Discovered: Mythical ‘gate to hell’ emitting deadly fumes
The Necropolis in the ancient city of Hierapolis, now known as Pamukkale in Turkey. A poisonous cave celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Graeco-Roman mythology and tradition has been unearthed in the Turkish town
WASHINGTON: Italian archaeologists have discovered the ruins of an ancient mythological cave in Turkey, believed to be the "gate to hell" emitting fatal carbon fumes.
Described as Pluto's Gate, the cave was celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Graeco-Roman mythology and tradition.
Historians located the site in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now Pamukkale, describing the opening as filled with lethal mephitic vapours, Discovery News reported.
"This space is full of a vapour so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death," Greek geographer Strabo, who lived between 64 or 63 BC and about 24 AD, wrote.
"I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell," he added.
The finding was made by a team led by Francesco D'Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento, who conducted extensive archaeological research at the World Heritage Site of Hierapolis.
"We found the Plutonium (Pluto's Gate) by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring. Indeed, Pamukkale's springs, which produce the famous white travertine terraces, originate from this cave," D'Andria said.
"People could watch the sacred rites from these steps, but they could not get to the area near the opening. Only the priests could stand in front of the portal," D'Andria explained.
Small birds were given to pilgrims to test the deadly effects of the cave, while hallucinating priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto, the researcher said.
The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave and dragging them out dead.