A construction company in Turkey accidentally discovered what is possibly the largest underground city in the world, after starting an urban renewal project right above the city’s surface.
Turkey’s Housing Development Administration planned on using the land for a development project and was already $25 million into the operation when the underground city was discovered.
In 2014 the workers stumbled across the beginning of various tunnels carved out in the ground connecting many rooms and escape routes that make up the underground city.
The city is located in the Nevşehir province in central Turkey. The area is also historically identified as Cappadocia, known for past discoveries in other underground developments.
Early estimates suggest that the city could be one-third bigger than Derinkuyu, the deepest underground city in Cappadocia
Apart from being around 5,000 years old, the city is also the largest underground structure found by archeologists to date.
Researchers from Nevşehir University found that the city is roughly 460,000 square metres, the equivalent to about 86 football fields. They also discovered that the city goes 113 metres deep and that the tunnels connecting the rooms are 7.5 km long.
In comparison, Nevşehir’s most popular underground development known as Derinkuyu only reached a depth of 60 metres and housed up to 20,000 people at best.
After discovering the underground city, the Housing Development Administration decided to move the project outside of the area and the city was handed over to Turkey’s Cultural and National Heritage Preservation Board.
It was supposedly built during the Byzantine era to protect its occupiers for the religious wars that plagued the region.
Although 44 historical objects have already been identified, the actual use of the city is still unclear. Some researchers speculate that the city might have been used for agricultural purposes; others believe that it served as a secret community to keep people safe.
Archaeologists will continue to carefully excavate the city with help from a geo-radar, which can identify any structure within 10 metres below the surface. With this modern technology, archeologists can avoid accidentally damaging parts of the city.
The preservation of the city is essential for both historical integrity and for tourism in Turkey.
As far as tourism, the new city will bring a flux of interest into the region along with an increase in revenue for the tourist industry in Turkey. Historically, the evidence found by archeologists will deepen our understanding of the past and what it meant to live during the Roman Empire.
The huge underground city is lit by oil lamps and is large enough to fit more that 20,000 people