In 1963, a man in Turkey purchased a house and began renovations. While exploring the property, he stumbled upon an unknown room. Soon, he discovered several more rooms. To his amazement, he found that all of them were part of the extensive underground city of Derinkuyu. When archaeologists started working there, they confirmed that the initially discovered rooms were just a small part of a much more complex and branched system of chambers.
Excavations continued for several years, and by 1969, the site was opened to tourists. However, only a portion of the chambers was made accessible to the public, while a much larger part remained closed to everyone except specialists.
Derinkuyu is simply an incredible complex that has existed for thousands of years, and it is entirely unclear how ancient people managed to build this meticulously planned underground city. The architects of that time must have been very careful during the construction of underground rooms and corridors. They were able to ensure sufficient strength of the columns so that the upper floors did not collapse under the weight of the lower ones.
Without the precise calculations of the ancient builders, the underground city would have collapsed. However, archaeologists have not found any evidence of a collapse in Derinkuyu to this day. The underground city has a total of eight floors, reaching a depth of one hundred meters. Some artifacts found on-site suggest that it was built by the Phrygians in the 8th-7th centuries BCE. However, seals discovered on the site in the Hittite style indicate a much later date – 1900-1200 BCE.
The underground complex is located above the city with the same name, Derinkuyu. It is said that the city has at least 600 entrances scattered in different parts, accessible from the surface. In the underground Derinkuyu, there were churches, storage rooms, wine cellars, stables, and even a school. If you descend to the third and fourth floors, you can find a church. Access to most floors was facilitated through a complex system of staircases.
Not on every floor, but quite frequently, there were wells with water. This was a preventive measure against poisoning the inhabitants. If the water in one well happened to be unsuitable for use, others were always available. In addition, ventilation shafts were made on each floor to provide fresh air. Throughout the entire underground Derinkuyu complex, there are approximately 15 thousand ventilation shafts.
There is a hypothesis that this ancient city was not intended for permanent residence. It was used as a refuge. While it undoubtedly could accommodate thousands of people and domestic animals, it appears more like a place of refuge rather than a location for permanent and prolonged habitation. It was constructed very skillfully, securely, and durably. The city had numerous passages and interconnected rooms, allowing people to move freely, work, and conduct religious ceremonies.
It was well-designed, with niches for oil lamps, stables, chimneys, storage rooms, and water reservoirs. There were even special areas where the bodies of the deceased were stored until it became safe to bury them on the surface.
The underground Derinkuyu was well-protected. Heavy stone doors were installed in various parts, ensuring quick closure of passages in case of an attack. Interestingly, doors weighing hundreds of kilograms could be easily operated by a single person. Each floor and passage could be securely sealed in case of danger, similar to compartments on a submarine.
Official historians believe that the purpose of building this city was to protect the residents from an invasion that occurred around 800 BCE.
However, many scientists disagree with this.
The city was too large, too complex of an engineering project to serve as a mere defense against raids by unfriendly neighbors. Some theorists suggest that the intricate system of Derinkuyu was created for survival and protection against attacks from an enemy controlling the airspace. It was logical to go underground and remain unnoticed from the air. It’s unlikely that anyone could have guessed that beneath the seemingly abandoned city, 20 thousand people were hiding.
Nevertheless, there are still many unanswered questions about Derinkuyu, and it’s unlikely that we will ever get answers to them. Who built this enormous underground city? What hostile force compelled tens of thousands of people to hide and live underground?