The volcanic rock landscape of Turkey’s Cappadocia region is pockmarked with several different underground cities, but perhaps none is as vast or as impressive as Derinkuyu. This labyrinthine complex dates to around the 8th century B.C. and was most likely built to serve as a refuge during periods of war and invasion. With this in mind, its 18-story interior was a self-contained metropolis that included ventilation shafts, wells, kitchens, schoolrooms, oil presses, a bathhouse, a winery and living space for some 20,000 people. When threatened by attack, each level of the city could be sealed off behind a collection of monolithic stone doors. Historians believe that the Hittites or the Phrygians were among Derinkuyu’s earliest builders, but it was later occupied and expanded by a host of other groups including Byzantine-era Christians, who left behind a collection of underground frescoes and chapels. Despite its long history, the city wasn’t rediscovered until the 1960s, when a local man stumbled upon some its tunnels while renovating his home.
Located in northern France, the underground city of Naours includes two miles of tunnels and more than 300 man-made rooms—all of them hidden some 100 feet beneath a forested plateau. The site began its life around the third century A.D. as part of a Roman quarry, but it was later expanded into a subterranean village after locals began using it as a hiding place during the wars and invasions of the Middle Ages. At its peak, it had enough room for 3,000 inhabitants and included its own chapels, stables, wells and bakeries. The Naours caves were later sealed off for decades before being reopened in the 19th century as a tourist attraction. They became a popular sightseeing spot during World War I, and modern visitors can still see more than 2,000 pieces of graffiti left behind by Allied soldiers, many of whom fought nearby at the Battle of the Somme.
3. Wieliczka Salt Mine
Also known as the “Underground Salt Cathedral,” Poland’s Wieliczka Salt Mine is a massive subterranean complex of rooms, passageways and statues located on the outskirts of Krakow. The site dates to the 1200s, when miners first descended beneath the earth’s surface to find rock salt. In the centuries that followed, they slowly carved the mine into a warren of galleries and tunnels that extended more than 1,000 feet underground. When they weren’t digging for “white gold,” the workers also used the mine’s salt crystal deposits to build a stunning collection of chapels, chandeliers, statues and bas reliefs, including a detailed replica of Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” The Wieliczka mine stopped producing salt in 2007 after some 700 years in operation, but it remains a popular tourist attraction in Poland. It’s also home to a health spa that touts the therapeutic properties of the mine’s salt-rich microclimate.
In the 12th century A.D., a devout king ordered the construction of 11 eye-catching Christian churches in the Ethiopian village of Lalibela. This “New Jerusalem” is notable for having been fashioned from the top down: all of its churches were hewn from volcanic rock below the earth’s surface then hollowed out, giving them the appearance of having grown directly out of the ground. The most iconic building is the cross-shaped Church of Saint George, which was cut from a monolithic slice of stone inside a trench 100 feet deep. It was then connected to the rest of the complex via a network of underground passageways, hidden caves and catacombs. Legend has it that the construction of Lalibela took just 24 years, but many historians believe it was actually completed in phases over several centuries. The village is now considered a sacred site for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and its subterranean places of worship continue to draw as many as 100,000 pilgrims each year.
5. Beijing Underground City
In the 1960s and 70s, as the threat of nuclear war loomed, the Chinese government ordered the construction of a mammoth fallout shelter beneath their capital of Beijing. Also known as Dixia Cheng, the hand-dug site was supposedly capable of safeguarding around one million people for up to four months. It consisted of fallout-proofed rooms and tunnels that snaked their way underground over an area of several dozen square miles. Certain passageways were reportedly large enough for tanks to pass through, while other housed purpose-built schools, hospitals, granaries and restaurants. There was even a skating rink and a 1,000-seat movie theater. While the Beijing bunker was never put to use, its decaying tunnels still exist today, hidden beneath the city’s homes and businesses. Most are sealed off, but they were briefly opened as a tourist attraction in the early 2000s.
Famed for its cameo in the film “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Petra is an ancient caravan city tucked away in the mountains of southern Jordan. The site has been inhabited since prehistory, but it reached its peak some 2,000 years ago, when the ancient Nabataeans hand-chiseled the surrounding sandstone hillsides into a dazzling collection of tombs, banquet halls and temples. One of the most exquisite edifices is Al Khazneh, or “the Treasury,” which includes an ornamental façade that extends 130 feet up a rock face. Petra may have been home to 20,000 people at its height, but it was later abandoned sometime around the seventh century A.D. and wasn’t known to Europeans until the 1800s. Excavations at the site are still ongoing today, and it’s believed that the vast majority of its ruins may still lurk underground.
The Italian hilltop town of Orvieto is known for its white wines and picturesque architecture, but its most mysterious wonders lie underground. Beginning with the ancient Etruscans, generations of locals burrowed their way deep into the volcanic rock bluff on which the city was originally built. The subterranean maze was first carved to build wells and cisterns, but over the centuries it grew to include more than 1,200 interlocking tunnels, grottoes, and galleries. Some chambers include the remnants of Etruscan-era sanctuaries and medieval olive presses, while others show signs of having been used as storage places for wine or roosts for pigeons—a common local delicacy. Orvieto’s underground city was also frequently employed as a hiding place during times of strife. As recently as World War II, people were still using certain sections as bomb shelters.
In the event of a Cold War-era nuclear strike, the most important members of the British government would have retreated to a 35-acre underground complex located 100 feet beneath the village of Corsham. This “Burlington Bunker,” as it was codenamed, was first built in the 1950s from a series of existing tunnels and stone quarries. It contained office spaces, cafeterias, a telephone exchange, medical facilities and sleeping quarters—all of it designed to keep the British Prime Minister and some 4,000 other key government personnel alive during an emergency. There was even an in-house BBC studio that the PM could use to address the public. While never put into active use, the Burlington facility remained partially operational until 2004, when it was finally decommissioned and declassified.
5 Mysterious Ancient Cities That Were Built UNDERGROUND!
Today, we live in a world in which everybody is racing to build structures that would seemingly touch the farthest lining of the sky. The skyline of many cities across the globe is bedecked by dozens of towering skyscrapers which have continued to multiply or are set to be replaced by much taller and larger buildings as the years go by. However, societies of men all the way back to our ancient past also displayed their ability to build great structures downward, establishing cities hidden beneath the Earth’s crust. These underground cities were constructed and used throughout history as shelters during periods of war, as protection from the dangers posed by nature or as sacred locations for a certain civilization’s faith and religion. They have also been the subject of many ancient myths and legends, most of which suggest that these subterranean realms hold secrets that would alter our current understanding of the world and its history.
Many of these mysterious underground cities have yet to be re-discovered in modern times but there are a few whose existence and location are known to us today through their true history and purpose are still largely unsolved.
8 Ruined Cities That Remain a Mystery to This Day
The world is full of ruined cities, but some have such mysterious rises and falls that they haunt our imaginations. Even if we know who built them, certain aspects of the city may simply defy comprehension in the modern age. Here are 8 ancient cities that we may never fully understand.
1. Çatalhöyük, Turkey
In 7,500 BCE, this city in the Mesopotamian region (now Turkey) held thousands of people and is believed by many to be one of the world's earliest urban settlements. But the culture of the people here was unlike anything we know today. First of all, they built the city like a honeycomb, with houses sharing walls. Homes and buildings were accessed by doors cut into the roofs. People would stroll on the streets across these roofs, and climb down ladders to get to their living quarters. Doorways were often marked with bulls' horns, and dead family members were buried in the floor of each home . It's not clear what happened to the culture of the people who lived in this city. Their architectural style seems to be unique, though archaeologists have found many fertility goddess figurines in the city that resemble others found in the region. So it's likely that when the city was abandoned, its culture radiated outward into other cities in the Mesopotamian region.
Ancient graves suggest that family didn't really matter 9,000 years ago
Çatalhöyük is one of the world's most ancient settlements, founded in what is now Turkey around…
2. Palenque, Mexico
As one of the largest and best preserved of the Maya city-states, Palenque is emblematic of the mystery of the entire Maya civilization — which rose up, dominated parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras, then vanished with little explanation. Though descendants of the Maya are still thriving in Mexico and Central America, no one is sure why the great cities of the Maya fell into ruin and were finally abandoned in the 1400s. Palenque was in its heyday during the classical period of the Maya civilization, from about 700-1100 CE. Like many Maya cities, it had temples, palaces, and marketplaces. But Palenque, located near what is today known as the Chiapas region, has some of the most detailed sculptures and inscriptions from the Maya civilization, offering reams of historical information about kings, battles, and daily life. Theories for why this and other Maya cities were abandoned include warfare, famine, and climate change .
What really destroyed the Maya civilization?
One of the biggest debates in archaeology is what destroyed the extensive, highly-advanced Maya…
3. Cahokia, United States
Located across the Mississippi River from what is today St. Louis, Cahokia was for hundreds of years the biggest city in North America. Its inhabitants built enormous earthen mounds — some of which you can still visit today — and vast plazas which served as markets and meeting places. There is strong evidence that the inhabitants had very sophisticated agricultural practices, and that they diverted tributaries of the Mississippi several times to water their fields. Like the Maya, the people of Cahokia were at their civilizational height between 600-1400 CE. Nobody is certain why the city was abandoned , nor how the region was able to support such a high-density urban civilization of up to 40,000 people for hundreds of years.
10 Civilizations That Disappeared Under Mysterious Circumstances
For almost as long as we've had civilization, we've lost it. There are records going back hundreds
4. Derinkuyu, Turkey
Derinkuyu is an enormous, ancient underground city that dates back to the early Byzantine Empire. It's unknown when the city was begun — some sources say as early at the 7th century BCE — but it wouldn't have reached its greatest size until the period between 500-1000 CE, when it was five stories deep with room for 20,000 people, plus livestock, kitchens, a church, and a wine-making facility. Locals dug tunnels and rooms beneath their homes, deep into the soft, sandy volcanic rock of the central Turkish region of Cappadocia. An entire underground civilization was thriving here during the middle ages, which could provide a model for future communities trying to survive an apocalypse .
For centuries, people had fled to the area to find a safe haven from anti-Christian Romans, bandits, and later, anti-Christian Muslims. Massive rocks could be rolled across the entrances, and air shafts kept the place ventilated while people lived inside for months at a time. Eventually, long shafts were dug to connect Derinkuyu with other underground cities in the area. The city was sealed up at some point after the 10th century, and was only reopened to the public in 1969.
5. Pompeii, Italy
There are ample historical records that document the Roman vacation town of Pompeii, which was entombed in ash after the catastrophic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. We know that the city was partially destroyed by an earthquake years before the volcano erupted, and that many of its greatest homes were already abandoned by the time the final blast erased the city forever. We even know, from historical records, that Vesuvius started smoking and causing quakes in the days leading up to the fatal eruption. So what's the mystery?
Because Pompeii was perfectly preserved in the exact configuration it had in 79 CE, there are hundreds of historical details that are utterly alien to contemporary eyes — including decorative penis statues, weird graffiti, inexplicable art, and living arrangements that are unlike anything youɽ see in a modern city. It's one thing to read historical accounts of ancient Rome, and another thing to walk the streets of a Roman city unchanged since the height of the Empire. The mysteries of everyday life are often greater than the mysteries of how a civilization collapses.
The Lost City of Pompeii: Pictures of an Alien World, Frozen in Time
In the year 79 AD, Italy's Mt. Vesuvius erupted with superheated ash that rained fiery death on…
6. Machu Picchu, Peru
A lot remains mysterious about the Inca Empire, which dominated parts of the regions now known as Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina for hundreds of years before the Spanish invaded, destroyed its cities, and burned its libraries of quipu records (the Inca language was "written" with knots and rope). Though we know a lot about Inca technology, architecture and advanced agriculture — all of which are in evidence at major Inca city Machu Picchu — we still can't read what's left of the tapestries that contain their written records. And we don't understand how they ran a vast empire without ever building a single marketplace . That's right — Machu Picchu and other Inca cities contain no markets. This dramatically different from most other cities, which are often built around central market squares and plazas. How did such a successful civilization exist without a recognizable economy? Maybe one day we'll discover the answers.
The greatest mystery of the Inca Empire was its strange economy
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Inca Empire was the largest South America had ever…
7. Thonis, Egypt
In the 8th century BCE, this legendary city was the gateway to Egypt, a port town that was full of incredible monuments, rich merchants, and huge buildings. Now it is entirely submerged in the Mediterranean Sea. Thonis began its slow decline after the rise of Alexandria in the 300s CE. But eventually that slide became literal, as the city drowned in the sea that was once the source of its wealth. Nobody is certain how it happened, but by the 8th century CE the city was gone. It may have been the victim of liquefaction after an earthquake.
Recently rediscovered by archaeologist Franck Goddio , the city is slowly being excavated. Above is a video reconstruction of what the city might have looked like in its heyday.
8. Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
One of the great mysteries of southern Africa is the enormous, walled city known today as Great Zimbabwe. The city was home to as many as 30,000 people, and was at its peak from 1200-1450, when it was the heart of an international trade region that stretched as far as China and India. Wealth poured into the city from distant lands, but it was also rich in gold from local mines and vast herds of cattle. Still, there are some unknowns here — it's not clear how far the city's influence stretched, nor what all its industries were. Clearly, though, it was technologically advanced. The BBC describes the greatest remaining monument from the city :
The Great Zimbabwe monument is built out of granite which is the parent rock of the region - i.e. it predominates locally. The building method used was dry-stone walling, demanding a high level of masonry expertise. Some of the site is built round natural rock formations. The actual structure comprises a huge enclosing wall some 20 metres high. Inside there are concentric passageways, along with a number of enclosures. One of these is thought to be a royal enclosure. Large quantities of gold and ceremonial battle axes, along with other objects have been found there.
Like many cosmopolitan cities of its era, Great Zimbabwe suffered a mysterious decline. Famines caused by overgrazing may have contributed to its demise, or perhaps a shift in preferred trade routes. If we understood more about the city's local industries and trade partners, we might understand better what led to its downfall.
A Supersonic Blaze
On that day, pioneer Seattle’s flammability became dangerously clear. The wooden boardwalks—built so that pedestrians could avoid mud from the constant floods—provided the perfect avenue for the fire to spread from building to building. When the blaze reached a liquor store and two saloons nearby, they literally exploded. It turns out, fires like wooden buildings filled with alcohol.
It seemed like everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The city’s fire chief happened to be out of town that night, so he wasn’t on hand to direct firefighting efforts. As such, inexperienced volunteers attempted to use too many hoses at once, draining all of the water pressure. They might as well have been squirting the flames with a water pistol.
The Story Behind Turkey's Underground Cities
The amazing underground cities in Turkey’s Cappadocia have become famous all over the world, just as much as the eerie yet fascinating fairy chimneys. Built to protect the ancient inhabitants, the underground cities allowed thousands of people to live their lives in total secrecy.
One of Cappadocia’s most famous underground cities is Derinkuyu, which was built during the Byzantine era when its inhabitants used it to protect themselves from Muslim Arabs during the Arab-Byzantine Wars between 780 and 1180. The multi level city was composed of many passages and caves used for various purposes, the city lies around 60 meters under the ground and was able to shelter around 20,000 people including their livestock and food. Certainly the largest underground city in Cappadocia (and of course in all of Turkey), Derinkuyu was opened to visitors in 1969 with only half of the city available for viewing.
In its heyday, the city had two large stone doors that were closed from the inside in case of imminent danger. With each floor also having its own door, the caves also had all the extra space expected of a city, including storage rooms, wine cellars, stables, and chapels. Though the inhabitants might have been hiding, they lived their lives to the fullest, as much as they would have in an above ground town. One of Derinkuyu’s most striking spaces is a large room with vaulted ceilings, which is believed to have been a religious school with separate study rooms. Walking up and down the staircases that lead visitors to the many levels of the fascinating city, a ventilation shaft or an old cruciform church reveal how the caves were once filled with ordinary everyday life. Derinkuyu was also connected to the other underground cities through a sophisticated network of tunnels.
It is believed that the underground cities were initially built by the Phrygians during the 8 th through 7 th centuries BCE, who carved their living spaces into the region’s soft volcanic rock. Later on, during the Roman era and the replacement of the Phrygian language with Greek, the then Christian inhabitants continued to work on the underground cities adding their own cultural and religious necessities such as chapels and Greek inscriptions. Underground cities like Derinkuyu continued to protect their citizens as far as the 14 th century when Christians once again needed a safe haven from the threat of the Mongolians during the assaults on Timur, and once again during the Ottoman era, when protection was needed from the Turkish Muslim powers.
Even during the 20 th century, the caves allowed for people to save themselves from persecution administered during the Ottoman Empire. It was not until 1923, after the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, that the underground cities were completely abandoned and then not rediscovered until 1963. The story goes that a resident found a strange room behind a wall inside his house, and the rest is history!
What’s Beneath Us? Learn About The Mysteries That Hide These 7 Underground Cities Of The World
There are many underground cities around the world and plenty of history of a life that once was and activities few people ever heard about surrounding their passageways, ancient tunnels, and urban legends.
Back in the day, many reasons could have driven people underground, as to war, natural disasters, weather, lack of space on the surface and others and while the cities were built for different purposes before, most of them are now fully functional urban spaces. Check out these 7 amazing underground cities around the world and learn some interesting facts.
1. Shanghai Tunnels, Portland, United States
Portland has its own underground city known as the Shanghai Tunnels, also known as the Portland Underground. Supposedly it once consisted of tunnel passageways linking Portland’s Old Town (Chinatown), to the central Downtown area.
Back in the day, many downtown bars and hotels had their basements linked to the Willamette River waterfront so ships could unload the goods directly to the basements for storage and as a way to avoid rain and heavy traffic.
There are rumors that the tunnels had also been used for the practice of ‘shanghaiing’, which means kidnapping people for them to serve as sailors.
Nowadays, you can actually take a secure walking tour and explore a a portion of the Shanghai Tunnels.
2. Underground Cherkizovsky Market Town, Moscow, Russia
This may not be considered completely as such but in 2013 a police raid found hundreds of migrant workers in an ‘underground town’ in Moscow.
More than 200 people were hidden beneath the capital’s Cherkizovsky Market. The police discovered a subterranean factory containing work rooms filled with sewing machines, along with living quarters, a cafe, a cinema, a casino, and a chicken coop.
An explanation for this was that the Cherkizovsky Market -also known as Cherkizon- was the largest marketplace in Izmaylovo District, Moscow, but after authorities closed it down in 2009 due to numerous forbidden activities. Many workers moved under the streets of Moscow where they continued to live and operate their businesses.
3. Edinburgh Vaults, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
The Edinburgh Vaults, also called the South Bridge Vaults, are a series of chambers formed within the 19 arches of South Bridge. The vaults were opened back in 1788 to house taverns, cobblers, cutlers, smelters and other tradesmen, but also to store forbidden materials.
It is rumor that serial killers such as Burke and Hare used to store various bodies down there and sold them for medical experiments. As businesses started to move out and the vaults became home to the city’s poorest souls.
Nowadays, the wet chambers give off a feel of ghastliness but you can actually visit them and listen to the guide’s shivering stories of the ghosts still lingering around.
4. Wieliczka Salt Mine, Krakow, Poland
Just over 9 miles outside of Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mine was built back in the 13th century and had produced table salt continuously until 2007. It has other names like the Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland or the Royal Salt Mine.
The mine was used for Nazis as a munitions factory and from being a series of dark caves, this underground salt city evolved to a complex labyrinth featuring over 185 miles of galleries, about 3000 chambers, 9 floors, surrounded by lots of chandeliers, a large numbers of statues and an entire cathedral, all made from rock salt. In fact, the first three floors are open to the public.
There are a lot of guided tour options, you can get to know the history of the salt mine in the Miners’ Tour or if you want to learn more about the religious aspects, the Pilgrims’ Tour includes a visit to the salt statue of John Paul II and a Holy Mass at the end.
5. Derinkuyu, Turkey
Back in the day, the city was known as Malakopea and Christians used to hid there from Arab invaders. Later, Derinkuyu’s residents moved underground to escape invaders in Byzantine times as the Roman Empire was collapsing.
So nowadays Derinkuyu is a popular tourist attraction located down to 85 feet deep and the largest and best known of nearly 200 underground cities in Turkey’s Nevsehir Province.
6. Leavenworth, Kansas, USA
Beneath the streets of this small Kansas town, there are tunnels and vaults that stretch under downtown Leavenworth and connect several of the town’s buildings. Yet it is full of mystery since nobody knows who built the underground city or as to why, though it can be accessed through several points.
It is said that the tunnels may have served as hiding places before the Civil War or during the war itself. Another possibility is that the tunnels were built to hide and move liquor back in the day when alcohol was not permitted yet in the United States as some of the tunnels lead to breweries.
7. Coober Pedy, South Australia
It’s a small town often referred to as the “opal capital of the world” because of the quantity of precious opals that are mined there.
It’s considered as an underground city because many of the residents live in two or three-bedroom caves called dugouts due to the high temperatures in the region that frequently exceeds 40 °C in the summer. In fact, it’s usually so hot that golfers at the town only play at night using glow in the dark balls.
The inhabitants have many underground facilities as well, from shops and churches to an underground graveyard.
Regarding the city. i have looked at many cities from around the world as well as ancient buildings, and what i see is in common, is that the top of the buildings are all the same. in my mind, what i see from these pictures is just top top section of a giant building structure and that most of this superstructure is underground. from my experience in watching pictures of ancient ruins,i have discovered a repeating pattern of ruins, and that is that their all ruins that have been undergoing flooding. whats underground does not seem to have ever been builth underground as the surrounding terrein suggest that this structure have been under water for some time. its likely that all of this was once above ground and that this city was gigantic in size. it seem to be the same kind of mudrock on these buildings as it is on many other such structures around the world. from my perspective, we are only looking at the top of the superstructure and that most of the giant city is burried underground. it will take a massive effort to excavate the city and get down to the bottom of this structure. based on how the wall in these buildings are made, i think its likely that the above and underground structure is not carved structures but that this superstructure is all made from bottom up and that the ground floor or rock bottom, may be hundreds of meter deep. much of what have been believed to be natural rock, under a process of flooding can transform mud into solid rock. most types of rock can be formed as a result of different compositions of mud hardening into rock, and it all depends on the content of the mud to what type and strenght the rock will form from. i think that rock formation need a reinvestigation since the types of rock found in ruins like these are much of the same quality as rock found elsewhere and perhaps the theory of rock formation need an uppgrade.
There had been ancient nuclear wars. eg: the radioactive cities of India. This underground city was probably built in preparation for a nuclear war in the ancient past.
9. Burlington Bunker, England
Unlike some of the other entries on this list, the Burlington Bunker was designed and created in recent history. The threat of a nuclear attack was very high during the Cold War era and so a lot of nuclear bunkers were created all around the world and the Burlington Bunker was one of these. However, the word bunker might not do this place justice as it consists of more than 35 acres of constructions and almost 60 miles of road.
It was capable of housing more than 4,000 people at a time complete with all sorts of amenities like a TV studio and a pub. The existence of this massive underground city remained classified until 2004, when it was officially decommissioned without even being used once.
Cities of the Underworld
Cities of the Underworld is an American documentary television series that premiered on March 2, 2007, on the History channel. The program explores the subterranean environment and culture beneath various civilizations. The series was originally hosted and narrated by Eric Geller for the majority of episodes in season 1, with Don Wildman taking over for the rest of season 1 and seasons 2 and 3.
|Cities of the Underworld|
|Developed by||34 Productions|
|Starring||Eric Geller (#101–108, #114)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||40 (as of February 9, 2009)|
|Executive producers||Sarah Wetherbee|
|Camera setup||Clint Lealos|
|Running time||43 minutes|
|Original release||March 2, 2007 ( 2007-03-02 ) –|
February 9, 2009 ( 2009-02-09 )