Salt of the earth: The 5,000-year-old mines inside caves and tunnels in Turkey which are still in use today

From the surface there is nothing special about the hilly countryside around the city of Cankiri in Turkey.
However 1,300ft below ground is a stunning salt mine which was first dug by primitive humans around 5,000 years ago.
Despite its incredible age the mine is still in use today and produces more then 500 tonnes of salt each year which is used in cooking and for a range of souvenirs.

This is the salt mine outside of Cankiri in Turkey which began being mined in 300BC and is still in use today

The original miners were Hittites, an ancient race of people who had an empire in the Middle East and used primitive tools and their hands to extract the salt

The pictures were taken by Melih Sular, 32, as part of the 2013 National geographic photography cometition
According to a 1971-79 survey there is still more than 1billion tonnes of ore left in the mine, which is extracted using machines and underground blasting.
These pictures were taken by Melih Sular, 32, who was guided through the caves by Murat Danaci as part of the National Geographic photography contest.
He said: 'When I first entered the salt cave I was afraid. I thought to myself: "What happens if it collapses?"

The mine produces about 500 tonnes of salt every day which is sold on for use in cooking and as souvenirs

While temperatures on the surface regularly reach 91F (33C) they rarely stray above 59F (15C) in the caves

At its deepest point the mine extends down more than 1,300ft (400m) below the ground

The Hittites who first mined here in 3000BC, had an empire which reached from Turkey into Syria and Iraq

The 16-strong workforce use digging machines and dynamite blasts to extract the salt from the clay soil

Despite its age a survey in 1979 showed the mine had more than 1billion tonnes of ore still left

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