Turkey in the ground The underground cities of Turkey, first built around 700 B.C., are carved into soft volcanic rock. The deepest known, Derinkuyu, goes down some 200 feet, and could shelter 20,000 people. –theculturetrip.com
You read it first in this week’s The Factory in Guide magazine.
Have you ever been in a cave or cavern? Most caves are dark and damp and musty. But in Turkey there are places where people used to live underground for months to protect themselves from invading forces. They also housed their animals and all their food. Some of the Christians of the Byzantine era were able to hide in the caverns during times of persecution.
One of these ancient underground cities was called Elengubu, or Derinkuyu as it is called today in the region of Cappadocia. This city was built when people carved their homes right into the surrounding rocky hills. These hills were made from very old lava flows which hardened over time. However, because they contain hardly any water they were easy to carve into while still being solid and supportive.
Over time the people dug deeper and deeper, creating different levels, as many as 18 levels of passages extending down almost 200 feet. There appeared to be a strategically-placed well about 180 feet down that they could easily guard. They were able to guard each level with huge round boulders they could roll to block the entry. The boulders had a hole right in the middle just big enough to throw a spear through should someone attack.
Excavators have found different kinds of rooms, as well. There were some with vaulted ceilings that could have been used as a school or chapel, possible stables for animals, and wine cellars. They also had special chambers where the dead were kept. However, life could not have been easy down there. The halls were narrow and most ceilings low. They had to use smoky torches for light. When they had to go to the bathroom, they used sealed clay jars.
However, the design of the passages was very well thought out, making sure they had adequate ventilation shafts for fresh air. In the colder months, the animals were put closer to the upper levels to help with the smell and better ventilation, and which provided a kind of natural heated layer of air from the warmth of the animal’s bodies.
It is said that these caverns were hidden for a long time until they were discovered in a very funny way. A man was fixing up his house and pretty soon he noticed that all his chickens were missing! Well, as he worked he realized there were holes in the ground, and that is how the caves were found – along with the chickens!
Living underground for the people of Derinkuyu had its benefits, I’m sure. It would certainly be much better than being attacked or under siege. They thought so too, because thousands of them stayed under for months at a time, and were able to keep their families and animals safe.
This reminds me of Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower [or in this case, a cavern]; the righteous run into it and they are safe.” NKJV Scripture taken from the New King James Version, Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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