Archaeologists discover massive underground complex which likely sheltered persecuted Christians
Archaeologists in southeast Turkey have uncovered a gigantic 4-million-square-foot underground city that probably served as a refuge for persecuted Christians in the second and third centuries AD, Church Leaders reports.
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Archaeologists in southeast Turkey have uncovered a gigantic 4-million-square-foot underground city that probably served as a refuge for persecuted Christians in the second and third centuries AD, Church Leaders reports. Known as Matiate (“city of caves”), the complex in the Midyat district of Mardin province was first discovered by scientists working to restore houses on the ground level above it, Church Leaders reports.
The Midyat district was first settled some 4,000 years ago during the Bronze Age and was ruled by different empires. However, Christianity has survived here and is now practiced by the Syriac Orthodox Church.
In a statement, lead archaeologist Gani Tarkan said Matiate “was first built as a hiding place or escape area” because “Christianity was not an official religion in the second century.” Indeed, early believers were brutally persecuted by the Romans until Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in 313 A.D. Prior to that, Tarkan explained, “families and groups who accepted Christianity generally took shelter in underground cities to escape the persecution.”So far, researchers have uncovered 49 chambers at Matiate, but they believe this is a small section of a space that could hold an estimated 70,000 people, Church Leaders reports. Most early Christians were also Jewish and, on one of the walls in Matiate, there is a Star of David symbol, Church Leaders said. Coins, lamps, silos, and bones (both human and animal) were also discovered.