When archaeologists opened the 'Gateway to Hell', they never anticipated how soon its infernal guardians would emerge.
Archeologists discovered ancient ruins that match historical descriptions of the mythical ‘Gates of Hell’ earlier this year in south-western Turkey.
A team led by Italian Francesco D’Andria discovered what they believe to be the ruins of the Plutonium in the ancient city of Hierapolis, now a part of a volcanic-spring resort town.
According to Greek and Roman legend, steps used to lead down to a cave doorway filled with deadly gasses.
“Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last breath and fell”, described Greek geographer Strabo in around 64 BCE.
Just as the historic texts noted, D’Andria noticed the cave’s toxic properties during his team’s discovery.
“Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by the carbon dioxide fumes”, he said.
The famed archeologist, who claims to have also discovered the tomb of one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, says only priests were allowed to stand in front of the mythical portal to the underworld.
Over the past year, D'Andria's team has worked to carefully unearth more ancient relics, and know they've found Hell's guardians.
Two marble statues have been uncovered - a coiled snake and the three-headed watchdog of Hell - both of which are said to have been a warning for sightseers from the sacred and toxic cave.
"It's a pretty scary statue," D'Andria said.
"One depicts a snake, a clear symbol of the underworld, the other shows Kerberos, or Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog of hell in the Greek mythology."
Excavations revealed a courtyard which was said to have been a gathering place for priests and pilgrims wanting to connect with the deceased.
Priests often sacrificed bulls to underworld god Pluto while hallucinating madly from the fumes, suggested D’Andria.
Pilgrims were also given small birds to test the toxic environment of the cave before watching the priests make dedications to the underworld gods.
After the discovery of Ionic columns inscribed with dedications to Pluto and Kore, archeologists now believe a large statue recovered from the site, previously believed to have depicted Apollo, is actually of underworld god Hades.
The site became an important pilgrimage destination for pagan intellectuals before it suffered extensive damage from several earthquakes and attacks by Christians in the sixth century.