Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Ancient Underground Cities of Turkey

Derinkuyu: (Underground City)

Carved from the living rock, Derinkuyu is one of five inter-connected underground complexes with a total estimated capacity of 100,000 people.

The historical region of Cappadocia where Derinkuyu is situated, contains several historical underground cities, carved out of a unique geological formation, many of which were largely re-used by early Christians as hiding places.

Over 200 underground cities at least two levels deep have been discovered in the area between Kayseri and Nevsehir, with around 40 of those having at least three levels. The cities at Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı are two of the best examples of underground dwellings. (2)

The largest of the Cappadocia underground complexes is multi-storey (18 storeys, 85m deep), with fresh flowing water, ventilation shafts and individually separated living quarters or 'apartments', shops, communal rooms, wells, tombs, arsenals and escape routes. It has the potential to house up to 20,000 people. The complex was air conditioned throughout, with 52 air shafts discovered so far, one of which is 55m deep. some wells were not connected with the surface, presumably in order to protect the dwellers from poisoning during raids. (1)

Derinkuyu underground settlement was opened to visitors in 1965, but so far only 10% can be visited. Entry is through tunnels that force one to almost crawl on occasion in order to force invaders into single file... One tunnel on the third level of Derinkuyu is said to connect to the nearby underground city of Kaymakli (5km distant). (3)

The massive circular doors - These circular doors are visible at all the local underground sites. They were rolled across the passages and sealed the citadels from the inside. At Derinkuyu Each level could also be sealed individually.

The following photos highlight the scale of the earth-works...

Of the 18 stories, only 8 are currently open to visitors.

When were they constructed?
Wikipedia says of it: 'First built by the Phrygians in the 8th-7th centuries B.C according to the Turkish Department of Culture, the underground city at Derinkuyu was enlarged in the Byzantine era. The oldest written source about underground cities is the writings of Xenophon (ca. 431 – 355 BC). In his Anabasis he writes that the people living in Anatolia had excavated their houses underground, living well in accommodations large enough for the family, domestic animals, and supplies of stored food'.

Alternatively, they were believed to have 'been constructed at around 1,400 BC by the Hittites'. - Chop Suey

A Hittite connection is confirmed by archaeology, but the exact date remains elusive: 

In origin, the cities are thought to date back to Hittite times at least (1900–1200 BC). Hittite-style seals have been found during excavations and other Hittite remains, such as a lion statue, have turned up in the area. It is possible that the underground rooms were used as shelters during the attacks of 1,200 BC, when the Hittite Empire was destroyed by invaders from Thrace. Later the complexes were enlarged by other civilizations, and the presence of missionary schools, churches and wine cellars would seem to indicate that they were used by Christian communities. - Rough Guides

Other Local Underground Constructions

There are another 200 subterranean settlements in the area although only a few are open to the public. (2)

Kaymakli (Ozluce) Roughly 10 kilometers to the north of Derinkuyu, is smaller and less excavated but 5 levels are accessible.

Ozluce Underground settlement is different from the others in terms of its geological formation and architectural features. The underground settlement has tufa of different colors  There is only one floor in this underground settlement which has not been completely opened; however, it covers a very large area.

At the entrance is a place with two intertwining arches made of basalt. Access to the main tufa stone can be gained through a 15 m long passage, made of rubble stone. The stone places, which lead to the underground settlement, are more recent than the rock hollowed places that form the underground settlement. At the end of this passage there is a millstone door which is made of hard granite and is 1.75 m in diameter.

Being the largest area in the underground settlement, the main space at the entrance consists of two parts. To the right of the main space are storage rooms, and to the left are living areas. On the sides of the long corridors are cell-like rooms and on the floor are traps. (1)

Tatlarin (The Castle). - Christian underground settlement.

The village of Tatlarin, located 10 km north of the town of Acigol, is one of the interesting places in Cappadocia because of both its underground settlement and churches and the architecture of its houses. Its underground settlement, located on the hill called ‘the castle’ by the locals of the village, was first discovered in 1975 and opened to the public in 1991. The size of the chambers in the underground settlement, only two floors of which can be visited; the presence of the toilets, which also can only be found at the Guzelyurt Underground Settlement; the abundance of the depots for food and of the churches make one think that this place was either a garrison or a monastic complex rather than an underground settlement. (1)

Özkonak (Avanos). A smaller version than that at Derinkuyu

Built on the northern slopes of Mt. Idis about 14 km northeast of Avanos in Turkey has many strata made up of volcanic granite. The larger areas of the city are connected to each other by tunnels. Özkonak had a built in communication system of pipes to each of its levels, unlike Kaymakli and Derinkuyu which have no such communication systems. Each carved out room had ventilation provided by holes when the city was closed against enemies.

Özkonak was discovered in 1972 by a local farmer named Latif Acar, who was curious about where his excess crop water was disappearing to. Latif discovered an underground room which, when later excavated, revealed a whole city which could house an incredible 60,000 people for up to three months. Although only four floors are now open, the complex contains a total of ten floors, to a depth of 40m.

1) Cappadocia Online
2) Derinkuyu
3) Tracy T. Twyman, Richard Metzger. The Arcadian Mystique. 2005.  Dragon Key Press.

Originally posted on: Ancient Wisdom


  1. This is pretty amazing.

  2. En then came Turkish people to occupie christian land so they call it Turkey
    Sombeody have brain sombody only penis to do things Eurpoa here brainless agly people come. SIKTER !!!

    1. I might be wrong but it read like the Christians occupied it after atleast two other groups of people ....

    2. It was BC which means it was before the Holy Christ was even born.

  3. I've been there twice and simply was blown away.

    1. you are so lucky to have been able to see this I so wish to visit here someday..

  4. SO many wonders of the world and pple think there r only 7 ....hahahaha ....This place just takes one's breath away !!!!

  5. thats pretty dayum'd inventive... pure genius... and i bet it was a nice temperature down there..out of the baking sun :)

  6. photos are stunning; a must place to visit. With lack of sunlight the inhabitants must have had a strange complexion