Italian archaeologists have uncovered what ancient civilizations believed to be the "Gate to Hell" in southwestern Turkey.
The gateway, known as Pluto's Gate, was believed to be a portal to the underworld, according to Greco-Roman mythology. A team of archaeologists led by Francesco D'Andria from the University of Salento, in southern Italy, discovered the structure while excavating ruins in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now called Pamukkale.
Ancient Greek writer Strabo wrote in his 17-volume "Geographica" — an encyclopedia of ancient geography — that the Plutonium (as it's known in Latin) was a cave just big enough for one person to enter through a fenced entrance. A staircase would lead a person down a corridor from which poisonous vapors emerged.
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"This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death," Strabo wrote, according to Discovery News
D'Andria presented his team's finding at a conference in Istanbul this month, and said the cave's "lethal properties" were evident during the excavation.
"We found the Plutonium by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring. Indeed, Pamukkale' springs, which produce the famous white travertine terraces originate from this cave," D'Andria told Discovery News. "I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell."
D'Andria also found the remains of a temple, a pool, and a series of steps placed above the cave — all matching the descriptions of the site in ancient sources.
Pluto's Gate served as a destination for pilgrimages in the 4th century AD, but was destroyed by the Christians in the 6th century AD. Now, D'Andria and his team are creating a digital reconstruction of the site.
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"This is an exceptional discovery as it confirms and clarifies the information we have from the ancient literary and historic sources," Alister Filippini, a researcher in Roman history at the Universities of Palermo, Italy, and Cologne, Germany, told Discovery News.
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