While it may seem that the scope of modern construction with its ‘pillars’ of concrete and glass has taken the progressive path, the vast ambit of ancient architecture had already traversed the advanced route by the sheer design prowess of some incredible buildings and structures (a few of which were even built more than 5,000 years ago). So, without further ado, let us check out 8 such unbelievably advanced ancient man-made structures that still manage to baffle us after millenniums have passed since their founding.
1) Gobekli Tepe, in Turkey (circa before 9000 BC) –
Located in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, the mysterious Gobekli Tepe (or ‘Potbelly Hill’) boasts of an archaeological mound that is 15 m (49 ft) in height and over 300 m (984 ft) in diameter. First identified in a survey conducted way back in the 1960’s, this tell (or mound) flaunted a series of limestone slabs and T-shaped pillars, some of which were over 30 ft tall. Intrigued by these imposing finds, the researchers had conducted their detailed stratigraphy tests to reveal that the site is at least 11,000 years old (or 6,000 years older than Stonehenge!). And oddly enough, in spite of this early neolithic date – when humans had still not developed major tools to take on such gargantuan projects, the advanced ancient structures were built (by mere manpower) in a site with no proximate water source.
In fact, the entire arrangement of these massive stones was seemingly ceremonial in nature, with no evidence of nearby walls, hearths, or houses that would shed light on the ‘domestic’ habitation side of affairs. This had led to the touting of the Gobekli Tepe as the ‘oldest human-built temple in the world’ (or even the oldest human construction). However, arguably more fascinating is the presence of numerous animal remains in the area, including gazelle and auroch bones – which suggests that over hundreds of workers laboring on the site subsisted on just foraging and hunting, as opposed to agriculture. To that end, the Gobekli Tepe constructions built by hunter-gatherers, might even predate the scope of agriculture itself!
2) Jericho, in Israel/Palestinian Authority (circa 9000 BC) –
Sometimes claimed as the ‘oldest continuously inhabited settlement‘ in the world, the city of Jericho stands as a testament to the triumph of human ‘ordered’ civilization over natural settings. To that end, the site of Jericho was already marked by nomadic hunters as a crucial place of gathering by 9000 BC; and these people might have also built some kind of a rudimentary shrine in the place. And this cradle of civilization now bolstered by an agricultural scope, was already founded by 8000 BC, with the examined ruins suggesting the advanced habitation patterns of regular townsfolk inside the ‘city’. This incredible transition from hardy nomadic tendencies to a bountiful sedentary lifestyle, is partly evident from the found remains of wheat, barley and even flint blades of sickles inside the settlement’s parameters. The ambit of irrigation is also suggested, with the prevalence of underground springs that lead to a strikingly green oasis in the barren waste bordering the River Jordan.
These impressive ancient remnants are complemented by the presence of more imposing ruins – comprising a huge 2,600 ft (or 800 m) long wall with a defensive circular tower of 30 ft diameter. The historians have even discovered the vestiges of an even grander settlement that was built upon the site in 7000 BC, after the mother-city was supposedly destroyed in fire. This scope of habitation has continued ever since with succession of walled towns in the vicinity, ranging from Herod’s Roman-style palace built in 1st century BC to Caliph Hashim’s opulent palace built in 8th century AD. There is also a religious angle thrown into this ancient architectural mix – with the long held tradition that Jesus himself was baptized at a site that was just 6 miles east of Jericho.
3) Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni, in Malta (circa 4000 BC) –
Simply put, the Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni located in the island of Malta, is the only known prehistoric underground temple in the world. Discovered quite accidentally in 1902 when some men were boring cisterns for a new housing development, the Hypogeum (literally translating to ‘underground’ in Greek) was found to have three superimposed levels of chambers, with the lowest level starting 10.6 m (35 ft) below the ground level. And, judging from its founding date of 4000 BC, suffice it to say, these subterranean chambers were painstakingly scooped out by using rudimentary equipment – like chert, flint and obsidian tools and antlers. Interestingly enough, from the architectural perspective, many of the chambers and rooms seemingly imitates the then-contemporary style of above-ground megalithic temples.
Now on the bizarre side, the Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni was probably built as some sort of an expansive underground sanctuary, but was gradually transformed into an ossuary – as is evident from the discovery of remains of more than 7,000 people that are ominously arrayed along the entrance way. However, the ‘piece de resistance’ of this fascinating specimen of ancient architecture arguably relates to its mind-boggling acoustic properties. To that end, male voices emanating at a range of 95 to 120 Hz range, can reverberate throughout the whole complex. And what’s more, if the male voice is kept at around the 110 Hz frequency mark, it results in a trance-like effect that resounds through the enclosed space and even might stimulate the ‘creative part’ of the human-brain!
4) Newgrange, in Ireland (circa 3200 BC) –
While not as celebrated as its neolithic cousin – the Stonehenge, the Newgrange in the Boyne Valley, County Meath, Ireland, is actually older than both the Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid at Giza, but no less mysterious. Originally attributed to the mythical Kings of Tara of ancient Ireland, the megalithic mound grave clearly gives an indication of the engineering prowess of the neolithic inhabitants of the area. To that end, the mound in question roughly covers an area of an acre, with its 55 ft long inner-passage connecting to a central chamber that further branches into three arms. This entire spatial scope is estimated to be covered by a cairn that contains an astronomical 200,000 metric tons (220,507 US tons) of loose stones. And if that was not enough, the imposing structure is wholly water-resistant, and is further ringed by an arrangement of standing stones.
As for the mysterious part – in spite of the absurdly extensive man-made structure, the mound grave only contains the remains of five people! Moreover, historians are still baffled by a bevy of unsolved factors. How were the standing stones transported to the site (or where they deposited by glaciers?)? How many people were actually involved in this monumental project (considering the relatively low population of the area)? Why are some of the stones decorated with distinctive geometric patterns, and yet hidden from view? And, on top of all these questions, the point of certainty hints at the specific orientation of the Newgrange that allows the rising winter solstice sun to shine along the path of the passageway and finally into the central chamber.
…continued on next page.