Photo courtesy of Veronica Kalas

In the 10th and 11th centuries, Byzantine settlers built more than 20 labyrinthine complexes by hollowing living spaces out of the soft rock. A spacious hall, with open second-floor galleries (compare with previous photo and photo of Selime Kale’s great galleried hall), adorns the largest of these complexes, the Selime Kale. Who built these rock-cut complexes, and why? Since Cappadocia was the home of some of the early Christian fathers, scholars have long believed that this isolated region in central Turkey was settled by monastic communities. Recent surveys, however, have revealed that many of Cappadocia’s complexes lack features typically associated with monastic structures. Author Veronica G. Kalas suggests another interpretation: The Peristrema Valley settlements were constructed to protect the Byzantine Empire’s southeastern flank from Arab invasions.