We got used to our technological world so much that we often forget what it took us to create it. Wheel, light bulb, electricity, sophisticated mechanisms, megalopolises, skyscrapers, wi-fi, Internet, social media, credit cards, airplanes...we tend to take it all for granted. In fact, it took us thousands of years to come to these inventions and we owe everything we have to visionaries who lived before us and who are living among us today.
Needless to say, life in the past wasn't easy. Just imagine yourself living in the Middle Ages when your village could be burnt to the ground at any moment. Or imagine yourself a prehistoric hunter, who has no home and is destined to wander for the whole life gathering food and looking for shelter. Maybe it's interesting to imagine these things, but most certainly you wouldn't want to experience them.
Fortunately for us, we can now see many of the ancient places of the world, learn their history and try to feel their spirit, without being threatened by the hazards of times when they were established.
There are many world-famous ancient places which most of us have heard of. They include: Chichén Itzá (Mexico, 500 A.D.), The Great Wall of China (construction started 3rd century B.C. in China), Roman Forum (constructions started to appear in 800 B.C in Rome, Italy), Athens in Greece (earliest inhabitants settled in 1,400 B.C.), Pyramids of Giza (Egypt, 2,500 B.C.), Stonehenge (United Kingdom, 3,000 B.C.).
In this article we will take a look at less popular, but no less interesting places the age of which starts with 200 B.C. and ends with 3.6 billion years old. Ready for a little time travel? Let's go!
According to Sacred Sites:
“The kingdoms of Bagan date to the early second century BC, yet the region entered its golden age much later, during the region of King Anawrahta in 1057.”
The Bagan kings and Theravada Buddhism followers built over 10,000 stupas between the 9th and 13th centuries A.D. Unfortunately the kingdom has fallen under the fierce attacks of Mongols in the 13th century. The temples that you can visit now are only 1/5 of the original number. Nevertheless, visitors say that temples of Bagan can easily compete with beauty and majesty of Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia.
Sigiriya is considered to be one of the most valuable attractions and historical monuments of Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan people admire it so much that they consider it the Eighth Wonder of the world.
Sigiriya is an ancient palace and fortress complex which has archaeological importance and attracts many tourists each year. Since 3rd century B.C. there was a monastery on this plateau. In the 5th century B.C. king Kasyapa erected a royal residence here, but after his death, it was turned into a monastery once again until becoming abandoned in the 14th century.
It's located 370 meters above the sea level and 200 meters higher than jungles which surround it so you need to apply some efforts to climb it. But the view and feeling you get on the top are totally worth it.
Back in the third century B.C., this city was one of the biggest trading centers in the world. Luckily for us, we can still see the ruins of this city today, and they're actually the best-preserved ruins of its kind. After all these centuries, you can still see the House of Commons and the Triumphal Arc of Caracalla.
Volubilis was the most remote city of the Roman Empire and an administrative center of the kingdom of Mauretania. Now it bears only a weak reminiscence of the Roman Empire's past glory.
If most of the destinations on the list are unknown to the average man, Petra in Jordan certainly doesn't belong to this category. The ruins of this ancient city date back to the 4th century B.C. and now serve as a popular tourist attraction and important archaeological site.
Located 150 miles south of Amman and Jerusalem and about midway between Syria, Damascus and the Red Sea it was this area's main hub of commerce. In 1985 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you ever travel to Jerusalem, make sure to visit Petra as well.
The ancient and glorious city of Pompeii was lost to the world after the massive eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which covered it in a thick layer of volcanic ash. However, after the site was discovered by architects in the 19th century, it very soon became the most-visited archaeological site in the world. Even Pink Floyd played there!
It was originally founded by Osci Tribe long before the Christ Era, but the Romans captured Pompeii during the Peninsula's Social War, transforming it into a Roman Colony. Because the city was completely buried by volcanoes' eruption, it was totally fossilized, which preserved not only buildings and objects but even people. Studying these objects and people, archaeologists were able to reconstruct the last moments of Pompeiians’ life.
We're going deeper and deeper into history and our next stop is Tak’alik Ab’aj in Guatemala. As you know, Guatemala is one of the key areas of Mayan culture and there are many Mayan archaeological sites there (with Tikal Temple being the most famous one). However, Tak’alik Ab’aj is one of the oldest one. It was first occupied about 1,000 B.C., but started to flourish only in the 1st century A.D. Tak’alik Ab’aj shows distinctive Maya and Olmec features.
The ancient city that you can find in this area right now was called Yax Mutal and it was built between the 2nd and 9th century A.D.
In the introduction I have already given a list of ancient sites which most of the people know about, so including the ancient pyramids of Giza would be boring. However, not including any Egyptian city in the list would be disrespectful in regards to Egypt's contribution to the World Heritage and culture.
The city we're going to take a look at is called Heracleion. It was an ancient Egyptian trading port, which was established in the 12th century B.C. or even earlier. In the late period of ancient Egypt, it was the main port for international trade in the country. Located 32 kilometers northeast of Alexandria, its ruins are located 10 meters underwater, so you will find it quite difficult to visit it right now.
The city vanished at the end of the 2nd century B.C. when its buildings collapsed into the water because of liquefaction. At the end of the 8th century A.D., everything that remained of the city has sunken beneath the sea completely.
Lisbon, Portugal is one of the most visited cities in Europe, but did you know that its origins are that ancient? In fact, it's one of the oldest cities in western Europe. Its history stretches back to indigenous Iberians, the Celts, and the eventual establishment of Greek and Phoenician trading posts between the 8th and 6th century B.C.
The city was named after the legacy of Ulysses, protagonist of The Odyssey and it was considered to be the edge of the world until the 16th century. Unfortunately, you can't see the remains from the B.C. era Lisbon today, because almost all of the ancient architecture was destroyed by a big earthquake in the 18th century. However, the modern city is very beautiful too and it still breathes history.
India is one of the cradles of mankind, so it would be strange not to include its ancient cities on the list. Although there are cities more ancient then Varanasi, I decided to include it in the list because of its cultural and spiritual significance.
According to the legend, Varanasi was founded by the god Shiva himself, and even though it is considered to be established in the 17th century B.C., there are signs of life from as early as 11,000 BC. No matter the actual figures, the fact is that it's still one of the oldest cities of India which has all chances to steal the spiritual seeker's heart.
China's role in the development of mankind is difficult to overestimate and one of the ancient Chinese cities which played a vital role in this development is called Luoyang. This historic city in central China is often credited as the origin of Chinese civilization. It was once home to 9 ruling dynasties, China's first Buddhist temple and the residence for imperial kings.
It's an important place for those who study country's Buddhist history, want to know more about the history of ancient China in general and just seek the unusual feelings which ancient places like this induce.
When people hear about the ancient sights of Peru, they most probably think about Machu Picchu. While being very beautiful and significant, Machu Picchu is not that ancient (it was built in the 15th century A.D.) compared to the ruins of Caral which are also situated in Peru.
Caral is one of Americas' oldest urban centers. Since no weapons, mutilated bodies and battlements were found from the excavation sites, archaeologists suggested that this place was home to a gentle society involved in pleasures, music, and commerce. We will probably never find out if it's true or not.
It is believed that Jerusalem has ancient origins and was created between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago. But most of the people know Jerusalem as a nexus of the world's most influential religions, rather than a truly ancient city. In fact, it's both and while being in Jerusalem you can visit various holy places and feel the incredible age of this place.
Unfortunately, because of the modern-day urban development, cultural turmoil and an excessive number of tourists, Jerusalem's Old City was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in danger.
Now we're crossing the border of 3,000 years before the Christ Era, because of ancient Ġgantija date back to 3,600 years B.C. They are one of the oldest Neolithic structures in the world and they're older than the city of Jerusalem and the famous pyramids of Egypt.
Located on the Mediterranean island of Gozo they are the earliest of Malta's Megalithic Temples. They are also the second oldest man-made religious structure after Göbekli Tepe that we will take a look at later. According to National Tokens:
'The temples are elements of a ceremonial site at a fertility rate. According to local Gozitan folklore, a giantess who ate nothing but broad beans and honey bore a child from a man of the common people. With the child hanging from her shoulder, she built these temples and used them as places of worship.'
Earlier, we have traveled to one of the most ancient cities in Western Europe, Lisbon in Portugal, but there's a city in Eastern Europe which is much older than Lisbon. The first evidence of habitation in Plovdiv, Bulgaria date back to 6,000 B.C. Nebel Tepe is one of the hills of the city where the ancient town was founded 4,000 B.C. The sight was first settled by Thracians, but later became a part of the Roman empire and was subsequently invaded by Persians, Celts, Goths, Greeks, Slavs, Huns, Crusaders and Turks.
Today it's the second largest city in Bulgaria, with beautiful architecture, attractions and an Old Town where you can feel the glory of its old days.
Shush, also known as Susa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in western Iran. This city was founded and inhabited by Elamite Parthian and Persian empires and was mentioned in the Bible as the city where Haman planned to banish the Jews. Because in the past one could find the abundance of lilies in this city, in Hebrew, the city's name means 'water lily'.
If you'll have a chance to visit this ancient sight make sure to see the tomb of Daniel, where the Biblical prophet Daniel is buried, Tchogha Zanbil as well as ancient palaces and castles situated in the area.
This is a Neolithic monument located on the Kernéléhen peninsula in France. It dates back to 4,800 B.C. and along with Ġgantija Temples is one of the earliest megalithic monuments in Europe and man-made structures in the world.
Today Barnenez is 8 meters high, 25 metes wide and 72 meters long. It took about 14,000 tons of stone to build this monument. It contains 11 chambers with separate passages and overlooks the Bay of Moralix.
Compared to Ġgantija Temples and Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, which we will take a look at later, Barnenez looks just like an old pile of stones so better hire a guide to tell you the story of this place if you plan going there.
Today, Sidon is the third-largest city in Lebanon located on the Mediterranean coast, 40 kilometers south of the country's capital, Beirut. The name of the city has Biblical origins, because, in the Book of Genesis, Sidon was the first-born son of Canaan, who was Ham's son, which makes Sidon a great-grandson of Noah.
The history of this city dates back to 8,800 - 7,000 B.C. when it was first inhabited. Since 5,000 - 4,000 B.C. it was continuously occupied. Sidon is credited with the origin of the Phoenician alphabet, the predecessor of modern Hebrew.
We're getting closer to the most ancient places on Earth and one of them is Jericho which has been constantly inhabited for more than 10,000 years. It is situated not far from Jordan River and because of water supplies and warm climate it started attracting hunting tribes thousands of years ago.
You can still find the remains of ancient civilizations around Jericho today. It includes the archaeological ruins at Tell es-Sultan and the Mount of Temptation Monastery. The protective wall of Jericho was built 10,000 years ago, and it's the oldest wall of such kind on our planet.
Göbekli Tepe is the world's most ancient religious site which dates back to 11,000 B.C. It was discovered in the 1960s', but its significance was realized only in 1994. Göbekli Tepe is changing our understanding of our the entire history of humanity because until recently we thought that humans started building cities and settling in permanent locations 10,000 years ago. But the fact, that this temple was built 1000 earlier, makes this assertion false and means that humans started to build permanent settlements and cities even earlier. Just think about, this temple predates writing, Sumer, and Stonehenge by over 6,000 years!
It wouldn't be an exaggeration if we say that Göbekli Tepe is one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made. Luckily for us, we can now visit it as tourists.
The area of Shark Bay is a region of Western Australia the history of which dates back to 22,000 years ago when it was first occupied by Aboriginal people. And you can still find one of the earliest forms of life on Earth here. There are only a few places like this on Earth.
UNESCO's official listing of Shark Bay as a World Heritage Site reads:
'Shark Bay’s waters, islands, and peninsulas....have a number of exceptional natural features, including one of the largest and most diverse seagrass beds in the world. However, it is for its stromatolites (colonies of microbial mats that form hard, dome-shaped deposits which are said to be the oldest life forms on earth), that the property is most renowned. The property is also famous for its rich marine life including a large population of dugongs, and provides a refuge for a number of other globally threatened species.'
An Indonesian island of Sulawesi has The Cave of Pettakere which takes us even farther in time because it features 26 primitive stencils of hands which are estimated to have been made 39,900 years ago. There is actually not just one cave, but a whole cave complex which is located 12 kilometers from the town of Maros. These caves can be reached only by climbing a 30-meter ladder above a rice field.
Inside the entrance, on the roof, there are 26 white and red hand prints. Some of the hands are missing a thumb and historians suggest that the reason for this was an ancient tradition when the finger was cut off after the elder died. Historians also think, that the symbol of hand supposed to ward off wild animals and evil forces.
To reach millions of years in the past we need to go to The Cradle of Humankind. It's a unique place near Johannesburg in Africa which has some of the oldest hominin fossils ever found. In fact, it's home to about 40% of the world's human ancestor fossils including Australopithecus africanus called Mrs. Ples, who lived about 2.3 million years ago.
In addition to this, there is a rich diversity of plants, birds in animals in this place and you can even discover wildlife experience, enjoy some extreme activities or arrange a beautiful wedding here. Unexpected for a museum with ancient hominin fossils, isn't it?
And now, we're entering the era when no human-like creatures were walking Earth. There were no humans, but there were seas, oceans, mountains, lakes, volcanoes, deserts and pre-historic organisms.
One of the natural objects which know how the world looked like 25 million years ago is a beautiful lake Baikal in Russia. It's not just the world's oldest lake, but it also the world's deepest and largest lake. The beautiful photo which you see above shows the turquoise ice boulders formed on the like during winter.
All of us know about the Amazon Rainforest, but few people know that it's not only the world's largest tropical forest but also the oldest. It was formed 55 million years ago, which makes Baikal lake look like a 'little boy'. First humans moved in the Amazon Rainforest about 11,200 years ago.
Just imagine for a second how the Earth looked like 55 million years ago. No megalopolises, no settlements, no humans, even no wif-fi and Facebook! The kingdom of pristine and silent nature. I think we need a little bit of that in our times.
But there's something even more ancient than the Amazon Rainforest and it's the Namib desert which was formed between 55 and 80 million years. It's the oldest desert in the world and a very beautiful one.
Is there something older than this dessert? Of course! The Barberton Greenstone Belt in South Africa is the oldest mountain range in the world (3.6 billion years) and the oldest objects found on Earth are the zircon crystals from Western Australia’s Jack Hills. They are 4.4 billion years old.
And just in case you have forgotten. The Earth that you step on every day, this same Earth that holds 7.53 billion of people is 4.53 billion years old. That's one hell an ancient spaceship we live in!
References: The Culture Trip, Hujiang, House Beautiful, Trip Savvy, Travel Triangle, CNTraveler, The Active Times, History