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Archaeologists Unfold World’s Largest Underground City in Turkey

Archaeologists find evidence to believe a site just discovered in 2012 could be a complex subsurface labyrinth

The newfound ruins could outshine their neighbor, the underground city of Derinkuyu (pictured). ( Dave Bartruff/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

In ancient Cappadocia, now part of modern day Turkey, the people who lived there dug incredible, honeycomb-esque cities into the soft rock—underground complexes that could go stories deep. Today, remnants of these underground hives are scattered through the region, and the most recently discovered of these ruins are also some of the most impressive. In 2012, a crew of demolition workers inadvertently uncovered a network of tunnels near Neveshir, Turkey, and now that archeologists have given this find a deeper look, they think it could turn out to be the most extensive underground city ever known. 

Today, one of the area’s biggest attractions is Derinkuyu, a historic subsurface town big enough to have housed 20,000 people, with additional space for livestock and food stores. But the new findings suggest the recently unearthed settlement could be a third larger, suddenly making Derinkuyu look like a humdrum ‘burb.

The Telegraph reports, “Geo-radiation scanning suggests the multilevel settlement is the size of about 65 football pitches, and is likely to include living spaces, kitchens, wineries, chapels, and staircases.” Geophysicists estimate the site is nearly five million square feet (460,000 square meters) and think it contains corridors as deep as 371 feet. The scientists date the ruins back 5,000 years. 

The site was found when a crew demolished 1,500 buildings on top of it, as part of an urban renewal project. But now Neveshir’s mayor wants to focus the city’s development efforts elsewhere.

From National Geographic:

“This new discovery will be added as a new pearl, a new diamond, a new gold” to Cappadocia’s riches, raves Ünver, the mayor, who wants to build “the world’s largest antique park,” with boutique hotels and art galleries aboveground and walking trails and a museum below. (The planned housing complex has been moved to the suburbs.) “We even plan to reopen the underground churches,” he says. “All of this makes us very excited.”

And, who knows—maybe the builders of the new housing complex will have hit upon some fresh inspirations, and soon the people over there will soon be living underground, too. 

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