It’s not everyday you hear about entire cities built thousands of years ago, boasting sophisticated architecture, design, and careful organization – underground! Derinkuyu, a massive subterranean city that could have housed up to 20,000 people, is literally a mine for unearthing evidence of ancient genius.
There are approximately 200 of these underground complexes located in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. The largest, Derinkuyu, is a huge, 18-story complex with meeting rooms, halls, wells, ventilation shafts, wine and oil presses, tunnels, and stables that descend deep into the earth.
Though living underground probably doesn’t sound appealing to most of us, the ancient people who excavated Derinkuyu built this amazing city for intelligent reasons. Their incredible skill and planning is evident even today.
Researchers believe that Derinkuyu was likely built as a practical refuge for times of war as it was very easily defended. Many of the tunnels were dug quite small perhaps in order to force invaders to crawl single-file into the city. Each floor could also be locked from the inside using huge round doors (up to 1000lbs) to close the tunnels. The wells inside the complex provided fresh water for the inhabitants and they were protected from outside contamination. Able to house thousands of people as well as provisions and even livestock, Derinkuyu was a veritable fortress!
The volcanic rock in the Cappadocia region is quite soft and relatively easy to excavate and dig, but comes with its own set of problems. Researchers suggest that those cutting and carving into such soft formations risked possible cave-ins at any time – yet there is no evidence of any collapses. Apparently the builders knew what they were doing!
The builders also carved several ventilation shafts, some as long as 180 ft. deep into the farthest levels of the city. The shafts would keep the air fresh and the temperatures even as well.
A project of this size and sophistication required immense planning, skill, and manpower. Like many awe-inspiring ancient sites, we have very little idea how they built it and what all was involved. But the immense size of Derinkuyu suggests a large work force. This means that the builders were organized and united with a purpose, and followed the directions of a master planner. They were intelligent, cooperative people.
As to who did the building, the answer is still unknown. There are several theories:
- The Hittites: Some suggest the Hittites who controlled the region in the 15th century BC were the first to dig the underground tunnels. It is believed that they used Derinkuyu as a shelter during the Thracian attack in the 12th century BC. Several Hittite artifacts have been found in the tunnels
- The Phrygians: Experts suggest that Derinkuyu was constructed between the 10th and 7th centuries BC while the Phrygians controlled the area. They were known to possess the great architectural ability that would be needed to excavate the complex.
- The Persians: An intriguing theory based on an ancient section of the Zoroastrian book Avesta, suggests that the Persians first started construction on the site before the Hittites arrived. The mythical Persian king Yima supposedly built underground dwellings to house “flocks, herds, and men”.
We know that God created the builders of Derinkuyu with incredible skill and ability. We don’t know what inspired the first builders to start digging but it may be that God was preparing a place of protection for His people in later years.
Most researches believe that the early Christians used the tunnels of Derinkuyu and its sister subterranean cities as places of refuge during the Roman persecution. There is some evidence that suggests some of the rooms were used as chapels and study rooms in later years.
Sometimes ancient sites can serve more purposes than their original builders could even imagine! They have left us incredible evidence of God’s intelligently created ancient man.
Read about more fascinating ancient underground sites!
Special thanks to one our readers for suggesting a post about this amazing site! If you have any ancient mysteries or topics you would like to hear more about, please let us know in the comments or send us an email!
 Derinkuyu Underground City. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derinkuyu_Underground_City. Accessed August 6, 2014.
 Derinkuyu. http://www.ancient-wisdom.co.uk/turkeyderinkuyu.htm. Accessed August 6, 2014.
The Intriguing Ancient Underground City of Derinkuyu. http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/09/intriguing-ancient-underground-city-derinkuyu/. Accessed August 8, 2014.