An enormous underground city has been discovered in Turkey that was created by persecuted Jews and Christians in Imperial Rome.
At 74 acres, the ancient city is believed to have been inhabited as early as the 1st century, and acted as a home and synagogue for 70,000 people.
It all started when workers found what appeared to be a small cave while conducting restoration work on nearby houses in the town of Midyat, southeast Turkey, in 2020. Midyat is often called an open air museum, as the city is just riddled with ancient stone structures.
Preliminary surveys found it was in fact not a cave, but a series of galleries, silos, chambers, and even areas of worship.
Excavations have only mapped 5% of the total area, which Gani Tarkan, director of the Mardin Museum in Midyat, explained has been named “Matiate” which means homeland, in ancient Assyrian.
Of that 5%, there have been dozens of silos for storing grain, olive oil, wine, and other foodstuffs. Artifacts have included wine and olive oil making equipment, coins, and lamps, as well as evidence that the area had begun at some point to be used as catacombs, possibly during the Byzantine period.
High on the vaulted stone ceiling of one chamber, archeologists found the Star of David engraved into the wall, with other carvings including human figures nearby.
Tarkan believes it could be the biggest underground city in all of Turkey, and even after it was abandoned as a living center, it continued to serve as a wine making center and burial catacombs.
Midyat and the Mardin Museum, along with the national government, intend to finish archeological work and turn the city into part of the city’s wealth of archeological tourist attractions.