What started out as just a regular weekend DIY project, turned into the discovery of a lifetime for one Turkish man. His basement was too small and in desperate need of an expansion, but he never could have imagined that opening up a small hole in the wall would open up to what he was about to witness….
Just a Small Town Man
The man lived in a really small village in a really remote part of Turkey, but living conditions were becoming cramped for his family. He couldn’t afford to hire a skilled laborer, so he was forced to expand his home by himself.
It All Started With A Tunnel
Everything seemed to be normal as he began chipping away at the outer layer, but as the hole got larger and larger he began to notice an opening from inside it. Strange, he thought to himself, since there wasn’t supposed to be anything behind it. What he was about to discover was bigger than he could have ever fathomed.
Into The Darkness He Went
Once the opening of the dark hole was large enough to fit through, he flicked on his flashlight and stepped inside. When he did, he found himself within some sort of cave with a slope leading down towards a doorway. When he stepped through it, he was in total shock….
Fear of the Unknown
Turkey is home to a wide variety of venomous reptiles and creepy crawlies, including snakes, scorpions, and spiders, so it was quite a concern for the man as he explored a deep, dark cave not knowing what could crawl out at any second. Of course, other fears run through your mind as you walk around in pure darkness.
As the man ventured deeper and deeper into the cave, he began noticing outlines of some man-made features, including stairs. Was he discovering an tomb? He couldn’t understand what it could be. After a few more minutes, he found his answer.
Definitely Not Natural
It was quite obvious now that this was not an ordinary cave. Even with the etched-out rooms that were scattered about, it was clear to the man that he had stumbled onto something big. It didn’t look as if anyone had touched anything in many years, centuries even, so he was sure that he had found some long-lost archeological discovery. He was right in far more ways than he could ever imagine…
What Had He Discovered?
On the opposite end of the room was a doorway, which led to another larger area that branched off into several more corridors and stairways. What could this place have been? It was as if he discovered Narnia in his closet! Nevertheless, he needed to find out as much information about this place as he could.
Seeking the Professionals
He was very confused about what he had stumbled upon in his own home, something that he was unaware of for years. What he found was more than just an underground labyrinth of caves. He called the Turkish Antiquities Authority and waited for them to reveal the truth….
The Lost City
Authorities were as bewildered as he was when they entered the magical labyrinth. It would seem that would have to do some serious research, but they were quite sure that they were looking at the ancient city of Derinkuyu. The city had a rich past, but there were so many incredible aspects to it.
One of the primary uses of an underground city is for protection, and this was quite obvious by its layout. For starters, the corridors were narrow enough for only one person to enter, which made it ideal if invaders would have tried to enter. But also….
They Could Seal Off Entryways
Large boulders were strategically placed on the side of every passageway which could be rolled easily by only a few men to block whole areas. If there ever was an emergency where they needed to flee, they had 18 entire lower levels to flee to. To look down that gaping hole was both incredible and terrifying at the same time…
Stop Who Goes There?
These heavy stone doors could close Derinkuyu from the inside in order to ward off dangerous intruders, and each storey could be shut off individually. It is remarkable how they carved the stone and made their own utensils in order to do this. Also it must have been extremely heavy pushing the doors.
The city of Derinkuyu was completely self-sufficient in having a water source. Vast wells ran deep into the depths of the city and provided a constant supply of fresh water. To prevent enemies from accessing and poisoning the water, the well wasn’t even accessible on ground level. The man power and hard work was very impressive. What else would they discover?
The residents at work were also extremely forward thinking when it came to the construction it appeared. On the surface, you’d have to search pretty thoroughly to find the vents, and even if you did they weren’t large enough for a human to fit through.
From the surface, however, cool air flowed down to all 18 levels of the city. If you wanted to enter or exit the city, you’d have plenty of options….provided that you could find them. It was truly astonishing for the man, and in an interview he claimed “I cannot believe what was sitting under my house all this time, and how clever all these details are”.
Tiny Hidden Entrances
The man discovered that if one wanted to get into the underground city, they would either have to know exactly where in the maze the secret entrances were or do a lot a lot a lot of searching. Since the discovery of Derinkuyu, over 100 of these little little animal sized holes have been found, hidden behind rocks and walls or even hidden in courtyards. So what exactly was this underground city used for?
Its Fascinating History
The Byzantine era was a turbulent time as Christians had to suffer raids from Muslim-Arab nations. To provide a place of safety for themselves, they found solace in the underground city, complete with storerooms for supplies and stables for their livestock. Daily life for people hidden there was difficult, to say the least.
Life Carried On As Usual
Though at first living life underground took time to adjust, the citizens of Derinkuyu soon found the living conditions quite manageable. After all their alternative was death. They had a lot of provisions, such as running water, cool air, wine cellars, and even a school and a church to pray for their lives.
Used During Multiple Eras
The Byzantine Christians were not the only ones who needed this underground network, It also received heavy use during the 14th century as protection against invading Mongolian hordes. Even religious objects were safely stored underground to protect them.
Since electricity most certainly wasn’t around back then, torches were the only means of providing light in the depth of the dark tunnels of Derinkuyu. This was evident due to charred and blackened ceilings by years of smoke and ash. But did you know that this isn’t actually the only underground city?
Derinkuyu is Connected to Other Networks
Derinkuyu wasn’t the only city that sought protection from perilous danger. Other tunnels and networks have since been discovered that are connected to Derinkuyu which lead to other neighboring cities, most of which have around three levels. In the event that the city experienced a full-on siege, the 20,000 citizens had multiple places to flee to while the tunnels were easily defended.
This is a fascinating illustration of an underground city that would have looked just like Derinkuyu. Look at the church on the bottom level. Cities like this were used during times of Christian persecution, so religious items would be placed on the lowest levels for protection. This is amazing to think that they had the ability and provisions available in order to protect themselves.
School Took Place
This large room with its vaulted ceiling was used as a religious school. It has been discovered that the city of Derinkuyu was used by Christian populations from the early Middle Ages up until the early 20th century. Even in times of persecution, they saw the importance and need for education, which is very cool don’t you think?
Who Built It?
While it’s still not very clear who originally burrowed out the underground city, archeologists have concluded that it was likely constructed by the Phrygians all the way back to the 8th or possibly even the 7th century B.C. It still remains the largest underground community found in Turkey and the man who found it is still astounded to this day that it was under his home.
Crazy Conspiracy Theories
There are some other ideas about Derinkuyu’s purpose, but no one knows for sure. There are some theorists who claim that the city was indeed used for protection, but not from Mongols or Muslim-Arabs. Alien invasions, they claim, were what the people were actually hiding from! Whatever it was for, it is incredible.
The Man’s Identity Is Still Unknown
The name of the man who discovered this vast underground city is still unknown. All we know of him is that he was fortunate enough to stumble upon one of the most impressive archeological finds of the 21st century through a simple DIY project to enhance his home. It wasn’t until then that he was aware that his home had actual ties to such ancient history.
Worth A Visit
The region of Cappadocia is home to this underground city and is a very popular tourist destination. Cappadocia is a geological wonder, full of honeycombed hills and towering boulders of beauty that feels like its a fantasy world. As many ancient tribes sought shelter underground here, it has left the countryside scattered with fascinating cavern architecture. Now this underground village has started to become one of the most famous sights.
Food For Thought
To think this underground world was found all because one man needed to expand his home. It is truly incredible how it happened, and we bet the world is thankful that it did. So much can be learned about history from this one village, and about the people that lived on the land before us.
So What Now?
“This new discovery will be added as a new pearl, a new diamond, a new gold” to Cappadocia’s riches” stated Ünver, the mayor, who wants to build “the world’s largest antique park,” with boutique hotels and art galleries aboveground, and walking trails and a museum below. “We even plan to reopen the underground churches,” he says. “All of this makes us very excited.”
A team of archaeologists have continued to clear rubble from tunnels and explore deeper underground— this of course is a risky undertaking, since the terrain is prone to collapsing. “When the underground city beneath Nevşehir Castle is completely revealed,” he says, “it is almost certain to change the destination of Cappadocia dramatically.” So start booking your trip to Turkey!