The fabled Gate to Hell, also known as Pluto’s Gate, was discovered by Italian archaeologists in southwestern Turkey, reports Discovery News.
The cave was believed to be the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology because its entrance is filled with lethal mephitic vapors that kills anything that breathes them in. Greek geographer Strabo and Cicero wrote about the cave in several of their writings, described as being located in the long-lost city of Hierapolis, now Pamukkale.
“This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground,” Strabo wrote. “Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.”
The discovery was announced last month by a team of Italian archeologists led by Francesco D’Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento. The team located the cave “by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring” to the area. An excavation also unearthed the ruins of a temple, pool and steps, where sacred rites would be performed at the cave’s opening. Archeologist could even see the effects of the cave’s poisonous properties during excavation as birds that got too close would drop dead by breathing in the fumes.
“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, said.
The cave was around until the Christian’s destroyed it in the 6th century AD, aided by earthquakes.