Archaeologists report that they have found a massive underground city beneath the town of Midyat in Southern Turkey, CBN reports.
The discovery was made in 2020 during work on the town’s waterworks.
The underground city, called Matiate (City of Caves), was constructed in a large limestone cave system that could have held 70,000 people. It was constructed during the second or third century based on Roman coins and artifacts found in the caves.
It was used during a time when Rome was persecuting Christians, who may have fled to this underground complex for refuge, during times of extreme persecution.
So far, archaeologists have uncovered about 5% of the underground complex and have found over 49 separate rooms. This includes homes, wells, storage areas, churches, and even a synagogue with a star of David painted on one of its walls.
Lead Archaeologist Gani Tarkan said:
“Christianity was not an official religion in the second century [and] families and groups who accepted Christianity generally took shelter in underground cities to escape the persecution of Rome. Possibly, the underground city of Midyat was one of the living spaces built for this purpose.”
Even today, Midyat continues its strong Christian tradition with a majority Christian population. According to a 2016 survey, 82% of Turkey’s 85 million population are Muslim.
Archaeologists report that Christians built similar underground complexes to escape persecution in Western Turkey.