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They don't know who began digging the underground cities but it was at least as early as the 5th century BC, and then expanded by every population who needed to hide. They were not meant for permanent living, just as defense, or so I read.

Here's something I'm copying from asiaminortours.com: "The Cappadocia area was ruled by a series of small, independent states, under priest-kings as early as the 6th century B.C. Herodotus mentions it as the region between Phrygia and Cilicia in the 5th century B.C. Xenophon mentions people living underground in his book Anabasis although the earliest residents are unknown."
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