from Huffington Post Posted: 04/02/2013 9:02 am EDT | Updated: 04/02/2013 2:32 pm EDT
Hell is a hard place to describe in detail, since, after all, going there would require dying first. But in an effort to find out what the ancient version of the underworld looked like, archaeologists may have unearthed the gateway to Hades.
According to the Italian news agency ANSA, a team of archeologists working in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis in southwestern Turkey claims to have located the Plutonium, or Pluto's Gate -- an ancient pilgrim site considered the entryway to the underworld. A small cave near the temple of Apollo, the Plutonium grew in association with death from deadly gases it emitted.
Francesco D'Andria of the University of Salento announced the discovery during a press conference in Turkey in mid-March, according to La Gazzetta Del Mezzogiorno.
D'Andria told Discovery News he also found remains of the temple, a pool used by pilgrims and a series of steps.
“We could see the cave's lethal properties during the excavation. Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by the carbon dioxide fumes,” D'Andria added, according to Discovery News.
Austin Considine explains for VICE that the cave is a natural phenomenon, and that similar "openings in the earth's crust" can be found elsewhere:
Such noxious portals are found around the globe. Undoubtedly the coolest, a modern day hell gate in Turkmenistan has been burning for over 40 years (the geologists who accidentally created it decided to light it on fire to protect locals from the gases, and it’s been burning ever since).
Famous authors such as Roman statesman Cicero and the Greek geographer Strabus wrote about the Plutonium during their respective eras. Alister Filippini, a researcher in Roman history at the Universities of Palermo, called the find at Hierapolis exceptional to Discovery News, saying "it confirms and clarifies the information we have from the ancient literary and historic sources.”
Hierapolis, near the modern Turkish city of Pamukkale, has been labeled a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sees more than 1.5 million visitors each year. Francesco D'Andria has been excavating in the area for years, and in 2011, he claimed to have located the tomb of Saint Philip, one of Jesus' apostles.