The precise origin of the underground city of Derinkuyu – which was rediscovered in the 1960s – as well as who dug the passages, and when, are unclear, but major excavation activity has suggested the city could date from the eighth century BC.

The multi-layered Derinkuyu reaches a depth of 85 metres and could shelter some 20,000 people. The passageways have been periodically modified, enlarged and extended with multiple areas for accommodation, storage and also defence.

No written testimony exists explaining how the city was used, although it has been claimed that the tunnels were conceived as a combination of cold storage facilities and ancient underground bunker, protecting the population during times of invasion or internal strife.

Few of the passageways and rooms have been investigated so our understanding of why the people of central Turkey spent so much time working underground is, to date, incomplete, which serves to make Derinkuyu even more alluring and mysterious.

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This article was first published in the July 2015 issue of History Revealed and answered by one of our Q&A experts, Miles Russell.