A team of archaeologists discovered an ancient underground city in Cappadocia, Turkey, with tunnels and escape routes spanning over 3.5 miles. Estimated to be 5,000 years old, the massive metropolis was found in the areas around and beneath Nevşehir fortress during an urban development project carried out by Turkey’s Housing Development Administration (TOKİ). Hurriyet Daily News called it the “biggest archeological find of 2014”.
“Some 1,500 buildings were destructed located in and around the Nevşehir fortress, and the underground city was discovered when the earthmoving to construct new buildings had started,” according to Hurriyet Daily News.
Cappadocia is a region in Anatolia, located largely in the Nevşehir Province in central Turkey. Centuries of volcanic action coated the landscape with layers of lava and volcanic ash; nearby Erciyas volcano still experiences minor eruptions. Over time, strong wind and rainfall sculpted the rock into deep valleys and soaring towers (called “chimneys”) into which people – as far back as the 4th century CE – carved homes, chapels, tombs, temples and entire subterranean cities to safeguard from hostile invaders. Together with Göreme National Park, these fantastically formed sites comprise one of Turkey’s eleven World Heritage Sites.
Nevşehir province is already famous for the incredible underground city at Derinkuyu; the image above suggests what Derinkuyu underground may have looked like, with areas bespoke for sleeping and cooking, livestock stables and communal rooms, wells, water tanks, ventilation shafts, communal rooms, and tombs. (image from Wikimedia Commons).
This complex human ant-farm carved below the surface was once home to about 20,000 residents. It is eleven levels deep with 600 identified entrances. Miles of tunnels connected it to other underground cities. Now archaeologists are saying that the newly discovered city will be the largest of all the Nevşehir underground cities and may be the largest in the world.
“Hasan Ünver, mayor of Nevşehir, said other underground cities in Nevşehir’s various districts do not even amount to the “kitchen” of this new underground city,” reports Hurriyet Daily News.
TOKİ has said it will now move their development project to the outskirts of the city so that the ancient site can be investigated and preserved. TOKİ Head Mehmet Ergün Turan told Hurriyet Daily News that they do not view this as a loss considering the importance of the discovery ($38 million had been invested to date).
Lead image of Derinkuyu underground city and image of the cave houses of Cappadocia from BigStockPhoto