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Ancient Cappadocia In Relation To Their Respective Architecture History Essay

In 1963 a resident of Derinkuyu in the ancient Turkish region of Cappadocia, central Anatolia was knocking down a wall in his house cave. As the rubble fell away he was amazed to discover that behind it was a mysterious room that he never knew existed. This room led him to another and another... and another. In this chance happening he had come across a small part of the underground city of Derinkuyu - its first level likely excavated by the Hittites around 1400 BC. [Ousterhout 2006: 28]

Archaeologists began to explore this fascinating near 3500 year-old underground city excavating it to a depth 40 meters deep, yet estimating that it might go down as far as 85 meters. To date, 20 levels have been discovered but only eight can be visited by the public to witness first hand these architectural wonders. Others are partially blocked or whose access is restricted to archaeologists and anthropologists continuing to study and work at Derinkuyu. [Ousterhout 2006: 29]

Derinkuyu was just the beginning of the subterranean discovery marvel. Cities, empires and religions have risen and fallen around a whole host of these unique underground refuges which have been uncovered, once used by early Christians to escape and hide from Roman armies. There are many that are still occupied to this day. Approximately, in an area covering 100 square miles, there are in fact about 200 subterranean dwellings - villages and towns –interlinked by hidden passages, with rooms allocated for both living space and what have been identified as places of worship - clearly temples of a kind. The whole provides a remarkably storied history of each new civilization building on the work of the last. [Kostof 1989: 61]

The discovery of these vast underground dwellings has become a wonder of architecture and urban design and students in these fields recognise this remarkable site as being unique.

Outside of this area in Cappadocia, few have managed to survive for as long as they have. Dating back to the pre-Roman Empire period, many of the buildings extend to five stories, cave dwellings carved out by human hands long before the Roman invasion of this territory. [Kostof 1989: 62] The question is, why do they exist?

The earliest civilisations living and hunting for food in Cappadocia carved out huge spaces in the volcanic rock in order to escape from predatory wild beasts and the often harsh winters. As the population grew, these cavities were enlarged to accommodate their needs as well as creating new caverns. Over time, these turned into underground cities, connected up by an expansive labyrinth of tunnels. What were initially retreats from the elements and hiding places from roaming wild animals became a sanctuary for the early Christians escaping from Rome’s persecutory militia. Only when the coast was clear, as it were, and no dangers present, did they emerge above ground to carry on with their lives. [Cooper, Decker 2012: 62]

Long before this ancient troglodyte architecture of living space was created, the volcanic rock formations on the surface had been scoured out by hand using primitive tools and turned in living spaces, which archaeology study has determined go back millenia? Much of the more ‘recent’ architecture at ground level has survived for thousands of years yet not without being laid siege to countless times by various invaders. These structures housed not just people but everything from defending armies to weapons factories. [Tuncel 1998:27]

Ancient Cappadocia nestles between Kayseri, Nevsehir and Nigde. Violent volcanic eruptions about three million years ago smothered the existing plateau with a deep layer of lava, ash debris and solidified mud. Over subsequent millennia driving winds, torrenting rivers and rains eroded the soft rock, turning it into hundreds of oddly-shaped pillars and cone-like structures which have become known as ‘fairy chimneys.’

This vast landscape of stone sculptures, so attractive to today’s tourist, is made up of an amazingly breathtaking variety of shapes, cake-like layers, colours and textures. Cappadocia is an architectural treasure both above and below ground and this paper will set out the differences in the styles employed and the reasoning behind each on the evidence available. [Rifat 1998:492]

What links the two forms of architecture above and below ground is of course nature itself. The structures are not ‘built’ in the way we would recognize as constructed from materials formed together to give structure but hewn, carved and shaped from the soft rock itself. As Cappadocia is one of the best examples of man’s symbiotic relationship with nature and the earth itself. There are valuable lessons here for learning more about living underground. It is unique for its creative subterranean space use and the focal points for discussion on the subject are the physical geography and dominating forms of underground space use. [Rifat 1998:493]

The plateau was transformed by hand, its inhabitants carving out the soft ‘tuff’ rock and turning it into houses, churches and monasteries. What evolved became an entire architectural tradition, formed from this unique natural material. Fascinating to the eye, with nature and man competing to create this special terrain, it prompted the French historian and archaeologist, Charles Texier to write in 1882: "…before descending from the plateau, which dominates this territory, I paused for a while, amazed at the spectacle before me. I know of no other corner of the world where there exists so striking and remarkable phenomenon" [Rifat 2000: 87].

Without doubt, Cappadocia’s fame lies in its Byzantine period rock churches, chapels and other designated places of ancient worship. Just as recognised as the achievements above ground, the subterranean architecture of the region created by the skilled rock carvers has created worldwide interest by experts and mere observers alike. They adopted a different method of construction, creating spaces simulating the interiors of buildings constructed with more familiar stone and mortar.

They mastered an art in crafting columns, vaults, and arches as well as other architecturally-designed structures so unique to their time. Many of these had little structural function. They were merely symbolic pieces which shouted ‘look what we have created!’ Here there is no classical definition of architecture in terms of the creation of spaces for determined practicality, function or purpose. Here, the interior space is created by hollowing out solid matter [Akyürek 1998: 37]. Size, it would seem, was never a problem. Not too daunting a challenge. Even the largest spaces could be carved out and put to use within two months. These master carvers and architects simply did not need the complex construction know-how of their counterparts above ground. Their only restriction was the size of the rock mass that was being carved to form the space, and this was more about the time involved to do so rather than the feat itself [Kostof 1972:48].

As mentioned, the sheer variety of typological structures, differing in size and in their complexity in Cappadocia, is astounding. There are hermitages, domestic spaces, churches and monasteries and a whole host of inter-connected underground townships. Specific inner rooms and living spaces also vary, shaped to the particular needs of the occupant. The set work process seemed to be one of carving out spaces within the constrictions of pinnacles and rock, then modifying any plan in order to fit the shape of the rock to be carved. This of course made every rock building unique and conforming little to that strict and formal standard in architecture of the Byzantine period. The Cappadocian master carvers could imitate the more decorative aspects of formal, structural architecture by modelling them in at the same time as working with the interior. While it’s true to say that most of the buildings display no architectural features exteriorly, the insides are decorated with elaborate frescoes and sculptured pieces. [Wharton, Schwartzbaum 1986:23]

Simple dwellings, believed to be once occupied by reclusive hermits, are the some of the most basic architectural features to be found here. The chambers or cells each had various cubby-holes which were used for a variety of practical facilities by the inhabitant and were rarely decorated or embellished in any way.

There are a number of examples of surviving subterranean architecture examples in Cappadocia, but the identified religious buildings far outnumber all else. These range from those used as places of worship by the early Christian right through to late mediaeval times. [Ash 1995:67]

However the architectural tradition flourished through the course of time and most of the existing churches highly decorated with frescoes date from the late 10th and 11th Century. There are five main types of church in Cappadocia: of single nave, double nave, basilicas, cruciform churches, and cross-in-square plan churches [Akyürek 1998: 206].

The ‘fairy chimneys’ on the Cappadocia plateau are wondrous in their own right, particularly when seen from the air, but more and more attention is focussing on the underground cities of the region, still of course being discovered and excavated, those of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu being the most well-known. These are completely carved out of tuffaceous (tuff) volcanic rock. It was these places in particular that were refuges for the early Christians, with their narrow tunnels which could be sealed off by millstones during the escape from Roman soldiers. The ventilation shafts and the hidden rooms to be found in Kaymakli and Derinkuyu are planning and construction triumphs, however the absence of any inscriptions, decorations or sculpture of any kind makes it difficult for historians to determine the precise dates of their construction. However, first settlements in Cappadocia can be traced back as far as 6500 BC and it is known that in the late Bronze Age it was called Hatti and sometime after 1600 BC the region was absorbed into the Hittite Empire. [Carmody, Sterling 1985:59]

During this Hittite control, Greeks began to settle on the southern edge of the empire, in Anatolia. Records of the time have shown that there were contacts between the Hittite rulers and the kingdom of Ahhiyawa, which was the territory of the Achaeans. In translation, this is ‘the nation of the Mycenaean Greeks.’ The Hittite empire was overrun by invaders in circa 1200 by the Sea Peoples, believed to be of Greek origin. Cappadocia was known to the ancient Persians as Katpatuka, a name for the province which the Greeks changed to Kappadokia.

Those early Greek inhabitants of Anatolia were looking for a new place to live and, by 1300 BC, had set up trading posts along the western Anatolian coast. Their purpose was a mercenary one - seeking out gold, silver, copper and tin, all of which were minted in the interior of Asia Minor at that time. Anatolia coastal regions, in particular Ionia, had been expansive Greek settlements from the 11th century BC and in the case of the western Anatolian city of Miletus, research has shown that the Greek presence here goes back much further - to Mycenaean times, circa 1400 BC. [Freely 1998:36]

When they arrived, the Greeks were quick to kick out the locals, seizing their prosperous farmlands and harbours. They began to trade with the communities in Anatolian highlands, to and from Cappadocia, with Syria and other eastern regions. As the Hellenistic era was at its height, the Greeks took over Cappadocia and the rest of the Anatolian interior from western Asia Minor. Later, following the conquest of Anatolia by Alexander the Great, more Greeks began to settle in the mountainous regions of Cappadocia and, in so doing, this Greek colonial movement of the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC compounded Hellenic presence in Cappadocia. [Freely 1998:51]

With the demise of Alexander the Great, Eumenes of Cardia, Diadochi, who had been an associate of Alexander, was appointed satrap - or governor - over Cappadocia. Eumenes set up Greek colonies and handed over cities to those he favoured. He left behind administrators, judges and personally selected garrison commanders in Cappadocia. In the centuries that followed, the so-called Seleucid Greek Kings created settlements in the interior of Asia Minor, and Cappadocia became popular for recruitment to the Greek military. Unlike elsewhere within the Greek empire, most of the settlements in the region were villages, not cities. The Hellenistic kingdom made Cappadocia its surrounding regions strategy acquisitions, in order to hold sway over their opponents in what was volatile territory. Under their rule, Greek settlements increased in the Anatolian interior. [Krassman 2007:2]

By late antiquity the Cappadocian Greeks had largely converted to Christianity. They were so thoroughly devout to Christianity that by the 1st century AD, the region of Cappadocia served as a stronghold for Christian Monasticism and was of significance importance in the history of early Christianity. In the early centuries of the Common Era Cappadocia produced three prominent Greek patristic figures, known as the three hierarchs. They revered and maintained the ancient Greek cultural pursuit of virtue, studying Homer and Hesiod. They were said to: "stand squarely in the tradition of Greek culture." [Krassman 2007:2]

The Grecian communities were, by the 5th century, becoming actively involved in the affairs of the Byzantine Empire. Cappadocian Greeks such as Maurice Tiberius even became an emperor. The region continued to be a volatile one and was frequently prone to invasion. As a consequence, they began to create underground cave dwellings in the volcanic formations of eastern Cappadocia which eventually turned into entire underground towns - places of refuge in times of danger. Initially, these were rock-cut underground dwellings, protected and concealed away from the Romans and, later, from Iconoclasts. Several hundred years later their role took on a similar purpose - serving as protection from warring Muslim Arab, Turkish and Mongolian invaders. The most famous of these subterranean towns were Anaku-Inegi and Malakopi-Melagob, known today of course as the cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli. [Kalas 2000:41]

As far back as the Byzantine era Cappadocia had a clear commercial and trade advantage, being on the famous Afro-Eurasian ‘Silk Road,’ but the Seljuks, after the 11th century, together with other Turkish tribes, disrupted stability and harmony in the region through various conflicts. There were those who converted to Islam but, until end of Ottoman Empire, which lasted 1920 years, many Christian Orthodox Greeks continued to make their home in Cappadocia. [Kalas 2000:42]

The region has an abundance of rock churches. A major tourist attraction is the complex of monasteries and churches located near to Göreme, known today as the Göreme Open Air Museum. It contains more than 30 churches, chapels and monastery buildings in the tuff stone rocks, some featuring historic frescoes made by Christians between the 9th and 11th century. Often hidden in secret places as well as being in the naturally, temperature-controlled nature of the cave interiors, many religious artefacts and artworks have managed to survive for over 1000 years. Throughout that time, surface structures have been erected and then destroyed, more modern architecture mixing with strange hybrids such as historic temples and above-ground houses. [Ramsay, Bell 2008 (rep):67]

While many buildings remain occupied, many more are now deserted - from homes to entire churches and underground cathedrals. Sadly, some rooms and structures are forever lost and buried, hidden so well they will never be found again. Up to now, about 40 underground cities have been identified while just six of these have been opened to public view. Nobody can know just how many underground cities there are in the Cappadocia area and while some estimate that there is one for every village and settlement in the region, certainly not all of the sites can be described as cities. [Ousterhout 2006:45]

The most famous of Cappadocia’s subterranean cities are Tatlarin, Derinkuyu, Ozkonak, Mazi Village, Kaymakli, and Gaziemir. In all of these there are ventilation chimneys reaching to a depth of 80 meters. These chimneys were opened to meet the needs of both ventilation and water and helped the inhabitants to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The structures contained kitchens, sleeping areas, wine houses, storage houses for cereals, meeting rooms, even toilets - in fact every kind of living space necessary for a civilised existence. Within all the cities there are locking stones which could be opened and closed only from inside, keeping out invaders. [Ousterhout 2006:47]

The earliest source of written record about the subterranean cities of Cappadocia is the Anabasis-named Book of Xenophon, which dates from circa BC 4. The book relates how the people living in Anatolia had caved their houses underground and that the houses were connected to each other with holes: To quote: "The houses were built underground; the entrances were like wells but they broadened out lower down. There were tunnels dug in the ground for the animals while the men went down by ladder. Inside the houses there were goats, sheep, cows and poultry with their young..."

Kaymakli is built under the Citadel of Kaymakli, a hilly mound, which was opened to public view in 1964. The residents of Kaymakli village - known as Enegup in Greek - have built their homes around 100 tunnels of the former troglodyte city. They still use the most convenient parts of the tunnels for cellars, storage areas and stables, which they access through purpose-built courtyards. The Kaymakli Underground City has low and narrow sloping passages. On the first floor is a former stable and the small size of this area suggests that there could be other stables in sections that have not yet been opened and examined. The passage to the left of this main stable has a millstone door which leads to an adjoining church. To the right of the corridor are rooms - hollowed out for what were once living areas. [Rodley 2010:110]

The church, located on the second floor, is of a single nave and has two apses. In front of these stands an altar, with seating platforms each side. Again, there have been living areas carved out on this floor. However, the most architecturally significant on the site is the third floor. It has numerous storage places, former wineries and a kitchen. A large block of andesite with a relief has created a great deal of historic interest. Research has suggested that this stone was once used as a melting pot for copper. The stone was not brought from outside but is clearly part of the andesite layer, unearthed while all the hollowing out was taking place. In order to have been used as a melting pot, 57 holes have been carved on the stone’s surface. Copper ore, about 10cm in length, was poured into one of those holes and then hammered with a hard piece of rock - a technique has been known to have been used since pre-historic times.

The copper brought to Kaymakli was likely dug from a quarry which still exists today between nearby Aksaray and Nevsehir. The quarry was also used by the people of Asilikhoyuk, which is the oldest known settlement in the Cappadocia region. [Rodley 2010:112]

On the fourth floor, the large amount of storage rooms and places to put earthenware jars in the former wineries present at this location is a good indication that the people living here were economically stable. A ventilation shaft is also visible on this floor, with a vertical well and it passes all descending floors just like a modern day lift shaft. The shaft is about 80 meters deep. [Rodley 2010:114] Although the whole city has not been completely opened to sightseers - only four floors have been uncovered to date - it is certain that Kaymakli must be the largest underground settlement in the region. It is certainly accepted as the widest underground city of Cappadocia excavated so far. With such a vast number of storage rooms to be found in such a small area, it is clear that it supported a large populace. Archaeologists believe the numbers involved may have been up to 3500. [Rodley 2010:114]

Evidence shows that the city was undoubtedly used as a refuge for thousands of people, mostly living in the basement for protection from the frequent invasions suffered by Cappadocia, from the Romans pursuing early Christians to a succession of marauding occupants. Striking features of the interior of Derinkuyu are its extensive underground caverns which could accommodate, it is estimated, least 10,000 people. It has three strategically placed exit points, each of which would be covered by moving a circular stone door. These heavy millstone-like wheels could shut down the entrance aisles and so prevented entry by any invading enemy. Each measured between one to 1.5 meters in height, was 50 centimetres wide and could weigh up to 500 kilos. Derinkuyu also has a tunnel about eight miles long that leads to the neighbouring troglodyte city of Kaymakli. [Teteriatnikov 1996:32, 33]

In his work entitled Anábasis, Greek historian Xenophon describes how the people of Anatolia ‘dug their homes and were living in underground shelters large enough for a family, pets and supplies of food stored.’ He goes on to tell of other contemporary features of civil living locally, which included dining areas, a church - 20 by nine meters with a ceiling over three meters high; kitchens - complete with soot and ash from cooking; grape and olive oil presses, food shops, a school, and numerous other rooms - even a bar! The city benefited from an underground river, supplying water wells, and had a wonderful ventilation system. In total, there were 52 wells. [Teteriatnikov 1996:33]

In Turkey, cave dwellings have been a common accommodation option since the Bronze Age, but it is the Cappadocia cave cities, located southeast of Istanbul in the arid centre of the country, where this time honoured trend has been best preserved. Amongst the original reasons cited for ancient peoples here to have chosen underground above over-ground are as an escape from winter weather and as a retreat from first wild animals and later Roman soldiers. [Agacinski 1995:28]

What started out as natural dwellings in Cappadocia's soft volcanic rock, became a series of inter-connected settlements, as neighbouring cave dwellers expanded their own living quarters. All the necessities and even part luxuries for siege-like conditions were in evidence - storage cellars, churches, wine presses and even stables became features of these subterranean cities as people began to live in them for extended periods until the enemy had enough and departed. Then they return to ground level and sunlight. [Agacinski 1995:29, 30]

Artefacts found in these troglodyte communities can be dated back to the Christian sanctuary of the 4th century BC and as simply domestic use in 7th or 8th Century BC. Some experts believe the caves could have been occupied up to 4000 years ago, but they certainly stand out in Cappadocian as well as world history as some of the first-known places of shelter for man. Many of these underground settlements remained undiscovered for centuries; the most visited cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli were not actually uncovered until the 1960's. [Mathews, Daskalakis-Mathews 1997:295, 296]

Today, unusually for a country that has cottoned on to cave tourism in a huge way and even offers tourists cave resorts to stay on, of the 40 underground city complexes, and the 100 known ancient troglodyte communities in Cappadocia, only six sites are open to the public. The best-known of the underground cities, Cappadocia's Derinkuyu, dates from the 5th to 10th centuries BC. It is the deepest of the cave cities discovered here so far. It houses no less than eight floors containing everything from storage rooms through to wine and oil presses, chapels and stables. It was built by the Phrygians and then grossly extended during the Byzantine period. The builders of this underground metropolis really had thought of everything. They installed ventilation shafts, dug an enormous well - which could also be used by people on the surface - and constructed vast doorways that could be closed from the inside as a defence mechanism. [Mathews, Daskalakis-Mathews 1997:304]

Along with Derinkulu, Kaymakli is the most frequently visited subterranean settlement and the largest, despite having only four floors open to visitors. The hundred or so tunnels here have been in constant use for millennia and are lower, narrower and steeper than Derinkulu's. The third floor features some almost perfectly preserved kitchens; on the second, a church and cemetery create an interest for visitors in none the less that they point to notable people having been buried here. It all suggests that Kaymakli was far more than a convenient bolt hole when the going got tough - it was a revered. [Mathews, Daskalakis-Mathews 1997:296]

Only opened to tourists in 1991, Tatlarin has suffered from substantial collapse, but its two currently-open floors contain several churches and historically, it is one of Cappadocia's most important subterranean discoveries. One of the first known toilets in Anatolia and a major Roman burial ground has been uncovered here. More authentic than the better known underground cities, Mazi (also known as Mazi Village) was hollowed out of the valley side to the west of the homonymous more modern village, with neat features including steep tunnels and an entrance which can be covered by rolling a stone across, fulfilling more traditional visions of troglodyte living. [Rodley 2010:98]

Not quite as impressive (or as underground) as the other cities here, Ozkonak has evidence of a winery, several tombs and, like Mazi, striking millstone doors which could still be used to roll across to cover the entrance. Small holes found in the Ozkonak doors suggest boiling oil could have been poured through them at enemies. The city was discovered in 1972 by a muezzin trying to discover where his water supply kept disappearing! [Rodley 2010:104]

Cappadocia’s unique homebuilding techniques extend beyond the Byzantine period and while it is difficult to estimate the very beginnings of its subterranean architecture, the region’s peoples tackled the terrain and found the means of utilising its rock long before the persecuted Christians era. They found that carving out homes was preferable to conventional construction methods in stone and mortar. The houses they created were comfortable, they provided better internal conditions to combat extremes of temperatures outside and were easy to maintain and extend. What’s more, they were a bonus in times of war or civil dispute. [Krautheimer, Curčić 1986: 62, 63]

Churches and monasteries apart, constructed on the surface in the area, there are multi-level settlements underground created by the master carvers of Byzantine Cappadocia, formed by uniting or linking a series of sub-terrestrial rooms or chambers. The plan schemes comprised complex labyrinths. Although there are a number of these underground dwellings, the most impressive ones are at Derinkuyu and Kaymakli [Ousterhout 1995: 13-19]. Just like their counterparts on the surface, the settlements created a series of practical and functional spaces which were allocated for specific tasks - residential, administrative, public functions and of course worship.

In conclusion, throughout time, there are societies which exist with their particular codes and customs, whilst there are others which are, for all intents and purposes, transitory in nature. It should be remembered that architecture is not simply one of building to shelter people - it also allows a powerful conduit of communication and expression.

Cappadocia not only allows an experience of, and an insight into, a potent architectonic existence but it exudes a cultural message. A message conveyed through the transformation of the natural and existent into that of a sound and practical habitat. The unique identity of the Cappadocia setting is the consequence of a very strong symbiotic relation between man and nature. [Agacinski 1995:24-31]

We find here not only the formation of architectonic enclosures worked from the physical and natural materials of the terrain but also a realisation of a dichotomy between the private and the public/religious life, each possessing lessons for development in the future. This historic region provides a unique showcase of subterranean existence, with its dominating architecture and truly spectacular landscaping. The master carvers and architects of Cappadocia took on Byzantine ideas and features but then redefined to their own ends. They created unique spaces within the dominant architecture.

Architecture is magnanimous - the spaces and features it creates can run out a gamut of needs and desires, ranging from a single room to a totally integrated sub-terrestrial city. Those remarkable spaces that have survives to the present day have a value that can provide lessons to contemporary practitioners of architecture. At Cappadocia were find spaces providing sound insulation against the excesses of the weather, the specialness of the inner climatic conditions of the caves themselves and their hugely functional ventilation and air conditioning systems, with their low levels of humidity. These spaces also provide perfect storage potentials for the necessities of life - agricultural products and liquids. The caves also possess a life-saving ability to withstand earthquakes.

Moreover, the architecture of Cappadocia - both above and below ground - sets a unique example for man’s co-existence with nature. It constitutes a prime example of highlighting local values through its environmentally-conscious settlements and spaces. In so many ways, a thorough analysis of the precedent Cappadocia sets can provide us with many lessons for the future, let alone the past.

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