Man Renovating Basement Discovers Massive Underground City

Photo by © Nevit Dilmen via Wikimedia Commons

Turkey is home to some of the world’s most intriguing archaeological marvels. Among these are the underground cities of Cappadocia, vast subterranean networks that once harbored thousands of people.

One of the most well-known (and the largest) is Derinkuyu, a multilevel underground city that extends to a depth of about 280 feet and dates back to the Byzantine era. At its peak, it could accommodate approximately 20,000 people and came with stores, churches, ventilation shafts, a religious school and more.

It was discovered in 1963 … by a man renovating his basement.

© Nevit Dilmen via Wikimedia Commons
Elena Pleskevich / Flickr

Derinkuyu’s massive network of tunnels and rooms contains at least eight levels and possibly as many as 18.

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During the middle Byzantine era, Derinkuyu was expanded to act as a sanctuary from the invasions of Arab Muslim forces during the Arab–Byzantine conflicts (780–1180 AD). An underground tunnel network, spanning about 5 miles, linked the city to another subterranean settlement, Kaymakli.

In the 14th century, the local Christians used Derinkuyu as a shield against the Mongol invasions led by Timur. Once the area came under Ottoman control, the underground cities provided shelter for the residents from the rule of Turkish Muslims. Even into the 20th century, Cappadocian Greeks and Armenians took refuge in these subterranean settlements to evade sporadic persecutions.

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