Derinkuyu Underground City Cappadocia

Derinkuyu is a town of 5000 inhabitants attached to Nev?ehir and is situated on the Nev?ehir-Ni?de highway in Central Anatolia (elevation 1355 m.)lts distance to Ni?de is 50 km. and to Nev?ehir 29 km. Apart from the numerous churches on the ground and the first known lunatic asylum in the world, it also has a underground city which first came to light quite accidentaly in 1963 and which, in 1965, was opened to visitors by the Office for Ancient Monuments and Museums. This city in which the Proto-Hittites, Hittites, Romans and Byzantines lived, might justifiably be termed the eighth wonder of the world and fills visitors with amazement. It is assumed that the first level of the city was used as a storehouse by the Hittites.

When in 476 A.D. the Roman Empire was divided in two and the Western Roman Empire collapsed, Derinkuyu was part of the province of Caesarea. In that period the Cappadocians, who at the time of Em­peror Justinian were known as a nomadic tribe, were converted to Christianity and began secretly practising and propagating the new religion in the underground chambers excavated by the Hittites at Derinkuyu.

Until the VI and VII century, when their number multiplied greatly, they added to the storeys of the underground city and en­larged it. The underground city was dug in the volcanic soil and lava of the now extinct Erciyes mountain to the east. We do not exactly know of how many levels the city consists; what is open to visitors now has eight storeys 55 meters high and covers an area of 1500 m2.

In the vicinity of Derinkuyu there exist about 30 underground cities; of these the largest is at Derinkuyu itself. Probably during the early precarious years of Christianity the first and second floors were dug for living and the lower levels served as places of refuge.

The first two storeys contain kitchens, storage chambers, bed­rooms, dining halls, wine cellars, stables and toilets, whereas the third and fourth storeys consist of places of hiding, churches, ar­mouries and tunnels. The tunnels form connecting links with some underground cities near Derinkuyu so that the population could save their lives by using these escape routes. We have reason to believe that one of the tunnels on the third storey is connected with an un­derground city at Kaymakli 9 km. away. The tunnel in question is wide enough for three, four people to walk upright side by side. The ventilation ducts of the tunnel, many of which have been filled with rubble or destroyed through the years, are expected to be opened in the coming years.

Certain clues indicate that the lower floors of the underground city were places of refuge. One of these is the existence of stone doors in the corridors, which must have been closed against the attackers after the inhabitants had escaped there. These stone doors can only been opened and closed from the inside, and against them the invaders would be helpless. They have holes in the middle which may have been used in defending the place. The lower storeys have wells, escape ducts, a church, a meeting hall, a dungeon, graves and ventilation ducts.

Derinkuyu has 52 such ventilation ducts; because of the sloping terrain on which the down is built, their lenght varies from 70 to 85 metres. The name Derinkuyu (deep well) is derived from the many wells on the bottom level. Its old name Malagobia means "difficult subsistence."

Until 1962 the water supply of Derinkuyu was provided from these wells with hand-turned wheels; since then some wells have had motor pumps installed and the town still depends on them for its water. Only on the first storey the air ducts number about 15.000.

The church on the lowest floor is in the form of a cross measuring 10 metres in width, 25 metres in length and 3,5 metres in height. Some scholars call the church clovershaped and thus the coat-of-arms of the Hittites. Exactly opposite the church is a hall with three co­lumns hewn out of the rock; it was both a meeting hall and a torture chamber. Two of the columns have places for placing candles, or, in the opinion of some, for tying prisoners. It is said that the skeleton that was dug up from the grave at the end of the corridor to the west of this hail was sent to Ankara for examination. Derinkuyu has the 450-500 underground settlements similar to the underground city just described. These are still to be investigated. They have about 600 exits, and since some of these open into houses which are in use now, their first floors are employed as storage rooms by the owners. The lower storeys have partially filled up with earth when ceilings fell in, and are difficult to visit. It is not exactly known where the earth and rubble excavated from this underground city of 18-20 storeys covering four km2 and where 20.000 households could live was dum­ped. Some suggest that a hill to the west of the town called Sogdele is the site. Others think that the excavated earth was dumped into a ravine through which a brook flowed.

The underground city has streets similar to those of a normal town. The first three storeys are closely linked to each other and it is believed that 2.000 households, that is to say 10.000 people lived here. Some parts of the city are thought to have been dug by Arabs taken prisoner by the Byzantines. Hundreds of thousands of slaves laboured for thirty years to build the Pyramids. One wonders how many thousands of laborers worked for years under the whips of overseers to build the underground city. This is a question that cannot be answered yet.

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