Mysterious Underground Cities in Turkey
Located in central Turkey, the region of Nevşehir Province is known in the international tourist trade as Cappadocia, a name dating from late sixth century inscriptions attributed to two ancient Persian kings, Xerxes and Darius. Then, Turkey was known as Anatolia.
It is believed that there may be forty or more underground cities carved into the ground beneath Cappadocia. Some of the cities are linked by long passages through the rock. The air is kept fresh by many long, vertical vents. Some are supplied with fresh water by underground streams.
The multi-storey cities are said to have been used since the Bronze Age, when a mini Ice Age made conditions above ground intolerable. The highest (nearest to the surface) levels were used to house animals, though this does not explain how crops were grown in sufficient quantities to support these animals and the large human population for the duration of this time.
Fantastic Images of Derinkuyu Underground City
Many of Cappadocia's underground cities have only been partially excavated or explored as yet. Parts of some are open to tourists. Important sites include Tatlarin, Derinkuyu, Mazi, Kaymakli and Gaziemir.
Only discovered in 1975, Tatlarin - much of which has collapsed - has revealed a 3,000 year old toilet. This city's use many have been primarily religious or military, though all the cities had strong elements of both these uses.
Derinkuyu is possibly eleven storeys deep, eight of which are currently open to the public. It was home to between 20,000 and 50,000 people. On the second storey is a large room with a curved, vaulted ceiling, and some people believe this was some kind of religious centre with smaller classrooms to one side of this main room. There is a fifty-five metre ventilation shaft which may also have been used as a well. Other ventilation shafts measure up to one hundred metres in length, which is an astounding feat of engineering in itself considering the tools then believed to have been available.
Mazi, Kaymakli and Gaziemir
Early Roman tombs can be seen in Mazi, which also has a large barn and seems to have been primarily an agricultural community.
Kaymakli houses around 5,000 people and has eight storeys, though currently only four are open to visitors. It has labyrinths and many corridors, and was built around a main ventilation chimney.
Gaziemir only opened to the public in 2007. Remains indicate that this underground city was heavily used during the Byzantine period. It even has Turkish baths and a pub!
The cities have in common carved stairways, corridors, large rooms, smaller rooms, kitchens stables, many chapels and churches, store rooms, water cisterns, wine and oil presses, refectories, graneries, barns, and water wells.
Underground areas could be quickly sealed off from invaders by rolling large flat mill stones into carved grooves then wedged from behind, effectively locking them into place to block entrances. Why an enemy then didn't simply block off the air vents and patiently sit back and wait for nature to take its course is open to speculation, and some people believe the act of isolating certain areas from visitors served a religious function.
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© 2010 Adele Cosgrove-Bray