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Man discovers 2,000-year-old Turkish underground city in his basement while chasing chickens

Derinkuyu is the world's largest excavated underground city which was used for thousands of years by over 20,000 people.

Man discovers 2,000-year-old Turkish underground city in his basement while chasing chickens
Representative cover image source: Getty Images/ Photo by Chris McGrath

There were times when we expected to open our wardrobes that led to a different world, like in "Narnia." Surprisingly, for a man, this expectation was fulfilled when he entered a different world through his basement. While chasing his chickens through a hole in his basement during renovations, a Turkish homeowner discovered an abandoned underground that once housed 20,000 people. The unidentified man knocked down the wall in the 1960s to reveal a dark tunnel leading to the ancient city of Elengubu, now known as Derinkuyu, reports the New York Post.



 

 

Derinkuyu, located more than 280 feet beneath the Central Anatolian region of Cappadocia, is the world's largest excavated underground city and is thought to connect to more than 200 smaller and separate underground cities discovered in recent decades, according to Turkish guides who talked to BBC.

The precise date of construction of the magnificent city is unknown, but ancient writings dating back to 370 BC indicate that Derinkuyu existed at that time. Moreover, researchers discovered 18 levels of tunnels containing dwellings, dry food storage, cattle stables, schools, wineries, and even a chapel inside the city, whose entrances connect to more than 600 private homes in the modern, surface-level region of Cappadocia. The city also had a ventilation system that provided residents with fresh air and water.



 

 

"Life underground was probably very difficult," said Suleman, a guide. "The residents relieved themselves in sealed clay jars, lived by torchlight, and disposed of dead bodies in (designated) areas." There's a high probability that the corridors were dimly lit and built narrow and low, so intruders would have to stoop and walk in a single file. The city could have been used to store goods before being used as a bunker to hide from foreign invaders. Half-ton boulders blocked the doors connecting each level and could only be moved from the inside. They also had a small hole that residents could use to spear the confined trespassers.

Image Source: A Multi-level ancient city, thought to have sheltered 20,000 people, livestock and food. Building was thought to have started around 750BC and fully formed by the Byzantine era.
(Wikimedia/ Photo by Joe Wallace)
Image Source: A Multi-level ancient city thought to have sheltered 20,000 people, livestock and food. The building was thought to have started around 750 BC and was fully formed by the Byzantine era. (Wikimedia/ Photo by Joe Wallace)

 

This largest excavated underground city in the world burrows more than 85m below the Earth's surface. Though the architects' identities are unknown, researchers believe the Hittites, people belonging to Bronze Age Anatolia, "may have excavated the first few levels in the rock when they came under attack from the Phrygians around 1200 BCE," according to A. Bertini, an expert in Mediterranean cave dwellings, in his 2010 essay on regional cave architecture. The Phrygian invaders, an Indo-European-speaking empire that ruled Anatolia for 600 years, are credited with constructing the majority of Derinkuyu in the centuries before it was passed amongst Persians, Christians, and Cappadocian Greeks. 

According to the BBC, the city's population peaked at 20,000 during the 7th-century Islamic raids on the Christian Byzantine Empire. Derinkuyu was abandoned after 2,000 years of use in 1923 by Cappadocian Greeks defeated in the Greco-Turkish war and fleeing to Greece. One century after it was rediscovered, the ancient city of Derinkuyu, which was added to the Unesco World Heritage list in 1985, is open to visitors who want to experience life underground.

Not me going down to my basement to discover treasure after I read this.

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