Secret passages hidden in ancient ruins are a mainstay of fantasy and adventure stories, usually leading to powerful magical artifacts or caches of booby-trapped treasure. Previous archaeological research has revealed secret passages in the Egyptian Pyramids and Mexico’s Teotihuacán ruins, but unfortunately no face-melting Arks of the Covenant were found.
Luckily for archaeological treasure hunters, Turkish news outlet Hurriyet Daily News has reported the discovery of an ancient secret passage within the excavated ruins of a Hittite archaeological site. The site has been in the process of being excavated since its discovery in 2014 by archaeologists from Ankara University in Turkey.
The ruins are part of Turkey’s first “national excavation field,” an area known as Alacahöyük. This area was a center of the Hittite civilization which thrived throughout Eurasia and North Africa between the years 1600 and 1100 BCE.
According to Ankara University professor and lead archaeologist Aykut Çınaroğlu, the secret passage might have had a ritualistic or ceremonial function, although further excavation is needed before any theories can be confirmed:
We are carrying out excavations right now; we have not finished yet. We started from the gate opening to the sanctuary, trying to open it. This is a [passage] from nearly 2,300 years ago. We have dug 23 meters so far but think that it is longer. Cleaning work is continuing, too. We will see what we will find in the end.
The first Hittite skeleton was also found at the site, which might clue archaeologists in on the genetic makeup of the Hittites. Before the 19th discovery of Hittite archaeological sites, most of the knowledge of Hittites was based on sections of the Old Testament. After the founding of Turkey, interest in the Hittites grew as more and more Hittite artifacts were found. These discoveries led archaeological historians to speculate that the Hittites evolved from prehistoric civilizations that settled in the areas that now make up Turkey, Syria, and some of the Arabian Peninsula. The Hittite civilization is believed to have dissolved during the Late Bronze Age Collapse and dissolved into several smaller city-states.