Walking around a very old city or the site of a once-great city we might not always be aware of all its secrets and mysteries, some of which are hiding right beneath our feet. Underground dwellings, middens, and passageways have been unearthed in many cities and they highlight the colorful and active lives of the past.
Derinkuyu underground city
Turkey is rich in many ancient historic sites, and cities, so it is no wonder that some of these have underground dwellings. In the Turkish region of Cappadocia, a series of caves were discovered, dug into volcanic rock, and is referred to as the Derinkuyu underground city close to the modern city of the same name. Dug to a depth of 85 meters, likely in the 8th or 7th century BCE, it contains multiple rooms, to house an estimate of 20 000 people.
It has storage rooms for food and spaces for animals, ventilation shafts, and water wells. This whole underground system was likely built little by little throughout the years and maintained for future use. This then raises the question, as to what it was used for, since it would not be used permanently. The entire system was well-established by the time of the Byzantine era, and due to the Arab-Byzantine war, the Derikuyu underground was doubtless used for protection where people would hide for long periods until the danger was gone. The caves pose an archaeological tourist attraction now.
Scotland has seen many centuries of upheaval and war, and every facet of its story has left scars and shaped it into what it is now. The capital, Edinburgh is no exception. Out of the seven hills onto which it was settled, only two are still visible, as bridges were built across the valleys to facilitate access across the rolling hills of the landscape. The vaulted design of these bridges used the material of the houses demolished from the valley, the South Bridge becoming the most famous.
The vaults started being used as storage units, but leaks in the walls rendered them useless in that regard. Shops and crude slum homes took shape instead, as more and more Scots from the highlands started coming south looking for work, and living space was quickly running out. The vaults are known to have contained brothels, pubs, illicit gambling activity and were even used as dumping ground for body snatchers. Today it is widely believed to be haunted and tourists are eager to see if that may indeed be true.
Burlington and Beijing’s underground city
The threat of a nuclear war has loomed upon humanity ever since the full capabilities and destructive power of atomic bombs have been released on Japan. In the wake of all that, other countries than the USA sought to attain the same power, and many today have it under their fingertips. It is without any doubt the most disastrous thing that we can do to each other, as the fallout would affect the entire planet.
To ensure the survival of a few, governments around the world sought to build underground shelters. The UK built Burlington Bunker, capable of housing 4000 central government members. Across the globe, China built its own underground city beneath Beijing, also in the hopes of surviving a nuclear holocaust. Whether that would be enough to preserve a good chunk of the human population so that humanity would not go extinct, is a matter for debate, and one we hopefully won't have to discover.
Of course, these are not the only underground dwellings ever built, many more are peppered across the globe. Some are maybe waiting to be discovered and reveal their secrets. We may yet have a need to hide underground, so the foundations laid out already may help protect from who knows what the future holds.