Underground City of Cappadocia, Turkey

Many regions of the world seem to hold more archeological sites than others. Such is true of the Cappadocia Region in Turkey. Ancient cities and settlements have been found throughout the region, the newest one surpassing all the rest.

While excavating for an urban renewal project, construction workers came upon a honey-combed arrangement of cave entrances. Little did they know, through mere happenstance, that they had stumbled upon one of the largest underground cities in the world. The government suspended work immediately and phoned archaeologists, historians, and geophysicists.

Archaeologists have managed to date the caves to around 4000 B.C though they are not entirely sure for a few reasons. The system of caves spans over 7 kilometers under Earth’s surface, and reaches depths of almost 400 feet with its 18 levels that could once house 20,000 people. A large circular boulder could cover each entrance to the caves in order to enclose the system. This led archeologists, historians, and geophysicists to infer that these systems were not only used when environmental/natural disaster occurred, but when there were raids or times of war and conflict. Included in the 18 levels are residential areas, tombs, kitchens, ventilation shafts, chapels, bathrooms, wells, well tanks, and at least 30 major water tunnels. Due to the peoples’ way of life and composition of the caves, archaeologists can infer that they were sedentary and more focused on farming and livestock than on being a nomadic and conquering group.

Internal organization of the underground city

The government called in archaeologists for help in studying this site and learning from it. Archaeologists have not yet identified who built  the caves, but they have hypothesized they could be Phrygians, Persians or 15th century B.C. Anatolian Hittites. Dating has been particularly difficult for archeologists, as each aspect of the caves was carved from natural rock. They were also consulted due to the persistence of archeological sites in nearby regions. There are many sites that date back to 3000-5000 B.C., so archeologists are identifying whether the cave systems and nearby archaeological sites are related. Archaeologists have hypothesized that such an extensive cave system may have a purpose other than protection: transportation. Having an underground tunnel system would help with the transportation of people, goods, or livestock (instead of transportation in inclement weather, over difficult terrain, or during raids.)

Entrances to the cave system. Some are large enough to fit passenger vehicles.

Sites such as this provide a wealth of knowledge not only about the time they were occupied, but also about today’s times. For instance, the peoples of the cave system possessed novel technologies and ways of living that their ancestors and others most likely used or tried to elaborate upon. Could kitchens, ventilation systems, and waterways of the Cappadocia Region and nearby regions be based off the precedents set by these cave systems? Use of archaeology alongside other fields has provided insight, revelations, and countless hypotheses about the cave systems in the Cappadocia Region that would not exist had archaeology not been used to its potential.

(498 words)





For Further Reading:



Beyond The Terra-Cotta Warriors

In 1974, whilst digging a well outside the Chinese city of Xi’an, China, workers unearthed a life-sized warrior made of clay. Once archeologists arrived, they discovered more warriors, numbering in the thousands. Each warrior’s armor and facial expressions are slightly different. The warriors are positioned due to rank. Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di ordered the construction of the structures. To date, four pits have been dug, three of which uncovered warriors, horses, carriages, and weapons.

Pit Containing Terra Cotta Warriors

When studying or discovering these pits, one may be inclined to presume that China under Emperor Qin was more warfare based, or that Emperor Qin valued his soldiers and military prowess most and therefore wished to be buried alongside such things.

Since then, many nearby archeological sites have been located through excavation, remote-sensing, and ground-penetrating radar. These additional findings have located over 600 more pits, one of which was the Emperor’s tomb that amasses almost 38 square miles. These further observations and studies have provided archeologists and other researchers with more knowledge about the Terra Cotta Warriors site and Emperor Qin.

Since the initial pits were studied, researches have discovered countless other artifacts that help decipher more about the site and Emperor Qin. For instance, clay figures of  acrobats and musicians have been found. In addition, life-sized figurines of swans, cranes, ducks, and other animals were located. Experts found evidence of European techniques used on artifacts. Therefore, could Europeans have influenced the construction and furnishing of the Terra Cotta site? This added another layer of complexity and meaning to the previous notions about the Terra Cotta archeological site and Emperor Qin.

Terra Cotta Animals from the Qin Dynasty

Approximately 700,000 workers are believed to have worked to create the site. Found alongside the worker’s graves are government officials’ graves. These sites show a distinct structural organization by which the Emperor was able to construct such a massive complex. Following the Emperor’s death, experts have determined from artifacts and skeletons of the Emperor’s family that a family blood-war over power occurred. From skeletons of princes and the destruction of Terra Cotta warriors and artifacts, archeologists determined that some of the pits had been raided and partially destroyed during the blood-wars.

From the more recent findings and studies, researchers have asserted that the Terra Cotta site actually represented Emperor Qin’s court in his lifetime; it represented his surroundings and what he valued. Soldiers, animals, government officials, and other objects were discovered at the site. These provided knowledge as to the size and organizational complexity of the Qin Dynasty. Historians and Archeologists believe the site serves as an replica of the societal organization of the Qin Dynasty. When first explored and studied, many believed that the site merely contained clay statues of soldiers. Today we know it contains many more artifacts, which provide in depth insight into the organization and life during the Qin Dynasty.




Image Sources:



Further Reading:


Chinese Authorities Smash Fake Terracotta Warriors Attraction