Turkey is home to some of the most interesting archaeological digs around. One of the most intriguing would have to be the underground city at Derinkuyu. Of all of the underground cities found in Turkey, the Derinkuyu underground city is the largest.
It is unknown exactly why the city was constructed. Archaeologists have found evidence that the city could be sealed off from the inside by means of a series of large stone doors. The stone doors are approximately one meter to a meter and a half in height. They are between 30 and 50 cms thick and weigh between 200 and 500kg. Each of the 11 floors in the city could also be closed off independently of one another.
The city was large enough to comfortably house between 35,000 and 50,000 people. The complex contains wine presses, oil presses, storage rooms, refectories, chapels and even stables. It is believed that the city was built between the 8th and 7th centuries BCE. The people that were believed to have built the underground city were known as the Phrygians. The kingdom of Phrygia was located the west central part of Anatolia. This is part of modern-day Turkey.
The Phrygian kingdom was attacked by many enemies. In approximately 690 BCE they were overwhelmed by Cimmerian invaders from Iran and were also conquered by invaders from the kingdom of Lydia. It finally became part of the Roman Empire and all traces of its language had vanished by the 7th century CE.
The Phrygians had a fairly advanced culture for the Bronze Age. Their music influenced some styles of Ancient Greek music and Midas, the king with the golden touch was mentioned as being a Phrygian. Some of the musical instruments that were used to play ancient music were also created b y the Phrygians.
It is unknown why Derinkuyu was created. The huge stone doors and access to water may have meant that it was designed to be a stronghold should the Phrygians be attacked. The presence of churches and other religious buildings also suggested that the complex may have been used for religious purposes. Only about ten percent of the stronghold has been excavated and so scientists are still learning more about the structure as they go along. It is believed that while the city may have been started in the 8th to 7th centuries BCE it may have been expanded and enlarged during the Byzantine era. There is some evidence that suggests this work may have been performed during the 5th and 10th centuries CE. This was a time when the city was used more frequently as a means of taking refuge and for religious purposes.
Derinkuyu is only one of several underground cities that have been unearthed in Turkey. Many are located in the same province as Derinkuyu. It is believed that these other underground structures may have been created by ancient Christians as a place where they could retreat to in order to escape being persecuted. Derinkuyu is actually connected to some of these other underground cities through a series of tunnels.