Scientists Expose Secrets of Turkey’s ‘Gates to Hell’

Science
Scientists Expose Secrets of Turkey’s ‘Gates to Hell’ PHOTOGRAPH: Carole Radato/Flickr under Creative Commons |

The ancients Romans believed that the Mediterranean is filled with “gates to hell” and humans can go in and out of them unscathed because they sacrificed animals to the gods who were guarding the places. One of such “gates of hell” has remained intact in modern-day Turkey. The place has been known as the Hierapolis cave, located in Turkey’s Denizli province.

Stone structures and places of worships had commonly surrounded these “gates to hell.” Ancient priests would usually enter them during sacrificial rituals, bringing with them animals which would instantly die inside.

People believed that priests were blessed by supernatural powers particularly because the “gate to hells” were being guarded by Pluto’s hound called Kerberos. Greek philosophers Strabo and Plinius wrote about this in length. Kerbers’ breaths were believed to be the mist that killed the sacrificed animals for they contained toxic chemicals. Ultimately, the hounds were believed to be guarding the underworld.

Mysteriously, the mists inside the gates to hell change over the course of the day. Hence, sacrificial rituals were conducted early in the morning or during evening hours, as long as the sun was not on its brightest.

During rituals, priests would usually stand on a tall stone and were able to stay inside the “gates to hell” for about 20 to 40 minutes while lambs and other animals would die in an instant. People who were witnessing the rituals were seated in a safe distance from where the ceremony was happening.

What did the scientists find out?

On February 12, scientists with the Italian Archaeological Mission published a paper which exposed the truth behind gates to hell, particularly Hierapolis cave found in Turkey. They studied the cave since 2013 and found that the sacrificed animals were actually killed by carbon dioxide.

“More than 2,000 years ago, these phenomena could not be explained scientifically, but only by the imagination of supernatural forces from Hadean depths or well-meaning gods,” the researchers wrote in the study. As it turned out, gates to hell were places that are scientifically known as mofettes. They were located on top of a fault line that emits deadly CO2 levels.

Lead researcher Hardy Pfanz, a volcano biologist at the University of Duisburg-Essen, in Germany, surmised that priests involved in the rituals knew the secrets behind gates to hell. He said that the height of the stones where priests stood made them safe because CO2 could not go as high as 5 feet and is heavier than air so it logically stayed at the bottom of “gates to hell” – the spot where animals to be sacrificed were herded.