Archeologists discover ‘gate to hell' in Pamukkale

Italian archeologists have announced their discovery of a “gate to hell” while excavating the ruins of a temple associated with the Roman god Pluto in Pamukkale, in the southwestern province of Denizli.

Speaking to Discovery News, archeologists explained that the gate, also known as Pluto's Gate, was seen as a portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology. It was once located in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis. The gate, which is a cave that sits atop Pamukkale's famous travertines, was filled with lethal mephitic gases, according to ancient texts.

The finding was made by a team led by Francesco D'Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento.

“We found the plutonium 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 told Discovery News, referring to the newly discovered portal.

The archeologists were excavating an area that featured a vast array of abandoned ruins, possibly the result of earthquakes, and discovered even more ruins during excavation. According to the report, the archaeologists found Ionic semi columns with an inscription dedicated to the deities of the underworld, Pluto and Kore (Persephone), on top.

D'Andria also found the remains of a temple, a pool and a series of steps placed above the cave -- all matching the descriptions of the site in ancient sources, according to Discovery News.

“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 said.

D'Andria also added that they could see evidence of the cave's lethal properties during the excavation. He said several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by carbon dioxide fumes.

According to D'Andria, the site was a famous destination for rites of incubation. Pilgrims collected water from the pool near the temple, slept close to the cave and received visions and prophecies. Archeologists say the fumes coming from the depths of Hierapoli's phreatic groundwater are what produced hallucinations.

D'Andria and his team are now working on the digital reconstruction of the site, Discovery News said.