Historical Cappadocian valley seeks protection

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A historical valley containing hundreds of rock carved places, chapels, five underground cities and 13 churches as well as dozens of empty stone buildings, has been plundered by treasure hunters for years, but the local mayor is now seeking official protection for the site.

Historical Cappadocian valley seeks protection
The Sofular Valley is one of the lesser known ancient settlements but has a rich historical texture in the Cappadocia region [Credit: AA/Hurriyet]

The Sofular Valley, located in the Gülağaç region of the Central Anatolian province of Aksaray, is one of the lesser known ancient settlements with a rich historical tissue in the Cappadocia region.

The valley was used as a settlement area by villagers until 40 years ago and hundreds of rock carved living areas are connected to each other through tunnels. Besides many examples of civil architecture, the Sofular Valley has 13 rock carved churches and five underground cities that are waiting to be discovered.

Sofular Mayor İhsan Altınel said a village had previously been located inside the valley, but was moved away from the area after the valley was declared a disaster area in 1973 because of a landslide.

Because of the fact that it had not been used as a settlement area, physical structuring did not exist in the valley and it remained a natural area. “There are nearly 250 stone buildings, hundreds or rock carved places, monasteries, chapels and underground cities in the valley. We also built a road in the valley in 2010 to ease the visits of tourists,” he said.

Treasure hunters appear at night

The valley is located on the Derinkuyu-Ihlara road, and Mayor Altınel said he wanted it to officially be declared as an architectural site in order to protect it.

“The underground cities begin in the entrance of the valley. There are lots of living areas and tunnels below the rocks. There is a capacity for 1,500-2,000 people. We have made applications to the Culture and Tourism Directorate and the Museum Directorate many times. They have made inspections, but since it is has not been protected by tourism, treasure hunters and historical artifact smugglers are coming at night and making diggings,” he said.

“The churches are full of carved graves, but all of them have been plundered because there are no protective measures and anyone can enter the valley … We want this valley to be launched as a first degree archaeological and natural site and we want it to gain in tourism. Stone buildings that are still surviving may serve as hotels,” Altınel added.

Aksaray Museum Director Yusuf Altın said the churches in the Sofular Valley dated back to the early periods of Christianity and served as settlement areas across various eras, just like the famous Ihlara Valley. 

Source: Hurriyet Daily News [February 22, 2013]

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