Is the hustle and bustle of modern life getting you down? Does the thought of that alarm going off tomorrow morning make you shudder in dread? Or have you ever thought, “You know what— sunlight is way over rated, I’d love to get rickets.”
If you’re thinking that last sentence took something of a swift left turn, bear with me—because if you answered yes to any of those questions, then you may just like to move to the ancient Phoenician temple of Akaziwalawa.
Located in what is now Anatolia in modern-day Turkey, Akaziwalawa is a vast temple comprising a series of chambers and their adjoining living quarters, believed to have been built sometime around 2000 BC by a group of priests devoted to the chief Phoenician god Baal Hammon.
There’s nothing particularly unique about that, of course. Except that the extraordinary temple of Akaziwalawa is entirely located 200m below ground.
Having a Baal: An ancient Phoenician model of Baal Hammon
(Wikimedia Commons/Public domain)
Why go to all that effort to build a temple below ground? Well, it’s thought that the priests who dwelled in Akaziwalawa believed that without the distractions of the surface world far above them, they would grow spiritually closer to Baal and thereby receive purer wisdom and guidance. And ultimately, the priests’ reputation for wisdom and intense spirituality had soon spread far across Phoenicia.
Much like the Ancient Greeks’ Oracle at Delphi, worshippers would reportedly journey from miles around to descend into Akaziwalawa’s caverns and ask the temple priests for advice, or else listen to their latest visions, declarations and prognostications. (Unfortunately, we know now that in all likelihood the priests’ “visions” were probably little more than deranged hallucinations, brought on by the extreme sensory deprivation of, y’know, living underground. But hey, hindsight is twenty-twenty.)
Alas, after an earthquake partially collapsed the long, sloping tunnel that led to the temple in 1500 BC, the site was abandoned. It remained something of a local legend right through to the 1880s, when it was finally rediscovered and the home of the subterranean priests of Akaziwalawa was opened to the public once more.