Officials in Turkey have announced the discovery of a massive underground city in the historic Cappadocia region of central Anatolia. The complex of carved rooms and tunnels was unearthed as civil workers began excavating for an urban renovation project in 2013, but its discovery was not made public until recently. Experts estimate the still-unnamed find may date as far back as 3,000 B.C., and they have already uncovered many artifacts and hidden rooms along with what may amount to several miles of tunnels—many of them wide enough to drive a car through.
Turkey’s Cappadocia region has long been designated a World Heritage site for its dazzling rock formations and more than 200 underground cities and villages, but according to government officials, a new discovery in Nevşehir Province could be the most extraordinary ancient find to date. The previously unknown subterranean metropolis was discovered by accident during a massive urban renewal project by the Housing Development Administration of Turkey, more commonly known as TOKI. Workers had demolished several hundred buildings and begun prepping for new construction when they stumbled upon a honeycombed network of cave entrances, tunnels and hand carved chambers in the area surrounding a Byzantine-era hilltop castle. The construction project has now been indefinitely postponed, and engineers and researchers have descended on the scene to explore the site’s labyrinthine interior.
“It is not a known underground city,” TOKI President Mehmet Ergün Turan told the Hurriyet Daily News, the English-language Turkish paper that first broke the story. “Tunnel passages of seven kilometers are being discussed. We stopped the construction we were planning to do on these areas when an underground city was discovered.”
Detailed information about the layout or condition of the city has been slow to emerge, but early estimates place the age of some sections at around 5,000 years old. Turkish officials claim they have removed several dozen artifacts from the chambers, and have reported discovering “escape galleries,” tunnels several feet wide and even what appear to have once been hidden places of worship. Nevşehir Province is already home to Derinkuyu, an 18-story underground city that was once capable of housing around 20,000 people, but if early size estimates prove correct, the new site may be even bigger. Nevşehir mayor Hasan Ünver told the Hurriyet Daily News that the complex was so vast that other underground cities in the region would be the size of a “kitchen” if placed within it.
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