Derinkuyu underground city

The Derinkuyu underground city (Cappadocian Greek: Μαλακοπή Malakopi; Turkish: Derinkuyu Yeraltı Şehri) is an ancient multi-level underground city in the Derinkuyu district in Nevşehir Province, Turkey, extending to a depth of approximately 85 metres (279 ft). It is large enough to have sheltered as many as 20,000 people together with their livestock and food stores. It is the largest excavated underground city in Turkey and is one of several underground complexes found throughout Cappadocia.

A passage in the underground city.


The underground city at Derinkuyu could be closed from the inside with large stone doors. Each floor could be closed off separately.[1]

The city could accommodate up to 20,000 people and had amenities found in other underground complexes across Cappadocia,[2][3] such as wine and oil presses, stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, and chapels. Unique to the Derinkuyu complex and located on the second floor is a spacious room with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. It has been reported that this room was used as a religious school and the rooms to the left were studies.[4]

Starting between the third and fourth levels are a series of vertical staircases, which lead to a cruciform church on the lowest (fifth) level.[citation needed]

The large 55-metre (180 ft) ventilation shaft appears to have been used as a well. The shaft provided water to both the villagers above and, if the outside world was not accessible, to those in hiding.[citation needed]


'School' in the underground city.

Caves might have been built initially in the soft volcanic rock of the Cappadocia region by the Phrygians in the 8th–7th centuries BC, according to the Turkish Department of Culture.[5] When the Phrygian language died out in Roman times, replaced with its close relative[6] the Greek language,[7] the inhabitants, now Christian, expanded their caverns to deep multiple-level structures adding the chapels and Greek inscriptions.[8]

The city at Derinkuyu was fully formed in the Byzantine era, when it was heavily used as protection from Muslim Arabs during the Arab–Byzantine wars (780–1180 AD).[9][8] The city was connected with other underground cities through many kilometers of tunnels. Some artifacts discovered in these underground settlements belong to the Middle Byzantine Period, between the 5th and the 10th centuries.[citation needed]

These cities continued to be used by the Christian natives as protection from the Mongolian incursions of Timur in the 14th century.[10][11]

After the region fell to the Ottomans, the cities were used as refuges (Cappadocian Greek: καταφύγια) by the natives from the Turkish Muslim rulers.[12]

As late as the 20th century, the local population, Cappadocian Greeks, were still using the underground cities to escape periodic persecutions.[12] For example, Richard MacGillivray Dawkins, a Cambridge linguist who conducted research from 1909 to 1911 on the Cappadocian Greek speaking natives in the area, recorded such an event as having occurred in 1909: "When the news came of the recent massacres at Adana, a great part of the population at Axo took refuge in these underground chambers, and for some nights did not venture to sleep above ground."[12]

In 1923, the Christian inhabitants of the region were expelled from Turkey and moved to Greece in the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, whereupon the tunnels were abandoned.[8][13][14]

In 1963, the tunnels were rediscovered after a resident of the area found a mysterious room behind a wall in his home while renovating. Further digging revealed access to the tunnel network.[15]

In 1969, the site was opened to visitors, with about half of the underground city currently accessible.[citation needed]

Other underground citiesEdit

Nevşehir Province has several other historical underground cities including Kaymaklı Underground City. The underground cities and structures are carved out of unique geological formations. They may have been used as hiding places during times of raids. The locations are now archaeological tourist attractions. They remain generally unoccupied. More than 200 underground cities of at least two levels have been discovered in the area between Kayseri and Nevsehir. Some 40 of those include three or more levels.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Ancient Underground City Once Housed 20,000 People". Dusty Old Thing.
  2. ^ "Massive Underground City Found in Cappadocia Region of Turkey". National Geographic. March 26, 2015.
  3. ^ "Derinkuyu underground city". January 26, 2014.
  4. ^ "Derinkuyu Underground City". Nevşehir Province. Archived from the original on 2007-01-09.
  5. ^ "Turkish Department of Culture".
  6. ^ Woodard, Roger D. (2008). The Ancient Languages of Asia Minor. Cambridge University Press. p. 72. ISBN 0-521-68496-X. Unquestionably, however, Phrygian is most closely linked with Greek.
  7. ^ Swain, Simon; Adams, J. Maxwell; Janse, Mark (2002). Bilingualism in Ancient Society: Language Contact and the Written Word. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 246–266. ISBN 0-19-924506-1.
  8. ^ a b c Darke, Diana (2011). Eastern Turkey. Bradt Travel Guides. pp. 139–140. ISBN 978-1-84162-339-9. The area became an important frontier province during the 7th century when Arab raids on the Byzantine Empire began. By now the soft tufa had been tunneled and chambered to provide underground cities where a settled if cautious life could continue during difficult times. When the Byzantines re-established secure control between the 7th and 11th centuries, the troglodyte population surfaced, now carving their churches into rock faces and cliffs in the Goreme and Soganli areas, giving Cappadocia its fame today. […] At any rate here they flourished, their churches remarkable for being cut into the rock, but interesting especially for their paintings, relatively well preserved, rich in coloring, and with an emotional intensity lacking in the formalism of Constantinople; this is one of the few places where paintings from the pre-iconoclastic period have survived. Icons continued to be painted after the Seljuk conquest of the area in the 11th century, and the Ottoman conquest did not interfere with the Christian practices in Cappadocia, where the countryside remained largely Greek, with some Armenians. But decline set in and Goreme, Ihlara and Soganli lost their early importance. The Greeks finally ending their long history here with the mass exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece in 1923.
  9. ^ Horrocks, Geoffrey C. (2010). Greek: A History of the Language and Its Speakers. John Wiley & Sons. p. 403. ISBN 978-1-4051-3415-6. None the less, at the beginning of the 20th century, Greek still had a strong presence in Silli north-west of Konya (ancient Ikonion), in Pharasa and other villages in the region drained by the Yenice river (some 100 km south of Kayseri, ancient Caesarea), and in Cappadocia proper, at Arabison (Arapsu/Gulsehir) north-west of Nevsehir (ancient Nyssa), and in the large region south of Nevsehir as far down as Nigde and Bor (close to ancient Tyana). This whole area, as the home of St Basil the Great (329–79), his brother St Gregory of Nyssa (335–94) and his friend St Gregory of Nazianzos (330–89), was of great importance in the early history of Christianity, but is perhaps most famous today for the extraordinary landscape of eroded volcanic tufa in the valleys of Goreme, Ihlara and Soganh, and for the churches and houses carved into the ‘fairy chimneys’ to serve the Christian population in the middle ages. Many of the rock cut churches, which range in date from the 6th to the 13th centuries, contain magnificent frescos. Away from the valleys, some of the villages have vast underground complexes containing houses, cellars, stables, refectories, cemeteries and churches, affording protection from marauding Arabs in the days when the Byzantine empire extended to the Euphrates, and serving later as places of refuge from hostile Turkish raiders. The most famous of these are at Kaymakli and Derinkuyu, formerly the Greek villages of Anaku (Inegi) and Malakopi (Melagob), where the chambers extended down over several levels of depths of up to 85 metres.
  10. ^ Kinross, Baron (1970). Within the Taurus: a Journey in Asiatic Turkey. J. Murray. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-7195-2038-9. Its inhabitants were Cappadocian Greeks, who may have found a refuge here, perhaps from Roman, from Iconoclast, or later from Turkish and Mongol threats. Urgup itself was the Byzantine Prokopion; the Emperor Nicephoros Phocas is said to have passed this way, after his Cilician campaign; and the neighborhood was populous enough to support, at different times, a number of bishoprics.
  11. ^ Dawkins, R. McG. (1916). Modern Greek in Asia Minor. A study of dialect of Silly, Cappadocia and Pharasa. Cambridge University Press. p. 17. Retrieved 25 October 2014. these excavations are referred to as long ago as the campaigns of Timour Beg, one of whose captains was sent to hunt out the inhabitants of Kaisariyeh, who had taken refuge in their underground dwellings, and was killed by an arrow shot through the hole in one of the doors.
  12. ^ a b c Dawkins, R. McG. (1916). Modern Greek in Asia Minor. A study of dialect of Silly, Cappadocia and Pharasa. Cambridge University Press. p. 16. Retrieved 2014-10-25. their use as places of refuge in time of danger is indicated by their name καταφύγια, and when the news came of the recent massacres at Adana [in 1909], a great part of the population at Axo took refuge in these underground chambers, and for some nights did not venture to sleep above ground.
  13. ^ Rodley, Lyn (2010). Cave Monasteries of Byzantine Cappadocia. Cambridge University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-521-15477-2. The tenth-century historian Leo the Deacon records a journey to Cappadocia made by Nikephoros Phokas shortly before he became emperor. Perhaps to recapture the attention of readers beginning to tire of troop movements he also offers a scrap of information about a curiosity of the region to which the emperor was heading: its inhabitants were once called troglodytes, because ‘they went underground in holes, clefts and labyrinths, as it were in dens and burrows’. This brief note was probably not based on first-hand knowledge but it might have been prompted by an awareness of the vast number of rock-cut cavities in an area to the west and southwest of Kaisareia (Kayseri of modern Turkey). Had Leo been more inclined to garrulous digression (or perhaps just better informed), he might have supplied more details of the troglodyte region and the task of bringing scholarly order to the hundreds of rock-cut monuments and other cavities in the area might have been much similar. … At this time the region was still inhabited by a mixed population of Turkish-speaking Moslems and Greek-speaking Christians. The latter group left for Greece in the early 1920s, during an exchange of population of minorities that was part of the radical social re-ordering initiated by Kemal Atatürk; they were replaced by Turks from Greece, mostly from Thrace. In the two decades before this upheaval, however, members of the local Greek population acted as guides to Guillaume de Jerphanion, who made several visits to the volcanic valleys and wrote his meticulous descriptions of many painted Byzantine rock-cut churches.
  14. ^ Oberheu, Susanne; Wadenpohl, Michael (2010). Cappadocia. BoD. pp. 270–1. ISBN 978-3-8391-5661-2. On May 1st, 1923, the agreement on the exchange of the Turkish and Greek minorities in both countries was published. A shock went through the ranks of the people affected – on both sides. Within a few months they had to pack their belongings and ship them or even sell them. They were to leave their homes, which had also been their great-grandfathers’ homes, they were to give up their holy places and leave the graves of their ancestors to an uncertain fate. In Cappadocia, the villages of Mustafapasa, Urgup, Guzelyurt and Nevsehir were the ones affected most by this rule. Often more than half the population of a village had to leave the country, so that those places were hardly able to survive…The Greeks form Cappadocia were taken to Mersin on the coast in order to be shipped to Greece from there. But they had to leave the remaining part of their belongings behind in the harbor. They were actually promised that everything would be sent after them later, but corrupt officials and numberless thieves looted the crammed storehouses, so that after a few months only a fraction of the goods or even nothing at all arrived at their new home….Today the old houses of the Greek people are the only testimony that reminds us of them in Cappadocia. But these silent witnesses are in danger, too. Only a few families can afford the maintenance of those buildings….
  15. ^ (2016-12-14). "8 Mysterious Underground Cities".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)


External linksEdit

Coordinates: 38°22′25″N 34°44′06″E / 38.3735°N 34.7351°E / 38.3735; 34.7351