It is a wonder of ancient engineering, and its name is Derinkuyu, a true marvel of ancient times.
Plunge into the enigmatic depths of Derinkuyu, the deepest underground city in the world, nestled within the heart of Turkey. We’ll explore its fascinating history, its accidental discovery, and the brilliant engineering that keeps it standing.
A Subterranean Metropolis in Turkey
Derinkuyu, the world’s largest underground city, can be found in Turkey’s Nevşehir province, part of the central Anatolian region. Spanning 447 square kilometers, this abandoned city is the most visited of its kind in the area.
85 Meters Deep
The unique geology of Cappadocia, characterized by water-scarce soil and easily sculpted rock, makes it the ideal location for underground construction. Derinkuyu stretches 85 meters beneath Cappadocia’s iconic fairy chimneys, consisting of around 18 levels capable of sheltering up to 20,000 inhabitants for months at a time.
Unearthing a Hidden City
In 1963, a resident stumbled upon Derinkuyu while renovating their home. Behind a demolished wall, they discovered a mysterious chamber that led to a complex labyrinth of tunnels and cave rooms. Although over 30 underground cities are scattered throughout the region, Derinkuyu remains the most famous, largest, and deepest.
Ingenious Ancient Engineering
The soft volcanic rock called tuff allowed for the city to be carved with precision. Complete with ventilation ducts, wells, water tanks, sanitation systems, stables, chapels, tombs, apartments, common rooms, schools, and even wine and oil presses, Derinkuyu is a marvel of ancient engineering. The city boasts more than 600 hidden entrances and massive rolling stone doors for secure closures.
A City with a Storied Past
Derinkuyu’s origins likely trace back to the Phrygians, an Indo-European people who inhabited Turkish territory around the 8th century BC, or possibly the Hittites around 2000 BC. The city expanded over time, even serving as a refuge for Christians fleeing Roman persecution during the Byzantine era. The brilliant architecture ensures that the underground floors remain stable despite the soft rock’s potential for collapse.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Derinkuyu Underground City was abandoned in the 1920s by Cappadocia’s Greeks following the Greco-Turkish War. Today, it forms part of the Göreme National Park ensemble, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
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