10 Things You Should Know About The Underground City of Derinkuyu

Cappadocia is home to over 200 ancient underground cities. The jewel of the region, undoubtedly, is the underground city of Derinkuyu. Estimated to have been home to over 20 000 people at a time, it is a true wonder of underground construction and ancient architecture.

The underground city of Derinkuyu is the oldest underground city in the Median Empire, and the largest city found in Cappadocia, Turkey. It is proof that points to the perfection and long-lost construction methods of our ancestors. The underground city is perhaps one of the greatest achievements in underground construction, along with its huge network of tunnels.

1. The Underground City of Derinkuyu was discovered during restorations of an old house

South of the Black Sea and north of Mount Tavros is Cappadocia, in central Turkey. There, wind and water formed strange shapes of soft volcanic rock that ancient people turned into small primitive dwellings. In recent years, the place has been built up by more modern buildings.

But in 1963, the restoration of a house in the town of Derinkuyu led to an incredible discovery. During the construction works, an entrance to a cave was opened, leading to an underground city thousands of years old reaching to incredible depths.

2. It was built around the 8th or 7th century BC

It definitely took time for archaeologists to reach a general agreement about the origin of the city. The latest definite answer to the mystery suggests that it was built in the period VIII-VII century BC. by a civilization of “fire worshipers”.

3. The city of Derinkuyu reaches 85 meters below the ground

The whole underground city is an absolute wonder of construction as it reaches the outstanding 85 meters in depth. So far, 13 underground levels have been discovered although archaeologists have excavated and explored only 8 levels. Moreover, they believe that there are 20 in total which means there is much more to be discovered. 

4. There are around 15 000 ventilation shafts

You can see several of the ventilation shafts covered by archaeologists.
You can see several of the ventilation shafts covered by archaeologists.

Few things are as impressive as the ventilation integrated into the ancient city of Derinkuyu. In fact, there are around 15 000 in total that go through all the 13 levels of the underground city bringing fresh air to every room and tunnel.

5. Experts believe that more than 20 000 people lived in the underground city of Derinkuyu

Judging by the size of the city and the number of rooms in existence, experts estimate that more than 20 000 people lived there at its peak.

6. There are no collapses in the entire city

Tunnels in every direction make the enormous Derinkuyu complex.
Tunnels in every direction make the enormous Derinkuyu complex.

The ancient builders of Derinkuyu had to be very careful when building these underground chambers, to have strong enough supports to withstand the upper floors. If this had not been achieved, the city would have collapsed.

Surprisingly, there are no signs of collapses. This means that the people who built it were extremely smart and knew the building material very well. And this happened in ancient times. It is a complete mystery how they did it. Has another civilization helped them? Who exactly built this huge underground city, what exactly forced them to live underground?

7. Experts believe that it was used as a hiding ground for Christians for many centuries

The earliest signs of Christian presence suggest the 5th century AD. However, it is believed that they also used it in the 14th century during the Mongol invasion and all the way to the 20th century when it was abandoned.

8. The earliest mention of the underground city of Derinkuyu is from 370 BC

The earliest documented mention of underground cities is by the Greek historian Xenophon in 370 BC. He described how its inhabitants descended through narrow openings into wide underground rooms and tunnels, in which they even raised their cattle.

9. The city had all necessary living conditions that regular cities had

One of the halls in the underground city of Derinkuyu.
One of the halls in the underground city of Derinkuyu.

The city had all typical living conditions, as in other underground complexes in Cappadocia. Wineries and presses for pressing oil, cellars, stables, warehouses, dining rooms, and chapels have been built.

On the second floor of the underground complex, there is a spacious living room with a cylindrical vaulted ceiling. It is known that this room was also used as a religious school. Between the third and fourth level is a vertical staircase. It leads to a cruciform church at the lower level.

These are just some of all facilities in the underground city of Derinkuyu. All in all, it is a place of wonder.

10. Only about 10% of the underground city of Derinkuyu is accessible for tourists

This fact shouldn’t discourage you from visiting the ancient site. It is only logical as the majority of the complex is still being explored by archaeologists. Even the small part of the city you can visit is enough to leave you memories for life and completely change your perception about ancient civilizations.

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