Matiate Turkey: Archaeologists discover what is believed to be the largest underground city in the world

Archaeologists have made a sensational discovery in Turkey. In the south-eastern Anatolia province of Mardin, they discovered a massive underground city that could be the largest of its kind in the world. What is known so far about the spectacular find.

Turkish archaeologists have discovered an underground city of gigantic proportions in Midyat, provincial capital Mardin. So far, researchers have uncovered 49 rooms, including places of worship, artifacts, wells, storage silos, and numerous tunnels. The archaeologists assume that the previous excavations account for only three percent of the total size of the city. Thus, the find could be the largest underground city in the world, reports the archeology portal “Ancient Origins”.

The underground city of Matiate was discovered purely by accident

The underground city of Matiate (‘City of Caves’) was discovered by accident two years ago during cleaning and conservation work on historic streets and houses in Midyat. Workers had come across a cave with a passage, behind which were several corridors. Archaeologists then began excavating and uncovered a variety of rooms, tunnels, artifacts and murals. The excavations are being carried out in cooperation with Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums, the Mardin Museum and the Municipality of Midyat, reports Turkey’s English-language newspaper Daily Sabah.

Matiate – a place of refuge for Christians?

“This underground city has been in continuous use for 1,900 years,” said Gani Tarkan, director of the Mardin Museum and head of the Matiate excavation, according to Daily Sabah. It was probably built as a hiding place or place of refuge. Since Christianity was not an official religion in the second century, Christians generally took refuge in underground cities to avoid persecution by Rome, Tarkan said. The underground city of Midyat may have been built for this purpose. It is believed that at least 60,000 to 70,000 people lived there.

Underground cities of Turkey

More than 40 underground cities have already been found in Turkey, including Derinkuyu in Cappadocia. The city extends to a depth of 80 meters and over more than eight levels. But Gani Tarkan believes the latest find will surpass any underground city discovered so far. There is no underground city that extends over such a large area. “The underground city of Midyat in Anatolia, Turkey, will be the only one in the world,” Tarkan quoted Ancient Origins as saying.

It is expected that with the full uncovering of the underground city of Matiate, visitor numbers to Midyat will increase significantly.

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