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The underground cities of the Byzantine Empire

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“The breathtaking geological formations of Cappadocia present one of the most astonishing landscapes on Earth. Also known as ‘fairy chimneys,’ these sturdy stone cones were created by massive volcanic eruptions, which poured countless tons of ash across what would eventually become part of central TΓΌrkiye.

“Over millions of years, that volcanic fallout hardened into a porous rock known as ignimbrite, which was sculpted by centuries of wind and rain into the colorful spires we see today.

“But this impressive terrain hides an equally remarkable feat of pre-modern engineering: a network of extensive underground cities stretching deep below the surface.”

reaching the water table
These incredible rock formations and the geological composition below them happened to be conducive to life underground, including temperature regulation, ventilation, odor control, and protection from invaders.

Residents also dug deep enough to reach the water table, “ensuring their access to water during lengthy sieges,” and carved out areas for cooking, food storage, wine presses, stables for livestock, and waste disposal systems.

special rooms for resources
Today, these Rock Sites of Cappadocia are protected UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the subterranean cities of KaymaklΔ± and Derinkuyu are extremely popular with tourists.

Learn about the underground cities of the Byzantine Empire with this animated TED-Ed written by Veronica Kalas, with direction by Serin Δ°nan and Tolga YΔ±ldΔ±z.

Cappadocia
Then visit UNESCO.org and Getty Images’ Cappadocia photos to see what these geological and architectural wonders look like.

Next on TKSST: Matiate, the hidden underground city beneath Midyat, Turkey.

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