Although most people have at least one remodel horror story, often everything goes smoothly, and the results are stunning. Amazingly, there are even occasions when people uncover hidden jewels. In 1963, a Turkish man, whose name has never been revealed, set out to renovate his basement. He used a sledgehammer to break through a basement wall and stumbled upon a fascinating piece of history.
Uncovering the Surprise of a Lifetime
On the other side of the wall, was a tunnel that connected to several other tunnels. After some exploration, he found the tunnels led to a number of halls and chambers. History is full of stories about the past but if something happened thousands of years ago it’s a little tricky to decipher what actually happened. However, historians, archaeologists, and other researchers have used hours of research and technological advances to study and understand ancient cultures. Furthermore, through their work we’ve learned a lot about how civilizations lived and evolved.
Several wonders have been uncovered including the discovery Derinkuyu. The lost city, originally called Elengubu, is a giant underground complex and scientists believe at one time there were around 20,000 residents. Some parts of the complex are 18 stories high and have a depth of around 280 feet below the Earth’s surface. Ventilation came from more than 15,000 shafts, most about 10cm wide.
Not much is known about the underground city, but archaeologists speculate the oldest parts of the city were possibly developed around 2000 B.C. by the Hittites. Scientists believe this civilization originated in an area beyond the Black Sea, occupying Anatolia and northern Syria. Although the civilization came under rule of several empires, the fall of the Hittites is thought to have come about suddenly and is attributed to large-scale migrations. By 710 B.C. they had lost their identity and independence.
While parts of the civilization’s history are unknown, several artifacts have been discovered. Throughout modern-day Turkey, tablets have been found allowing researchers to piece together our understanding of this ancient civilization.
Heart of Turkey
The abandoned city lies in the heart of Turkey, in the region of Cappadocia. Derinkuyu was developed out of stone towers called ‘Tuff’. Debris is thrown from an eruption and becomes compacted forming an igneous rock. In other words, the stone is created by volcanic ash. In contrast to its name, it’s easy to chisel because the material is actually fairly soft. With help from the wind and rain, people have been building dwellings from these stone towers for centuries. However, none are as large as Derinkuyu.
Based on the layout, it is believed that the upper levels were used as sleeping and living quarters. Meanwhile, the lower levels were less ventilated and likely used for storage. In between the living quarters are chambers thought to be used for making wine, housing domesticated animals, and as churches. Some deeper shafts were likely used to fill buckets of water. While there are still many unanswered questions, 2 things seem to be apparent about the discovery.
Piecing Together the Mystery
Firstly, researchers found large round stones that appear to have been used from inside the city, concluding the city was designed with intent to hide from enemy forces. Interestingly, scientists believe this might have extended to protection from the elements. Secondly, researchers have noted something interesting in the newer parts of the dwellings. Some building ‘upgrades’ date from the 6th to the 10th century A.D. and bear distinctive Christian features.
Several researchers such as archeologists and anthropologists have been discovering and studying artifacts for years. A type of researcher known as a linguistics specialist also did some investigating. Linguistics specialists study language including the relationship between signs and users and the meaning of words. They often research abstract and tactile forms of communication.
One particular analyst from Cambridge visited the area and concluded that city may have also been used by the Greeks as a shelter when news of war broke out in other surrounding cities. After the Greco-Turkish war ended in 1922, the Greeks of Derinkuyu abandoned the city as part of the peace treaty between the two countries. With them, they took any remaining knowledge of the city’s history. Researchers are still searching for the answers that unlock a thorough understanding of Derinkuyu’s history.
Until then, the cite has become one of Cappadocia’s most well-known tourist attractions and still boasts a beautiful view into the ancient civilizations who took up residency over the course of centuries.
- “Derinkuyu: Mysterious Underground City in Turkey found in man’s basement.” Big Think. March 16, 2022.