The man lived in the Turkish province of Cappadocia; his identity is still unknown decades later. The one wall separating his home from that of people who lived there as far back as the eighth or seventh century BCE is supposed to have been destroyed while he was working on an internal home upgrade. The gap in his wall offered access to a tunnel, which led to more tunnels, enabling archaeologists from the Turkish Department of Culture to personally examine the recently found city. Another research says that a man once discovered a sizeable underground metropolis in his basement while looking for the cause of his hens going missing. In 1963, a man in the Turkish village of Derinkuyu was remodeling his home when he observed that several of his chickens were going missing. He discovered a little crack in his basement during the renovation. His chickens were disappearing through it, never to be seen again. He do some digging to find out where they were going and found the entrance to a sizable underground city.
His finding was the first of more than 600 entrances to the Derinkuyu underground city that were subsequently uncovered inside people’s homes. Excavation operations revealed a network of tunnels and shelters that was 18 floors deep and extended 280 feet (85 meters) below, providing temporary protection for up to 20,000 people and their cattle. The massive underground city originated as a network of caves constructed by the Hittites about 1200 BC as protection from the Phrygians. The Phrygians further enlarged the living space by further excavating the area after conquering the region.
Later, it appears that Christian Roman citizens added extra layers, chapels, stables, and locations to manufacture wine and olive oil to the cave networks, expanding their size.
Safe Reuge for Locals
With a lengthy line of conquerors and occupiers moving through that part of the world, the underground city of Derinkuyu was frequently a safe refuge for the locals. The Byzantine Empire’s Christian people used it for years as a haven from Muslim robbers, and this was the busiest moment for the underground city.
The local Christian community utilizes it to flee Ottoman persecution for several centuries after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. Even as recently as 1909, comparable caves were used as safe havens from peril; Derinkuyu is not even the biggest underground city.
The Cambridge linguist Richard MacGillivray Dawkins wrote of his time in Greece, “When the word arrived of the recent atrocities at Adana, a significant part of the populace at Axo took refuge in these underground chambers, and for some nights did not venture to sleep above ground.”
Hidden Underground City
It appears that, up until quite recently, all of the population resided underground, with no homes built above ground. Derinkuyu, which lies in Anatolia, is in a region of the world that has been repeatedly conquered and occupied, making a hidden city with 20,000 inhabitants that might hide a highly useful asset.
Locals likely exploited the soft rock as food storage initially to retain food at a cool, constant temperature. They probably became cities because of how effective they are as a defense, though. To stop opponents from polluting the water supply, residents of the lower levels, for instance, were able to cut off the supply to the upper and ground levels. With rolling rocks that can move to block passageways, the creation of an underground city to protect its occupants from harm was not a permanent home.
The building’s chimneys provided that anyone seeking sanctuary had access to fresh air, and space to bring down their cattle to assure that people could eat while finding refuge from whatever peril they were facing at the time. Those who lived there needed torches to see in the constant darkness of Derinkuyu, whether temporarily or permanently. Derinkuyu’s 172 square kilometers have many living spaces with bedrooms and kitchens, allowing for a relatively comfortable residence even if the majority of it has only hallways.
Storerooms showed that individuals seeking protection might stay underground for months at a time if feasible, but they kept the animals closer to the surface to prevent the smell of their feces from making the city untenable.
Before the resident of Cappadocia discovered Derinkuyu, archaeologists think the site had been abandoned for at least hundreds of years. Even though the first discovery of the city was 60 years ago, researchers are still trying to figure out all of the secrets of the labyrinth, with pieces of Darinkuyu’s past. If you’re not too claustrophobic, you can explore the underground city today as a tourist attraction.