Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Derinkuyu: The Tumultuous History of Turkey’s Underground City

Derinkuyu – Excavated Underground City

One of the deepest excavated underground city, in the Cappadocia in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey is Derinkuyu which is said to be an amazing natural wonder having remarkable fairy chimneys together with battered caverns. Cappadocia is considered to be a wonderful geological scene.

 It is scattered with extensive concealed dwelling as well as secret tunnel passages which several people had utilised it for shelter across the centuries. Derinkuyu is quite well-known and there are hundreds of these homes in the region. At a distance of over 250 feet having a capacity of up to 20,000 people this multi-levelled city included everything which a complete population would require to survive a history, damaged with invasions.

Volcanic eruptions had emitted layer after layer of ash, known as tuff or tufa, many million years ago. Over a period of time, the tuff got cemented into a soft, easily carvable though comparatively stable rock. The inhabitants of ancient Anatolia realized that they could carve out their home right in the hillsides and underground. Derinkuyu is said to be one of the several rock-cut dwellings in the region and is the deepest one till date. This underground dwelling had been discovered in 1963 during the renovation of a surface home.


An Astonishing Discovery

An underground room leading to a concealed passageway had opened up when a wall had caved in. On exploring the passageway, the workers had realized that it seemed to lead further into a deep maze and it became an astonishing discovery.

The researchers observed kitchens, bedroom, food storage room, bathrooms, oil and wine presses, wells, weapons, storage, areas, schools, churches, tombs as well as domestic animal stables within the massive eighteen levels of the city. Moreover there were also rooms of different sizes for various needs. Small spaces were said to be rock-cut tombs while the large one provided the perfect rooms for community meetings and schools. It was obvious that the people had intended to be totally self-sufficient.

There was provision of over fifty ventilation shafts which brought in air from above while thousands of smaller ducts distributed the air throughout the full city. Some of the archaeologists are of the belief that an 8 kilometre long passageway connects Derinkuyu to another remarkable underground city in Kaymakli which indicated that there could have been some degree of cooperation between the different civilizations of the Cappadocia region.

Houses were Underground

It is uncertain as to the age and who had built Derinkuyu but it is known that the Hittites had dominated the Anatolia region from 1600 BCE to around 1200 BCE. After this period, the Hittite Empire had contracted into smaller groups probably owing to various invasions and wars.

Consequently, the Phrygians wandered to the area from the Balkans. Hence if the Hittites had built the dwelling as some of the scholars believe, it could have been well before 1200 BCE. Other experts speculate that the Phrygians had built the underground city that could have taken place between 1200 BCE and 800 BCE.

Thereafter, Persians, Macedonians, Greeks, Armenians, Syrians together with several other groups had been in Cappadocia. The earliest acknowledged mention in writing of underground cities in the kingdom of Cappadocia had been from Xenophon, a Greek historian-soldier in 370 BCE. Xenophon had spent time and had traveled throughout the region and in his work he had mentioned that `the houses here were underground with a mouth like that of a well though spacious below and while entrances were tunnelled down for the beasts of burden, the human inhabitants descended by a ladder. In the houses were goats, sheep, cattle, fowls and their young and all the animals were reared and took their fodder there in the houses’.

History Full of Wars & Instability

The history of Derinkuyu as well as Anatolia is said to be full of wars and instability. Some of the former known residents of the Cappadocian region, namely the Hattians, and later on the Hittites had recognized the area as a valuable trade zone thorough early relationship with their Assyrian fellow citizen. Several tribe and thereafter large governments had motivated to control Anatolia for ages owing to its location that has served as a main trade bub between Asia and Europe.

 It was for these reasons, which the areas in Anatolia had been historically extremely volatile and had been invaded and captured often by various groups. The Roman had captured the lands of Cappadocia in 17 CE and had made it a Roman province under Emperor Tiberius and during the early days of Christianity, the Christian colonies had occupied Cappadocia.

They utilised the underground cities as a means of safety from Roman persecutions. The city of Derinkuyu had been planned with safety perceptions which illustrated that the underground dwellings were intended as refuges. The doors comprised of roll-able disc-shaped stone having a small hole towards the centre which covered entrances and passaged during raids.

Safety an Important Factor

Some speculate that the hole enabled soldiers to shoot arrows out or probably a strong beam through the hole enabled users to open and close the door with ease. It could also have served as one of the first `peepholes’. Since the doors only seemed to open and close from the inside, the inhabitants in the complex had total control. It had been quite easy to defend the village through a small opening against a large opening wherein anyone could walk in easily.

Each level seemed to link to the next level through a hallway having same stone door. Besides this, narrow passages compelled people to go through a single file and this again made it much easier to defend against incoming soldiers. The underground city also had a water containment system which took safety as an important factor. It seemed that one of the main ventilation shafts also served as a huge well.

But the wells in the city did not connect together nor did they all go to the surface. This safeguarded the inhabitants from invaders who would think of poisoning the entire water system from the outside. Cappadocia and Derinkuyu are said to be unbelievable histories together with amazing ancient dwellings that tend to go deep underground.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.