What is it like to live underground?

Have you ever thought of living in underground homes? If not, we will soon have to, it looks like. Climate change air pollution, shrinking spaces and overcrowding may one day force us to burrow underground like moles! What is it like to live underground? Come, let’s find out from modern-day troglodytes.

From the time of the Neanderthals around 1.00.000 years ago, human beings have lived in caves. A cave is a hollow area in the earth that has formed naturally. It may consist of a single chamber that is not very far from the surface, or a network of passages and chambers that may descend deep under the ground and nun for many miles.

Troglodyte tales

A human cave-dweller is called a troglodyte Are there any modern-day troglodytes? Yes and they are found in a number of countries, ranging from Tunisia, Iran and China to Italy and Turkey!

In Tunisia’s  Matmata, located in the arid Djebel Dahar region, the Berbers have lived in underground homes for centuries. The houses protect them from the extreme desert cold and heat remaining cool in summer and cosy in winter. They are built by digging a deep circular pit in the soft sandstone. Then cave-like rooms are excavated around the edges of the pit. The main pit is a courtyard open to the sky.

In the 1960s, unexpectedly heavy downpours flooded the area, destroying or damaging the underground dwellings. The Tunisian government encouraged the Berbers to settle in towns and cities.

The houses became a tourist attraction after one of them featured as Luke Skywalkers home in a Star Wars film. Today, only a handful of families who are reluctant to move away from their land and homes, remain in Matmata.

Wherever people have constructed cave dwellings, whether it is Matmata, Iran’s Kandovan, Turkey’s Cappadocia, or Italy’s Matera, the landscape has lent itself to easy digging and excavation. Kandovan and Cappadocia both have caves hollowed out of volcanic ash and debris, while in Matera, it is pliable limestone. In China’s Shanxi province, the cave houses are built from loess, fine particles of soil.

Opal City

In Coober Pedy an Australian opal mining town, the residents went underground to escape the dust storms and searing summer heat (47°C). They cut into the sandstone mounds to make their dugouts. After tunnelling out the rooms, lacquer was applied to the walls and concrete floor  laid. All modern dugouts have wall-to-wall carpeting, furnishings running water and electricity

Underground, the temperature remains constant all year round at 24°C (controlled by air ventilation shafts). Except for the dim light, the faint echoes and the mild smell of salt from the earth, life is not much different from that above ground. The only drawback is the dust!

Mole people

Of course, in all these places, living underground is tolerable not only because electricity and water are available, but also because the inhabitants know they can come to the surface if they crave sunshine and fresh air Would humans adapt so well if they had to live entirely under the earth 24/7? The lack of sunlight is the biggest concern in living underground Sunlight is necessary for growing food crops and stimulating the production of Vitamin D in the human body Vitamin D is essential to maintain bone health.

Another danger is Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD which affects people in winter when the days are long and dark

When isolated in caves without light humans have been observed to sleep for 48 hours at a stretch! Artificial lights to regulate Circadian rhythms would be needed

Most humans have a natural fear of being buried alive in confined underground spaces. So going underground is physically possible and an ecologically sound idea, but it may cause psychological stress.

Picture Credit: Google

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *