A Man Knocked Down His Basement Wall, Discovering Ancient Underground City That Housed 20,000 People

Imagine knocking down a wall in your home as part of renovations, only to find a tunnel to a secret underground city behind it? Though this sounds like the plot from a fantasy movie, it actually happened to one guy in Turkey, in 1963. The man, from Cappadocia in the Nevsehir province of Turkey got the shock of his life when he discovered the tunnel, which led to the ancient underground city of Derinkuyu. Read on to discover more about this incredible find…

One of the many hidden tunnel entrances to Derinkuyu.


Derinkuyu, reaching some 60 meters below the ground and containing 18 levels, was an entire city carved into the stone beneath Cappadocia. Designed to house about 20,000 people and livestock, it had residences, churches, food storage areas, wineries and even a school. It has vents to the surface and several discreet entrances, like the one found by the DIY’er in 1963. The hidden entrances suggest the ancient city was used to house people in times of war, or of natural disaster Below, a Derinkuyu winery.


This large room was designed as a religious school.


The city was used by Christians from the Middle Ages, right up until the early 20th century. Below, an illustration of the city.


The elaborate city even once connected to other underground cities. It’s thought to have been constructed during the 7th or 8th century BCE and was in continual, frequent use up until and throughout, the 12th century. It was used as a refuge from the Mongolians in the 1300’s. It was not finally abandoned until 1923. Below, one of the massive stone doors that would block off the entrances. The hole in the center would be fit with a beam so the door could roll open and shut.


During peacetime, the city was used mainly for storage. Following its accidental rediscovery, it opened to the public in 1969. Today, about half the city is open for interested parties to explore.