Gate To Hell In Turkey: Pluto's Gate Unearthed In Istanbul

By iScienceTimes Staff on April 1, 2013 6:25 PM EDT

Hierapolis
The World Heritage Site of Hierapolis, founded around 190 B.C. by Eumenes II, King of Pergamum (197 B.C.-159 B.C.), was given over to Rome in 133 B.C. According to Discovery News, the Hellenistic city grew into a flourishing Roman city, with temples, a theater and popular sacred hot springs, believed to have healing properties. (Photo: Creative Commons)

A "gate to hell" known as Pluto's Gate has reportedly been unearthed in Turkey, according to reports.

An archaeology team led by Francesco D'Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento in Italy, announced the "gate to hell" finding this month at a conference on Italian archaeology in Istanbul as Discovery News reported. Pluto's Gate, celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology, was described in writings placed in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now called Pamukkale, by Cicero and Greek geographer Strabo as an opening filled with lethal, mephitic vapors.

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"This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground," wrote Strabo (64/63 BC -- about 24 AD). "Any animal that passes inside meets instant death."

"I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell," he added.

D'Andria, who has been examining Hierapolis for years, also explained how he and his team found the "gate to hell," also called the Plutonium in Latin.

"We found the Plutonium by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring," he said. "Indeed, Pamukkale' springs, which produce the famous white travertine terraces originate from this cave."

Once the site of the "gate to hell" was excavated, more ruins were uncovered, including Ionic semi columns and an inscription with a dedication to the deities of the underworld Pluto and Kore. D'Andria was also able to identify the ruins of a temple, pool, and steps -- from which pagan pilgrims would watch sacred rites performed at the opening of Pluto's Gate -- referenced in the cave's descriptions.

Pilgrims were given small birds to test the deadly effects of the cave, while priests, hallucinated by fumes emitted from the gate, sacrificed bulls to Pluto. Rites included leading animals into the cave and dragging them out dead.

"We could see the cave's lethal properties during the excavation," D'Andria said. "Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by the carbon dioxide fumes."

D'Andria also noted that the site of the "gate to hell" was a famous destination for incubation rites. Pilgrims took the waters in the pool close to the temple, slept close to the gate and received visions and prophecies.

"This is an exceptional discovery as it confirms and clarifies the information we have from the ancient literary and historic sources," said Alister Filippini, a researcher in Roman history at the Universities of Palermo, Italy, and Cologne, Germany, to Discovery News.

Christians destroyed Pluto's Gate during the 6th century AD. Earthquakes may have then completed the destruction.

D'Andria and his team are now working on the digital reconstruction of the site of the "gate to hell."

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