The Turks were masters at hide and seek, but archaeologists have finally discovered their secret. An 5,000-year-old underground city was just discovered in central Turkey and geoscientists have a feeling it’s enormous – maybe even five million square feet in size.
Turkey’s Cappadocia region is already quite famous – it’s the land of the Fairy Chimneys and earth pyramids made from its soft volcanic rock, as well as the region’s most famous underground city, Derinkuyu. But that site, in which 20,000 people could hide at a time, may be only a third the size of this newly discovered gem, National Geographic reported.
“This new discovery will be added as a new pearl, a new diamond, a new gold,” the regional capital’s mayor in Turkey has gushed.
The discovery of the underground city began in 2013, when a housing project cut into some mysterious rooms and tunnels underneath a Byzantine-era hilltop castle. The project was stopped and the scientists were called in, who promptly followed the tunnels and discovered living areas, kitchens, wineries, chapels, staircases and linseed oil presses. These presses were vital – the underground city was kept alight with oil lamps.
According to the Washington Post, air shafts and water channels were also discovered among plenty of artifacts – grindstones, stone crosses and ceramics. These discoveries date the site from the Byzantine era all the way to the arrival of the Ottomans in Turkey.
But the discovery begs the question: Why did the Turks need to keep so well hidden 5,000 years ago?
The region devoted itself to Christianity early on. As Muslims and then Seljuk Turks arrived to take control of the region, people flocked to Cappadocia for safe haven, the Post explained. Luckily, the people there had carved intricate hiding places into the soft volcanic rock. When the war came to their doorstep, people hid in the underground city, blocking entry with stone doors. They even kept livestock inside to get them through the siege.
Meanwhile, scientists are trying to figure out just how large this massive underground city really is, “but given the city’s location, defenses, and proximity to a water supply, it is highly likely that it spans a very large area,” one scientist explained to NatGeo.
The regional capital’s mayor is already alight with possibilities for promoting the new discovery. He envisions “the world’s largest antique park:” the regular tourist fare above ground, and walking trails and museums through the underground city below.
[Photo Courtesy Wikipedia]