Ancient, Long-lost Underground City Stretching for Miles Discovered in Turkey

A long-lost underground city dating back 5,000 years has been discovered in Turkey after workers went to investigate the source of flooding affecting homes in the central Nevşehir province.

"The city, which is partially submerged, is believed to stretch over three miles into the ground," the Daily Sabah reported. An initial exploration of the complex suggest it is made up of three floors and is comprised of tunnels, homes and a place of worship.

The discovery was made after locals living in the Çalış township of Avanos complained of flooding, the source of which could not be found. During their investigations, municipal workers opened up at tunnel that had been closed off for safety reasons decades earlier.

According to the Daily Sabah, when the crew ventured inside, they found the underground city partially submerged in clear water. The flooded rooms of the city were found to be directly beneath the houses that had experienced flooding.

At the site, workers found a small human figurine believed to be an icon of some sort.

Çalış mayor Kazım Yılmaz told Anadolu Agency that archaeologists will need to work out the origin of the city and exact size, but added: "Those who had been there in the past say it is some 600 meters by two kilometers in size,"—around 0.4 square miles.

The Daily Sabah said locals had used parts of the underground city that were close to the surface as a shelter for animals up until the start of the 20th century. About 25 years ago, the complex was rediscovered when a child fell inside the tunnel—it was at this point the entrance was covered up, in order to prevent any more accidents.

Turkey's Nevşehir province is home to many long lost underground cities, many of which have been discovered in the last decade. The Cappadocia region, where Nevşehir is located, is made up of soft volcanic rocks that would have been fairly easy for ancient humans to carve homes out of, providing protection from the elements. Over time, these grew to become vast cities.

At the end of 2014, a 5,000-year-old city around the Nevşehir Fortress was discovered during construction work. The huge network is thought to have been home to thousands of people who are thought to have been part of a farming community that existed around 3,000 BC.

According to the Hurriyet Daily News, the city stretches over four miles, with tunnels wide enough for a car to pass through. Özcan Çakır, from the Canakkale 18 March University who was involved in excavations, told the newspaper: "We believe that people, who were engaged in agriculture, were using the tunnels to carry agricultural products to the city. We also estimate that one of the tunnels passes under Nevşehir and reaches a faraway water source."

This complex is set to be partially opened to tourists—something Yılmaz hopes will happen at the underground city in Çalış. He told the Daily Sabah they plan to apply to Turkey's cultural property protection board for it to be considered as a historical site.

The most famous underground city in the region is Derinkuyu cave—an underground city that was discovered in the 1960s after a resident found a room behind one of the walls in his home. Archaeological research indicates the city—which is the deepest in Cappadocia—could have housed 20,000 people.

Derinkuyu underground city.
A room in Derinkuyu, an underground city in Cappadocia, Turkey iStock