World Architecture
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Cappadocia underground cities
Cappadocia, a region of central Anatolia in Turkey, lies within the triangle of Nevsehir, Aksaray, and Kayseri. It is bounded by the now dormant Mount Erciyes in the east and Mount Hasandag in the south. Prehistoric eruptions of these volcanoes blanketed a wide area with a 1,500-foot 450-meter layer of ash and detritus. The hardening tufa was carved by nature into thousands of distinctive pyramidal rock formations known asfairy chimneys, within which generations of settlers have created astounding subterranean cities. Guesses at the total number vary from 30 to 200. Carved from the living rock to a depth of at least twenty stories, and each able to house tens of thousands of people, the underground cities result from 3,000 years of continual adaptation and extension. Derinkuyu and Kaymakli, described below, are only two of such architectural feats in the region. Who were these intrepid constructors, who built downward instead of upward, and whose houses were framed with shafts and corridors rather than columns and beams? Over millennia Cappadocia has been occupied in turn by invading Lycians, Phrygians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Byzantines, and Seljuk and Ottoman Turks. The indigenous Hittites were probably first to build underground. In the fourteenth century b.c., retreating from Phrygian invaders, they made excavations, normally of no more than two levels. The next major wave of building was not until the fourth century a.d. Always strategically vital, fertile Cappadocia became a Roman province in a.d. 17, and its towns flourished under stable Roman rule. Within about 200 years it became a center of eastern Christianity and when the persecution reached its final peak around a.d. 305, the Christians withdrew to the mountain fastnesses, building secure subterranean places in which to live and worship. The peril passed with the Edict of Toleration a.d. 313 but reemerged for different reasons under the excesses of iconoclasm 726 843, as well as the incursions of Arabs. The Christian response to renewed threats was to build rock-cut churches and monasteries, often adapting and extending much older underground houses. The G

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