andrei Tapalaga

A passage in the underground cityPhoto byWikimedia Commons

The man sledgehammered his wall and uncovered a tunnel behind it, as well as further tunnels beyond. Following exploration, it was discovered to be an 18-story-deep underground metropolis complete with chapels, schools, and stables.

Derinkuyu had been abandoned for centuries, much to the relief of the man who'd just plowed his way in. According to Turkish Department of Culture archaeologists, the development of the city, which is intended to house up to 20,000 people, may have begun as early as the 8th-7th centuries BCE.

During the Byzantine period (from 395 CE to 1453 CE), the city was turned into a 445-kilometer-long labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, and rooms (172 miles). Hidden entrances, ventilation shafts (to avoid dying in your mole cave), wells, and water conduits were all part of the tunnel and route network.

A tourist map of DerinkuyuPhoto byHistory of Yesterday

People in the area most likely first used the soft rock for storage, keeping food cool and steady. The cities they became, however, were most likely due to their defensive importance.

For example, those on the lower levels were able to cut off the water supply to the upper and lower levels, preventing opponents from polluting the supply. The tunnels could be closed from the inside by spherical rolling stone doors, and the passages themselves were small enough that any invaders would have to line up one at a time - a horrific attack tactic seen only in movies when the nobleman is besieged.

Throughout the years, various people have sought refuge in the city. Early Christians stayed there to avoid Roman persecution, while Muslims used it for safety during the 780 and 1180 Arab-Byzantine wars.

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