Ancient Underground City Of Derinkuyu
By James Donahue
It is speculated that marauding armies and deadly unexpected attacks on the people living in central
Turkey an estimated 15 centuries BC, stirred the natives to build elaborate underground cities.
Over 200 such underground cities are known in the region, many of them connected by miles of underground
tunnels carved through solid volcanic rock. The largest and most elaborate of these places is Derinkuyu, a massive city cut
250 feet deep, with homes for up to 20,000 people. The city was also designed to house livestock, a church, a winery, community
kitchens and a large room possibly used for community gatherings.
Within the underground city there are water wells, an estimated 15,000 ventilation ducts and about
600 doors to the outside world, all hidden in courtyards of surface buildings. Large rolling cut stones were in place to close
each of the entrances from the outside world in the event of an attack.
While obviously not designed for permanent living, Derinkuyu was a place for the people to safely
hide from invading armies for long periods of time. That hundreds of similar underground cities, not so elaborate but dropping
to depths of at least three levels, were cut into the rock throughout the region suggests just how dangerous the times were
for the people during that period.
Imagine the work it must have taken, and the years of labor that must have gone into the task of cutting
entire underground cities out of the rock. Not only did the rock have to be cut, but there was the task of carrying the cuttings
to the surface and finding places to dispose of it.
While the work is believed to have begun among the Hittites, up to 15 hundred years before Christ,
that the cities contained churches suggests that the work continued long after Christianity came into existence. Turkish scholars
believe the later work was done by the Persians, but the older parts of Derinkuyu may have been cut by the Phrygians at least
eight centuries BC.
Some artifacts found in the ruins date to the Middle Byzantine Period, between the Fifth and Tenth
Derinkuyu was discovered in 1965 by local contractors digging on a construction site. A cave entrance
was opened, and archaeologists were amazed to see the complex of rooms and hallways that were exposed.
While archaeological excavations are still going on at Derinkuyu, portions of the underground city
are now open to the public.
Because the city was carved from existing caves that formed naturally, archaeologists say traditional
methods of dating items found at Derinkuyu cannot answer questions concerning the age of the place and who was involved in
creating this mystery city.