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Monday, November 16, 2020

The Turkish Underground City That Sustained 20,000 People



Underground cities fascinated us because of the mysteries that these cities may hold. Whether these sanctuaries rose in the last Century or thousands of years ago, we can't help but think how the past inhabitants of these cities managed to survive or thrive in subterranean habitats. One of these cities is Derinkuyu, situated in Cappadocia, Turkey. The favorable geological conditions from millions of years ago made it possible for the place to exist.

Turkey, Underground City, Derinkuyu
Image: Delhi Planet

If this city is a groundbreaking achievement of humankind, why is it less-known? Why is it not as famous as the Pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge, and other wonders of the Ancient World? The answer is that the underground labyrinths' unearthing is relatively more recent than those mentioned above and imposing structures that people already marveled on. 


A resident living at Cappadocia, Turkey, discovered the vast lands by accident in 1963 after discovering something strange in his room, a door leading to the elaborate cul-de-sac of tunnels that once sustained at least 20,000 people unfolded in his eyes. Since 1969, the site became open to the public and has become a staple in Turkey's bustling tourism industry. Up to this day, only half of the once-mighty underground city is accessible. 

Turkey, Underground City, Derinkuyu
Image: Journey Era

The underground city also got a rich and complex history spanning millennia. The stronghold is a witness of how civilizations that once thrived in Turkey rise and fall. It turned out that several societies have all made their contributions to maintaining and expanding the city underground. The question of who got to the ancient bunker first and who carved it from volcanic stones and built the foundation of Derinkuyu is still unclear. The Phrygians were the ones often cited in many studies to be the builders of the Derinkuyu. Still, some scholars believe that Anatolian Hittites may have built the city's foundations while waging war with neighboring states. 


Clearer signs of how the city became a cradle for citizens seeking shelter from invading hordes of hostile states were evident in the ancient bunker's last prominent structures. Derinkuyu turned out not to be the only underground city in Turkey; another city named Kaymakli also served the same roles that Derinkuyu also played; to shelter citizens from carnage and destruction above and be a temporary shelter. For other settlements, the exact nature is yet to found; excavations have to commence. One of the most prominent structures of the Derinkuyu is a cruciform(cross-shaped) church carved from stone with interconnecting staircases. 


Turkey, Underground City, Derinkuyu
Image: MyBestPlace

People seeking refuge and spiritual guidance can easily access the place of worship. The Christian settlers made the church around the 14th Century when Tamerlane's conquest was at its height. There are also signs that the Ottomans also used the place as a refuge during the same period. A few citizens also found parts of Derinkuyu and turned it into a safe place away from the Adana Massacre of 1909. 

Turkey, Underground City, Derinkuyu
Image: Duniya Safari

At first glance, the city may give us the vibes or remind us of the Zion underground city from The Matrix franchise(minus the machinery pieces). Vast rooms filled with stairways, arches, and pillars are everywhere in Derinkuyu. The elaborate system of tunnels can go as deep as eight levels underground. This achievement in architecture and engineering is something unheard of and very well ahead of its time. These carved structures can put even modern doomsday bunkers to shame. Authorities should preserve this historical site for the next generation to see.

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