Archaeologists in southeastern Turkey have unearthed a vast underground city built nearly 2,000 years ago and possibly home to 70,000 people. The underground complex may have been a protected space that the early Christians used to escape. Roman oppressive.
The first underground rooms of the ancient complex were found about two years ago, during a project to clean up and preserve historic streets and houses in the Midyat district of Mardin province. Gani Tarkan, director of the Mardin Museum and head of excavations, told the Turkish government that workers on the project first discovered a limestone cave, and later an entrance passage. the rest of the hidden city. Anadolu Agency.
Now, 49 rooms have been unearthed in the huge complex, as well as connecting passages, wells, grain cellars, rooms in homes and places of worship, including a Christian church and a synagogue.
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Artifacts found in the caves and wall decorations suggest the underground complex was built around the second or third century AD.
And there is still a large area to excavate. Tarkan estimates that to date only 3% of the area of the underground city, now known as Matiate, has been explored, and the entire complex could be large enough to accommodate between 60,000 and 70,000 people.
It is possible that the city was originally used as a hideout: “It was first built as a hideout or escape area,” he suggested.
“Christianity was not an official religion in the second century [and] “Perhaps, the underground city of Midyat is one of the living spaces built for this purpose,” says Tarkan.
In the early first century AD, Roman officials did not distinguish between Jews and Christians, because many early Christians were also Jews. But that changed in AD 64 when Emperor Nero blamed and later killed Christians for a fire that swept through the city of Rome, according to Britannica. Although the persecutions were sporadic, they continued into the early fourth century; and while numbers are up for debate, it is likely that thousands of Christians were executed during this time. However, in AD 313, Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, making Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Lozan Bayar, an archaeologist at the Mardin Office of Protection and Supervision, agrees that the Matiate may have been used by early Christians to escape Roman oppression.
“During the early days of Christianity, Rome was influenced by pagans before recognizing Christianity as an official religion,” he said. Hürriyet Daily News, a Turkish newspaper. Such underground cities provide safety for the people and they also perform their prayers there. They are also places of escape. “
The ancient city of Midyat above the underground complex was likely first built by the Hurrians, a people who occupied areas of central and southern Anatolia (in present-day Turkey) ago. 4,000 years, during the Bronze Age.
The city first appeared in Assyrian records in the ninth century BC as “Matiate” – a name meaning “city of caves”, possibly because of its many caves nearby limestone – the name that today has been assigned to the underground city.
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In turn, Midyat was occupied by the Arabs, PersiansGreeks, Romans, Byzantines and the Ottomans throughout its long history, with each civilization building on the work of the last. Therefore, Midyat today is famous for its ancient architecture and attracts up to 3 million tourists every year, according to Hürriyet Daily News.
More than 100 traditional houses near the city center are now protected for their historical significance, and the nine churches and monasteries in the city are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tarkan thinks the hidden city of Matiate will be an additional attraction once the excavation is complete. “While the houses at the top date from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, there is a completely different city below,” he said. “That city is 1,900 years old.”
The tradition of building houses and underground cities was established in Turkey. More than 40 ancient underground cities have been found there, including Derinkuyu – a huge complex in central Cappadocia that was dug into soft volcanic rock, possibly by the Anatolians known as Phrygians in the early Middle Ages. VIII and IX centuries BC.
Derinkuyu was large enough to hold 20,000 people, and was occupied until the Middle Ages: for example, Byzantine Christians and Jews used it as a refuge during Arab invasions Arabia between the 8th and 12th centuries AD.
Science writer Will Hunt, author of the book “Underground: Human history of the world beneath our feet“(Random House, 2019) says there are many stories of people in Turkey today who have found holes in their land, or sometimes even in their own homes, opening up sprawling warnings. about man-made tunnels.
“Some drop more than 10 levels and have room for tens of thousands of people,” he told Live Science in an email. “They’re like upside down castles.”
Hunt echoed Tarkan’s suggestion that the underground structures at Matiate could have been used for defense.
“Underneath any settlement, there will be an underground city where people will take shelter when they are attacked,” he said.
And not just in Turkey: “all over the world, throughout history, whenever there’s been a threat on the surface, people have had darkness underground. [spaces] to protect himself from danger,” he said. In fact, it’s instinct. “
Originally published on Live Science.
https://www.livescience.com/christians-hid-from-romans-in-underground-city Underground city unearthed in Turkey may have been refuge for early Christians