Souterrains, The underground world dug by man, underground refuges, religious underground passages, underground quarries, mushroom beds, cave dwellings, war tunnels, catacombs, underground cities.

New topic in the Photo Library: Souterrains and caves in Benin


Benin, this small country of West Africa with a rich history, has an exceptional underground heritage. In the South of the country, around the historic city of Abomey, former capital of the Kingdom of Dahomey, there are innumerable souterrains-refuges (underground refuges) of a special type. These cavities have been revealed in 1998 by Professor Klavs Randsborg and his Beninese-Danish team. The density of these souterrains is very impressive: more than 1000 cavities have been listed in this region. In the North of the country, natural caves and rock shelters have been used as refuges or places of worship; traditional ceremonies are still taking place in some of them.



Souterrains around Abomey

Around the former capital of the Kingdom of Dahomey, large areas comprise numerous circular holes piercing the lateritic crust and forming real well fields. Each of these holes is the opening of a vertical shaft which gives access to one or several rooms dug below. The first cavities were accidentally discovered in 1998, during the construction of a road in Bohicon. Professor Klavs Randsborg and his Beninese-Danish team conducted many archaeological prospections and excavations campaigns in the souterrains of Bohicon and in many other cavities located around Abomey. Thanks to these investigations, they have dated the souterrains to the period of the Kingdom of Dahomey and they have attributed a defensive function to most of them. In fact, these cavities are a special type of souterrains-refuges (underground refuges) organized around an access shaft. They are independent but grouped in high density clusters which cover very large surfaces and certainly could shelter all the local population. The souterrains were part of the violent history of the Kingdom of Dahomey and its neighbours, a history of ongoing conflicts and razzias conducted to seize goods and slaves. In 2014, a study tour led us to understand the scale of the phenomenon. At present, we are working with Inga Merkyte and Søren Albek, collaborators of the late Klavs Randsborg, with the aim of better understanding the architecture and the defensive organization of these underground complexes.

Caves in Northern Benin

In the North of Benin, in Donga and especially in Atakora, the nature has carved rock shelters and deep caves in the cliffs. The inhabitants of surrounding villages used these cavities to hide from enemies during local conflicts and also to escape the French army during the colonial period; additionally, they concealed their reserves inside big silos made of crude earth. Some of the caves are also sacred sites and they are still accommodating fetishes and religious ceremonies.

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New topic in the Photo Library: Tropical troglophiles


In the intertropical zone, subterranean environment is still characterized by its stability and it preserves from extreme heat. It also protects from the drying effects of sun rays and provides a habitat constantly saturated with humidity which is much sought after by some species. Numerous invertebrates, which are troglophile, can spend their entire biological cycle inside the cavities, other, which are subtroglophile, take shelter only temporarily under the ground. Like in aboveground habitat, biodiversity increases significantly around the equator and the size of arthropods is impressive.


Who was saint Cicault? Lecture at Société Archéologique de Touraine, Wednesday 18 April 2018, Tours



Lecture about saint Cicault at Société Archéologique de Touraine, Wednesday 18 April 2018, 14:30.


Venue: salle Charles de Gaulle, Conseil départemental, place de la préfecture, Tours.


30 Years of Explorations and Studies



On this picture, Jean-Michel Machefert and Laurent are with Professor Raymond Mauny during a book signing session of Souterrains Refuges de Touraine, in Chinon (France). Raymond Mauny, a recognized specialist of West Africa archaeology and history, worked as a researcher at the French Institute of Black Africa (IFAN). During these African years, he worked with Théodore Monod, the IFAN Director, and also Amadou Hampâté Bâ. Raymond Mauny was also one of the first souterrains specialists in France. He is among the founders of the French Society for Souterrains Studies and published in 1967, with Gérard Cordier, Souterrains-refuges, caves fortes et hypogées de Touraine (in Bulletin des Amis du Vieux Chinon).


Thirty years ago we published Souterrains Refuges de Touraine. The source of this first book was a passion for artificial cavities, shared with our friend and co-author Jean-Michel Machefert, when we were teenagers. This publication project was really a big challenge for us and we were motivated by a desire to share our knowledge and our understanding of the wide medieval phenomenon we were discovering.

This challenge has led us to a continued quest for cavities in France but also in other European countries, in Turkey, in West Africa, in Iran or in Vietnam. Year after year, progressively, we have become experts on the subject.

To mark the 30th anniversary of our first book publication, we have decided to present some of our souvenir pictures.


Lecture on the occasion of the « Salons de Choiseul », Lycée Choiseul, Tours (France), Thursday 16 November 2017



Thursday 16 November 2017, Laurent will give a lecture on "Souterrains: Fantasy and Reality".







Presentation at the 40th SFES symposium, 20 – 22 October 2017, Laon (Aisne, France)


Presentation at the 40th SFES symposium which will be held in Laon and Barenton-Bugny (Aisne, France) on 20 - 22 October 2017.



Jérôme will give two lectures: Tunnel Warfare, an underground warfare manual and Underground Warfare in Algeria, 1954-1962.




New topic in the Photo Library: Cave dwellings in Ethiopia



Twenty years ago, Jérôme and our friend Hans Klose made a trip in the north-west part of Ethiopia, in order to discover its great troglodytic heritage. The time, the touristic pressure, some measures of protection, and today the poor security situation, give to the photographs he did a value of testimony.



Ethiopia has a world-famous troglodytic heritage, mainly located in its north-west quarter, in Abyssinia. In these mountains, where a Christianity very close of the origins’ Christianity has survived until today, long-isolated from Christian world by Muslims kingdoms which surrounded it, there are remarkable rock-cut churches. The major site is undoubtedly the site of Lalibela, the “Black Jerusalem”, whose monuments are registered to the UNESCO world heritage list.  In this small town, at the beginning of the 13th century, king Lalibela dug  eleven monolithic churches, each one more outstanding than the other, to offer Christian pilgrims from Ethiopia,  who were isolated from the Holy Land, a substitution Jerusalem.

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A hundred years ago: 16 April 1917 Chemin des Dames (Aisne, France), the underground quarries swing the battle




On 16 April 1917, during the Nivelle Offensive, protected inside the underground quarries known locally as "creutes", German soldiers escape the French bombardment and use their grenades and machine guns to decimate French soldiers.



Sivasa: “Underground city” in Cappadocia


In 1988, we conducted an underground expedition in Cappadocia with Turkish research visas, a French ministry of sport grant and the support of industrial sponsors. We knew the existence of three “underground cities” open to the public and we believed that there was a lot of similarities between “underground cities” and underground refuges that we studied in Western France.  The main goal of our expedition was to explore, to map and to conduct a detailed study of a new “underground city”.


Once in Cappadocia, our guide took us to the small village of Sivasa (Gökçetoprak). When we entered the hole drilled at the foot of the cliff surrounding the village, we discovered a corridor that leaded to a first room. Room after room, corridor after corridor, we understood that we were beginning an exceptional exploration. Split into two teams, our small group spent a week to map and photograph this big network of 25 rooms. At the end of this work, the villagers showed us new rooms and new corridors dug in other part of the cliff. We were amazed to see that, even after our work on the first network, it was possible to make additional discoveries in Sivasa.


Nearly ten years later, as we began a collaborative work with the team of Roberto Bixio, we learned that, behind the village of Sivasa, our Italian colleagues discovered seven other networks! In Sivasa, there are eight networks dug into the cliff surrounding the village, making a total of a hundred rooms distributed over an area of several hectares!


We were the first to study an untouched “underground city”, and the exploration of Sivasa will remain one of our best underground memories. In 1993, we published Les villes souterraines de Cappadoce; it was the first synthetic work about this topic, and we devoted an entire chapter to Sivasa. This book is today out of print and, nearly 30 years after our exploration, we thought it might be useful to offer in open access the text about Sivasa, together with the photographs taken during our study and the restored version of our map. This text gives a detailed description and a modelling of the defence organization of this exceptional underground refuge. For those who would like to know more about Cappadocian “underground cities”, we recommend the new synthetic study that we published in our book La guerre souterraine released in 2011.


Jérôme and Laurent Triolet, Thursday 9 February 2017 



Download the chapter on Sivasa

Download the map of Sivasa



Presentation at the 39th SFES symposium, Saturday 19 November 2016, Dainville (Pas de Calais, France)


Presentation at the 39th SFES symposium, Saturday 19 November 2016, Dainville (Pas de Calais, France)

Lecture about Underground warfare.

Venue: Salle des fêtes, 3 rue des écoles, 62000 Dainville, France

More information about the symposium


Lecture on Souterrains of Vendée, Saturday 15 October 2016, Paris



Responding to the invitation of the association Les Vendéens de Paris, Saturday 15 October 2016, 05:00pm, Jérôme will give a lecture on Souterrains of Vendée.


Venue: Masson Immobilier, 60 boulevard de Charonne (Métro Avron), Paris – Admission fee €5





New topic in the Photo Library: Cave dwellings in Iran


In Iran, from centuries men have been digging the rock, and troglodytic dwelling has a special place in a varied rock-cut heritage. Iranian troglodytes are still living in few rock-cut settlements such as Meymand village, located in Kerman Province in the southeast of the country. Surrounded by a magnificent mineral landscape, the rock-cut village of Meymand lies on the Iranian plateau at an altitude of 2,200 meters, in a semi-desert context characterized by harsh climatic conditions. Here as elsewhere in the world, troglodyte people have known how to adapt perfectly to natural environment. The village is discreetly located at the end of a little valley carved in volcanic deposits: dark entrances surrounded with drystone low walls are the only indications of human presence. These numerous cavities constitute the winter habitat for a semi-nomadic community involved in agriculture and in goat and sheep rearing. With a present population of 150 people, the entire village is living underground: all houses but also the baths, the mosque or the big room used for religious feasts are dug into the volcanic tuff. In July 2015, the cultural landscape of Meymand has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.


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New topic in the Photo Library: Souterrains of Ireland


Ireland, particularly in the South including County Cork, is very rich in medieval underground passages (“souterrains” in Irish scientific archaeological vocabulary). These souterrains are often in connection with fortified places, including circular enclosures, the ringforts. We visited some of these cavities with our colleague and friend James P. McCarthy who dedicated in 1977 his MA Thesis to the souterrains of County Cork.

Unlike the French underground passages, many of these networks are stone-built, dry stone walls reinforced by monolithic pillars supporting the ceiling slabs. Pillars or vertical slabs narrowing the tunnels mark the passage to different areas of the souterrain, and in some cases, Ogham stones (steles engraved with inscriptions in Ogham alphabet erected between the fourth and seventh century) have even been reused to support the ceiling slabs.

Besides these stone-built souterrains, there are also underground passages directly carved into the rock, these rock-cut souterrains are quite similar to those that may be encountered in Western France. One of the most remarkable, that of Dunisky, shows troubling typological similarities with some underground refuges of South-western France, including benches, creepholes, construction shafts, and a room whose ceiling seems to be carved to mimic a house roof.

Like other similarities observed in various countries, these similarities between Irish and French cavities could be the result of a convergence. In different countries, facing the same kind of threat, different populations had the same response: they dug underground refuges.

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Download the publication of James P. McCarthy about Dunisky souterrain



Attendance at the Second International Troglodytic Architecture Conference, 7 – 8 October 2015, Tehran (Iran)


Responding to the invitation of The Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Tourism (RICHT), we will participate in the Second International Troglodytic Architecture Conference to be held in Tehran (Iran) on 7 and 8 October 2015.

We will give a lecture on Underground Refuges and “Underground Cities” in France and Cappadocia (Turkey).


In Europe and also in other countries around the world, during the Middle Ages, men have dug the rock to protect themselves against attacks. For their protection, they have designed a very specific kind of cavities: the underground refuges (called souterrains-refuges in French). These underground refuges differ from other troglodytic cavities because they are deeply excavated into the rock and are therefore not lit by natural light. The underground refuges consist of rooms connected by narrow corridors; they are equipped with vital facilities and defense systems. The underground refuge concept has been developed in several ways and in some parts of the world men have made very complex subterranean networks: the “underground cities”.

This lecture will deal with two examples of “underground cities” that we have studied. First we will present the wide networks that exist in Cappadocia (Turkey) (8th - 15th century), then we will focus on the underground cities located in Northern France (15th - 18th century). For each of the two examples, after studying the architectural characteristics, we will examine the global organization of the network and we will try to reconstruct the life inside the cavities. We will conclude by showing that the existing differences between these two geographical groups of “underground cities” are the result of two kinds of human adaptation in response to the same need.




New topic in the Photo Library: Mine Warfare


Born in antiquity to break down walls of fortified towns, revolutionized by the use of gunpowder in the early sixteenth century and rationalized by military engineers, the use of underground mines and counter-mines during sieges or position's wars was constant until the early twentieth century. This type of underground war was at its height during the great sieges of the second half of the nineteenth century (Sevastopol, Tuyen Quan, Port Arthur ...), and especially during the WWI. Many period pictures show the dark and dangerous war of the tunnelers.

Book about the topic: La guerre souterraine (written in French), éditions Perrin, Paris, 2011 ; chapitre 4 : La guerre des mines pp. 103-126.


Our publications available to download


Now, whenever possible, our publications will be also available to download through this website. Today 9 of the fifty or so articles are available. There are mostly new articles but also old publications, written in French or English. To get the publications, you have to visit the page Publications.


Jérôme and Laurent Triolet, Wednesday 24 December 2014


Publications now available

Underground refuges and war tunnels (France, Cappadocia, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Lebanon), Opera Ipogea (Journal of Speleology in Artificial Cavities), pp. 51-60, 1/2013.

Tunnel Warfare – the Chinese concept of active underground shelters, Subterranea (Subterranea Britannica Magazine) n°35, pp.75-77, April 2014.

Les systèmes de défense dans les souterrains-refuges tourangeaux (en collaboration avec Jean-Michel Machefert), Bulletin de la Société Archéologique de Touraine, Tome XLI, pp.773-782, 1987.

Les cluzeaux de falaise du Levant espagnol, Subterranea, Actes du XIXème congrès de la SFES (1996), pp.67-78, 1997.

Le phénomène des souterrains-refuges en Touraine ; un ouvrage inédit : le souterrain des Goupillères, Bulletin de la Société Archéologique de Touraine, Tome XLV, pp.829-849, 1999.

Souterrains aménagés, souterrains-refuges, souterrains annulaires… Un panorama de la question en région Centre, Comptes rendus du SARC Détection, caractérisation et fouille des structures souterraines médiévales (DRAC Centre – SRA), pp. 9-14, Orléans, 2013. En ligne sur http://www.culturecommunication.gouv.fr/Regions/Drac-Centre

Les souterrains de Vendée, Subterranea n°169, pp. 2-5, 2014.
Quand l’armée chinoise nous explique le concept de souterrain-refuge : Tunnel Warfare, Subterranea n°169, pp. 24-29, 2014.

Un souterrain armoricain de l’Âge du Fer : le souterrain de la Ville es Peniaux à Cancale (Ille-et-Vilaine), Subterranea n°170, pp. 16-21, 2014.



New tunnel warfare in Gaza







Today the Israeli Army enters the Gaza Strip to destroy the tunnels; we have dealt with this subject in our book La guerre souterraine, published in 2011.


Updating of the Photo Library “Underground cities in Cappadocia”


 In Cappadocia more than 50 “underground cities” have been listed. Those “underground cities” are very complex networks including several dozen rooms connected by narrow and long corridors. One of the widest is the famous underground city of Derinkuyu, that includes several levels and slopes down to a depth of 45 m. Despite the impressive dimensions of the network of Derinkuyu, which could probably shelter about 700 to 1000 people, the capacity of most of these underground complexes did not exceed a few hundred people. Therefore, it should be more realistic to call them village underground refuges. 

The Cappadocian refuges have got a variety of vital facilities: vent pipes, big and small niches, water wells and grain silos. For the defense, in a few village underground refuges, there are grooves carved in the rock to install wooden doors and narrow passages, but the most characteristic defense system is the stone door, that is a stone disc similar to a millstone. All the “underground cities” of Cappadocia are protected by stone doors, some of them being very impressive in scale. The biggest stone door of the village underground refuge of Özkonak is 1,8 m high and 0,67 m wide, with a total weight of 3,5 tons. The hole located in the center of numerous stone doors was probably used as a loophole. In many Cappadocian refuges, there are also other loopholes pierced in the walls or the ceiling and opening in front of the door. In village underground refuges of Cappadocia, the multiple successive doors and the loopholes offer a complex and very efficient active defense.

Cappadocian village underground refuges were dug by rural communities to protect themselves against Arabian raids (from the 8th to the 10th century) and against the attacks of the Ottomans and the Turkomans (from the 13th to the 15th century).



Our main publications about the topic


Cappadocia : Schede dei siti sotterranei / Records of the underground sites (bilingual Italian / English),edited by Roberto Bixio, British Archaeological Reports (BAR) S2413, Oxford, 2012, 278 p.

La guerre souterraine (written in French), éditions Perrin, Paris, 2011 ; chapitre 1 : Des villes souterraines pour échapper aux razzias pp. 15-40.

Cappadocia - Le città sotterranee (written in Italian), edited by Roberto Bixio, Vittorio Castellani and Claudio Succhiarelli, Libreria dello Stato, Istituto Poligrafico e Zeca dello Stato, Rome, 2002, 319 p.

Les Villes Souterraines de Cappadoce (written in French), éditions DMI, Torcy, 1993, 112p.



Presentation at Séminaire d’archéologie de la région Centre, Friday 22 november 2013, Orléans (Loiret, France)



Lecture about souterrains aménagés, souterrains-refuges (underground refuges), souterrains annulaires (ring-shaped underground passages) in Region Centre.


Venue: Salle des Délibérations, Hôtel du Département du Loiret - 15 rue Eugène Vignat, 45000 Orléans (France)



Lecture at the Autumn Meeting of Subterranea Britannica, Saturday 19th October 2013, London


Responding to the invitation of Subterranea Britannica, Laurent will be very pleased to give a lecture on Underground shelters and war tunnels (France, Cappadocia, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Lebanon).


The autumn meeting will take place at the Royal School of Mines, Imperial College London, on Saturday 19th October 2013 at 09: 30. The lecture on Underground shelters and war tunnels will be held at 15: 30.



Lecture on the occasion of the "Fête de la science", Ethni’cité, Saint-Rémy-sur-Creuse (France), Friday, 11 October 2013




Friday October 11 at 07: 30 PM, Laurent will give a lecture on underground shelters used by man and animals living inside the cavities dug into the rock.

Salle des Fêtes, place de la mairie, Saint-Rémy-sur-Creuse

Ethni’cité, village troglodyte


Video by Patrick Edgard Rosa (Tv-trogs / www.troglonautes.com)



Just published: Souterrains de Vendée


Souterrains de Vendée is published  by Geste éditions.


Thanks to 25 years of investigation, we are able to present the first synthesis about underground refuges (souterrains-refuges) and ring underground passages (souterrains annulaires) discovered in Vendée (region of La Roche-sur-Yon). The first part is about 10 sites studied in this region. The second part concerns vital facilities and defense systems dug into the rock. This part also introduces some legends collected about those cavities. The book is an accomplished study with maps of the location of the underground cavities, statistics, and detailed synthesis of each type of building, using a list of plans of all known French underground refuges and ring underground passages, and using also a lot of publications about this part of France.




Photographic Exhibition "Souterrains de Vendée", Petosse (France), October 5 – October 19, 2013



Photographic Exhibition, October 5 – October 19, 2013, 6 rue du Poiré, centre bourg,  Petosse (France)


Laurent will be present at the inauguration of the exhibition on Saturday, 5 October at 05:00 PM.


Presentation at the 36th SFES symposium October 5, 6 and 7, 2013, Ribérac (Dordogne, France)





Lecture about the souterrains of Vendée and commentary of the Chinese film Tunnel warfare (1965).


More information about the symposium


Photographic Exhibition Souterrains de Vendée, Historial de la Vendée, Les Lucs-sur-Boulogne (France), September 14 – September 22, 2013







Historial de la Vendée 

85 170 Les Lucs-sur-Boulogne



Proceedings of the International Workshop on Speleology in artificial cavities, Torino/Italy - May 18-20, 2012





The current issue of Italian journal Opera Ipogea (Journal of Speleology in Artificial Cavities) publishes the proceedings of the International Workshop on Speleology in artificial cavities “Classification of the typologies of artificial cavities in the world”, Torino/Italy - May 18-20, 2012.

Table of contents

The typological tree of artificial cavities: a contribution by the Commission of the Italian Speleological Society, Carla Galeazzi

Hydraulic works: the Map of the Ancient Underground Aqueducts, Mario Parise, Carla Galeazzi, Carlo Germani, Mariangela Sammarco

A Mediterranean Troglodytism database. An overview on the rupestrian settlements of the Mediterranean region, Mario Mainetti

The troglodytic castles of the Northern Vosges (France) and Palatinat (Germany), Luc Stevens

Underground refuges and war tunnels (France, Cappadocia, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Lebanon), Jérôme and Laurent Triolet

A new type of rock works: the apiaries, Roberto Bixio, Andrea De Pascale

Subterranea Britannica: Underground Britain, Martin Dixon

The ancient mines and quarries census project: a systematical approach to a missed heritage, Claudia Chiappino, Fabrizio Milla

The Italian National Register of artificial cavities, Marco Meneghini

Artificial caves as a possible danger: sinkholes and other effects at the surface, Mario Parise


Download the publication Underground refuges and war tunnels (France, Cappadocia, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Lebanon)



Tunnel warfare in North Mali?


News and reports dealing with the discovery of numerous caves containing weapons and ammunitions in the Ametettaï valley, in the Adrar of Ifoghas seem to indicate that terrorist groups fighting against African and French armies are using tunnels and underground shelters. As a confirmation, a picture published in Le Monde and the corresponding video by France 24, show a half-buried room dug into a soft rock, maybe clay, with a narrow passage to force the invaders to crawl in order to progress inside the connected tunnel.

We have seen in our book, La Guerre souterraine, that Islamic fighters had already used caves and tunnels to fight successfully against Soviet and then Occidental forces in Afghanistan or the Algerian army in the 90’s. As a consequence, it’s not a surprise that fighters from previous Algerian GIA and GSPC, or trained in the Afghan mountains had been getting into a tunnel warfare.

Jérôme and Laurent Triolet, March 6, 2013 (updated April 2, 2013)



New topic in the Photo Library: Cliff refuges (“Cluzeaux”) of Spain


In the Spanish Levant, around Bocairent, between Valencia and Alicante, there is a group of exceptional cliff refuges (“Cluzeaux” in French). The major site, “Les Covetes dels Moros”, is a community cliff refuge, grouping 49 cavities dug on five levels in the cliff, and connected by 47 narrow passages. Each chamber has its own window in the cliff wall. In the same district, there are six others cliff refuges of this kind, for the most part having only some rooms, but two of them grouping more than ten windows in the cliff. All these cavities seem to be part of the same historical group, but dating is difficult. The cliff provided a natural barrier, inside the “Covetes” the narrow passages were effective obstacles and the fortification wall of “Bancal Redo” was a good protection. With grain silos and room for animals villagers were also able to hide and to protect their means of subsistence. So, “Les Covetes dels Moros” and “Bancal Redo” are community cliff refuges. The other cliff cavities are located at strategic points guarded access roads and defile. They were probably used as look out posts. There are other cliff refuges in Andalusia (southern Spain).

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Download a publication about the topic: Les cluzeaux de falaise du Levant espagnol



TV report about Art in quarries in the television programme Vues sur Loire aired on France 3 (French TV), Saturday, February 16, Sunday, February 17 and Tuesday February 19


Saturday, February 16, at 16:15 p.m. on France 3 Centre

Sunday, February 17, at 11:30 a.m. on France 3 Pays-de-Loire

Tuesday February 19, at 10:10 a.m. on France 3 Paris-Ile-de-France, Centre, Bretagne, Pays-de-Loire, Haute-Normandie and Basse-Normandie


Just published : Cappadocia - Schede dei siti sotterranei / Records of the underground sites (bilingual Italian / English)



A new collaboration with our Italian colleagues, under the direction of Roberto Bixio who has conducted numerous explorations in Turkey. This volume presents previously unpublished data (including inter alia plans, photographs, catalogues, sources, geological analyses, water/drainage, travellers’ reports) gathered from recent major archaeological investigations into a number of important underground structures from the six districts that together form the territory historically known as ‘Cappadocia’ (eastern-central Turkey) – Aksaray, Kayseri, Kirsehir, Nevsehir, Nigde and Yozgat. Besides synthetic data (name, location, type, planimetrics), each of the 40 records detailed in this work includes a route-finder, historical and urban-setting notes, descriptions of the underground site and related plan based on instrumental surveys or sketches, bibliography.


British Archaeological Reports (BAR) S2413, edited by Roberto Bixio, published by Archaeopress, Oxford, 2012, maps, plans, schemas and photos, 278 p. ISBN 9781407310114


Archaeopress website


Lecture on the occasion of the « Salons de Choiseul », Lycée Choiseul and Médiathèque François Mitterrand, Tours (France), November 29, 2012 and December 1, 2012


Thursday November 29, 2012, Laurent will give a lecture on "Underground refuges and war tunnels (France, Vietnam, and Afghanistan)".


Saturday December, 1, 2012, Laurent will present a Chinese movie that shows the digging of war tunnels.



New topic in the Photo Library : Cave dwellings in Cappadocia


Cappadocia lies in the heart of Anatolian Plateau in Turkey. Whereas the main part of the high plateau is covered by steppe, some little valleys offer an extremely varied landscape : rose cliffs, rocky peaks and fairy chimneys. The authors of these spectacular landforms are the volcanoes with the help of water, frost and wind. These natural elements have carved a particular volcanic stone called tuff. This tuff with different colors, both resistant and soft, is everywhere in Cappadocia.  During the 4th century hermits have dug their cells, later monks have established their monasteries and the Byzantines have cut wonderful rock churches. In every place, inhabitants have dug houses, dovecotes or sheepfolds. Until the middle of the 20th century the population still lived in cave-dwellings.


In Cappadocia, natural elements and human activities have built a stunning  rock scenery.


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Presentation at the meeting of the International Union of Speleology Commission on Artificial Cavities, Torino (Italia) May 18, 19 and 20, 2012




We are members of “Commission on Artificial Cavities” of the International Union of Speleology. The Associazione Gruppi Speleologici Piemontesi and the Società Speleologica Italiana organize a meeting of the International Union of Speleology Commission on Artificial Cavities, in Torino (Italia) May 18, 19 and 20, 2012. This international workshop is about classification of the typologies of artificial cavities in the world.






Saturday May 19, 2012, Laurent will give a lecture on "Underground refuges and war tunnels (France, Cappadocia, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Lebanon)".


We have been studying underground cavities dug by man and especially underground refuges for 25 years. Thanks to this research we have betterunderstood the function and the organization of underground refuges in France and some other countries. Recently we have completed a synthetic work about the use of underground cavities during war, this study led to the book “La guerre souterraine” (underground warfare), published in 2011 by Perrin publishing house (Paris). Through this work, we are able to present  two categories of underground cavities dug by man during war : underground refuges and war tunnels.

For the two categories, we will present several examples of cavities dug in different countries and used at different times. We will begin our communication with the small underground refuges dug in North West and South West  of France (12th - 16th century). We will then present the village underground refuges that exist in Cappadocia (Turkey) (8th - 15th century), in North France (15th - 18th century) and in Vietnam (20th century). Next, we will also provide an overview of a contemporary variant of underground refuges : the high mountain underground complexes in Afghanistan (20th – 21st century). Last, we will present war tunnels used in Vietnam (20th century) and Lebanon (21st century).

Our purpose is to show that despite historical and geographic differences, all the cavities included in each of these categories present an important architectural unity. This common architecture is related to an identical function. We will also point out the existing differences between underground refuges and war tunnels.




Venue : Parco della Tesoriera, Corso Francia 192, Torino (Italia) at Associazione Gruppi Speleologici Piemontesi (AGSP). The Workshop will be open to public. For more information please contact : Mario Parise (m.parise@ba.irpi.cnr.it), Fabrizio Milla (fabrizio.fabus@libero.it).




Friday May 18, 2012

Arrival of participants

17.00: Meeting of UIS Commission on Artificial Cavities (participation open)
19.00 In memory of Luigi Barcellari


Saturday May 19, 2012

Introduction to the workshop (M. Parise)

Authorities welcome : Associazione Gruppi Speleologici Piemontesi, Società Speleologica Italiana, Union Internationale De Speleologie

The typological tree of artificial cavities : a contribution by the SSI Commission (C. Galeazzi)

Hydraulic works: the Map of the Ancient Underground Aqueducts (M. Parise)

Rupestrian settlements. An overview on some areas of the Mediterranean Basin (A. De Pascale)

The troglodytic castles of the Northern Vosges (France) (L. Stevens)
Underground refuges and war tunnels (L. Triolet)

Typologies of artificial caves: examples from Turkey (H. Egilmez)

A new type of rocky work: the Apiaries (R. Bixio)

Underground with Subterranea Britannica - site types and interests (M. Dixon)

Erdställe", artificial caves in Austria and Germany (D. Ahlborn)

The Ancien Mines & Quarries Census Project : a systematical approach to a missed heritage (C. Chiappino)

The Italian Cadastre of Artificial Cavities (M. Meneghini)

Artificial Caves as a possible danger : sinkholes and other effects at the surface (M. Parise)

Artificial and natural cavities, the two underground worlds. Which is the largest  ? ... (G. Badino)
17.00 : round table discussion

A system of classification for artificial cavities: updating of the Italian classification and outcomes from the workshop

18.00-18.30 - poster session

20.00 : Social dinner in a typical restaurant (not included in the workshop fee)


Sunday May 20, 2012

9.00-12.00 : Visit to the Museum Pietro Micca and the 1706 Torino siege. From the Museum we will have access to the underground gallery, a military structure 14-km long. www.museopietromicca.it





Meeting on the occasion of the publication of the book “La guerre souterraine” (underground warfare) at “La Boîte à Livres” (Tours, France) Monday, September 26, 2011 at 06 : 30 pm




Laurent will present our new book about underground warfare.


La Boîte à Livres, 19 rue nationale, 37000 Tours

tél. : - e-mail : info@boitealivres.comwebsite


Just published : La guerre souterraine (underground warfare)


La guerre souterraine (underground warfare), is published by éditions Perrin (Paris).


During troubled periods, all around the world, people dug underground passages (souterrains) to protect and defend themselves and also to attack the enemies.


This book presents a panorama of underground warfare around the world developed in the following chapters :

- underground cities dug in Cappadocia (Turkey) between the 8th and  the 15th century,
- underground refuges used in the west of France from the 12th to the 16th century,
- village underground refuges dug and used by the villagers in northern France between the 15th and the 18th century,
- methods of undermining in the world from the Antiquity to the 20th century,
- use of quarries  by soldiers in the north-east of France during the First World War,
- tunnel warfare in Vietnam during the Indochina war, then the Vietnam war (20th century),
- cave warfare in Algeria from the 19th century to the 20th century,
- high mountain complexes used by Mudjahideen and Taliban in Afghanistan during 20th and early 21th century,
- tunnels used at present in Lebanon and Gaza.



Thanks to more than 25 years of research and thought, this original synthesis is based on exploration, archaeological evidences and various testimonies. It is the first time that a book shows and explains how the circumstances lead populations or combatants to choose underground warfare.  


Lecture on Souterrains of Touraine, Musée René Descartes, Descartes (Indre-et-Loire, France) Sunday, September 18, 2011 at 02 : 30 pm



Laurent will give a lecture on Souterrains of Touraine illustrated with 50 pictures.


Musée René Descartes, 29 rue René Descartes, 37160 DESCARTES - tél. : 02 47 59 79 19 -  mail : musee@ville-descartes.fr  -  web site


New topic in the Photo Library : Quarries (creutes) during the First World War


During the First World War, from the beginning of the position war, in Northeastern France from Arras to Verdun, the armies of both camps were looking for shelters for their first line units, but also for their billets, their support units, their storages and their hospitals… In order to hold out against the great artillery power, the militaries colonized old subterranean quarries or dug large subterranean works.

Many period photographs show lifestyle in these subterranean shelters and so called creutes.

Visit the Photo Library


TV report about Art in quarries in the television programme Vues sur Loire aired Sunday, March 6 at 11:35 a.m. on France 3 Centre et Pays de la Loire (French TV)




See the film by Elise Charbey and Christophe Brousseau



New topic in the Photo Library : the Tunnels of Vietnam


During the Indochina war, then the Vietnam war, Viet-minh and Viet-cong fighters dug gigantic subterranean networks under Vietnamese villages and jungle. These war tunnels were used as shelter for fighters, protecting them from bombardments, enabling them to escape from mopping-up operations, to move secretly and to counter attack where they were not expected. So, at the time of the Têt offensive, the attack on Saigon started from the famous Cu Chi tunnels, set about 40 kilometres north of Saigon.

Elsewhere, Vietnamese people have dug village underground refuges in order to protect civilian population, fighters and storages of weapons and ammunition.


                                                                                               Visit the Photo Library




Presentation at the SFES symposium 11th-12th september 2010 in Loudun (Vienne, France)



The souterrain of the castle of La Roche-Clermault and its graffiti.


More information about the symposium


Photographic Exhibition Cave dwellings in the Loire valley Bibliothèque municipale de Saint-Pierre-des-Corps (France), March 30 – April 30, 2010



Souterrains du Centre-Ouest online







To browse and read the book online (in French)


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