Since the Neolithic period began, humanity has gone a long way. We would learn to grow and collect food, domesticate animals, and eventually establish cities in the millennia to come. Those towns, temples, and monuments have long since been buried by the sands of time, but others have survived to amaze and even mystify us.
The tomb of Qin Shi Huang Di and the terra-cotta army
Consider yourself a farmer, tending the land and digging a well. You go about your business and break ground. You’ve gone quite a distance when you come across something surprising; dusting the soil, you discover a life-size clay soldier. That’s what farmers discovered outside of Xi’an, China, in 1974, and it went on to become one of the most important archaeological discovery in history.
Archaeologists uncovered 8,000 clay soldiers that formerly belonged to one of China’s most controversial monarchs, Qin Shi Huang Di—the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty—in the same region where the farmers broke ground. In 246 B.C., Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di ascended to the throne at the tender age of thirteen.
Horses standing four abreast are discovered by diggers
Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di constructed a clay army to accompany him to the afterlife, as was traditional at the time for new rulers to begin the construction of their graves. To complete the project, he used slave labor: an estimated 700,000 people were responsible for digging trenches and completing the project.
It was partly to increase his money and ego, which would later spark a revolt a decade after his death. Apart from his ego, Qin Shi Huang Di was in charge of the Qin standardized currencies, weights, and measures, which contributed to the state’s infrastructure and were ultimately attributed with the construction of the first version of the Great Wall.
Headaches are caused by Easter Island Heads
Easter Island is famous for one thing: the moai, also known as the Easter Island Heads. The stone figures, which stand 13 feet tall and weigh 14 tons, have been a source of consternation for European tourists since their discovery in 1722. Nobody knows why the natives of Easter Island (or Rapa Nui) built the structures in the first place.
It’s also unknown how anyone came to be on the island in the first place. The island is completely separated from any other landmasses and is said to have been inhabited between A.D. 800 and A.D. 1,200. South America is 2,300 miles away, and the next nearby island is 1,100 miles away. So, given the paucity of written history, what exactly is the function of the moai?
Native ancestors and chieftains could be represented by the statues
Despite the fact that the function of the stone figures is unknown, some experts believe the moai were built to honor the Rapa Nui people’s ancestors, such as chiefs and other prominent members in their community. But, in the absence of any recorded or oral history, the stone heads’ purpose remains a mystery.
What we do know is that, in contrast to the surrounding landmasses, the island developed its own distinct aesthetic and architectural culture. Rapa Nui culture is likewise said to have reached its cultural and social apex between the 10th and 16th centuries. Its decrease could be linked to severe changes in the island’s ecosystem, which have been brought about by over-exploitation of the island’s natural resources and the introduction of a destructive and invasive rodent species.
Machu Picchu was an unexpected find
Machu Picchu has long been a popular tourist attraction, inspiring a slew of Instagram and Tinder profile images for all to see. Despite the fact that everyone knows what the lost city is and where it is, no one knows why it exists. In any case, there’s no way of knowing for sure. Of course, not without some speculation.
Hiram Bingham, a Yale University professor and explorer, discovered the ruins of Machu Picchu on July 24, 1911, while on an expedition to examine claims about ancient Incan ruins in Peru. Bingham, on the other hand, had not expected to find a city on top of a concealed mountain. When Bingham first saw the city, he confused it for Vilcabamba, another vanished city. Archaeologists didn’t realize it was a completely different site until the 1960s.
Machu Picchu’s purpose is still (largely) unknown
Even though Machu Picchu was not the city Bingham was looking for, archaeologists and scholars alike are curious about its purpose. The first certainty is that Machu Picchu was erected around 1450 and could only accommodate 500 to 750 people. It’s thought that the wealthy and privileged used this little fortification as a hideaway from the bustling city at the mountain’s base.
Scholars also believe that a diverse group of people entered and exited the city. There found indications of head modeling, which is a common practice in Peru’s coastal areas and highlands. Pottery fragments and ceramics from as far away as Lake Titicaca were also found.
Göbekli Tepe is a Turkish archaeological site
Göbekli Tepe (pronounced Guh-behk-LEE TEH-peh) is regarded as the birthplace of religion and is one of the oldest archaeological sites in the world. The circular temple, which was discovered in 1994 and was built about 8,000 B.C., has T-shaped pillars portraying animals and human figures, some of which illustrate the performance of a ritualistic dance, leading many to believe the temple was a site of devotion.
The discovery of the temple rocks our understanding of civilization’s beginnings. Agriculture was thought to be the catalyst for the development of cities, art, writing, and religion. However, the discovery of Göbekli Tepe left everyone stunned, and many people still have reservations regarding the temple’s importance.
The temple is seven thousand years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza
What was even more amazing than discovering a nearly 12,000-year-old temple was learning that the builders were able to cut, shape, and transport stones weighing up to 16 tons without the use of wheels or domesticated animals. It’s thought that those who worshipped at Göbekli Tepe didn’t have access to writing, metal, or pottery, and that they were only just beginning to understand the concept of a spiritual world.
According to scientists, the humans who lived in the area were still hunter-gatherers, or foragers, who had not yet domesticated animals. Despite the amazing discovery, researchers are still trying to figure out what the temple meant and who worshipped there.
The tomb of King Tutankhamun
Many archaeologists assumed at the turn of the twentieth century that all of the treasures unearthed in the Valley of the Kings had been uncovered by the mid-to-late 1800s. Because of this deep belief, British archaeologist Howard Carter almost missed King Tutankhamun’s tomb entrance.
Carter and his colleagues, on the other hand, felt they were on to something special when they discovered a rubble-filled stairwell in Egypt. They uncovered unbroken seals of a royal tomb beneath the debris and stone, and inside was a treasure that would define the century: the Boy King’s tomb. Regardless of what we know about the young king, there is evidence that he wasn’t ideal.
King Tut was an incestuous child
Tutankhamun ascended to the throne at the age of nine and reigned for the next nine years, until his death at the age of 19, in 1324 B.C. Tutankhamun ruled during Egypt’s New Kingdom era, and his tomb was famed for its rich and immaculately preserved treasures, which included wooden chariots and gems.
Despite his hidden fortune, he was a sickly youngster who had contracted malaria and was crippled. King Tut had a clubfoot that necessitated the use of a cane, according to his bones. He was a freak of nature. His immune system was weakened, and he had a bone condition, which could have been caused by inbreeding between his mother and father, who were siblings.
Lalibela, Ethiopia: Bete Giyorgis
The Church of St. George, also known as Bete Giyorgis, is one of eleven stone churches that dot the Ethiopian city of Lalibela. The edifice, which is 50 feet tall and styled like a Greek cross, was built out of a single rock roughly 900 years ago. Aside from being surrounded by a man-made basin, the structure is ideally proportioned and attracts a pilgrimage of believers each year, as well as 80,000 to 100,000 visitors.
You’d assume that after 900 years of service, the church would no longer have services, but you’d be incorrect. The church is still open for weekly services and serves as a place of worship for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. It has its own oral history as well.
Lalibela was a king’s name
There is a legend around Ethiopia’s Lalibela, according to Atlas Obscura. It was claimed to be the name of a king who was in charge of the construction of the eleven churches. Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela was an Ethiopian saint who was born into the Zagwe Dynasty (r. ca. A.D. 1181-1221). The town was formerly known as Roha before the region was named after him.
According to legend, Lalibela was besieged by bees when he was a newborn. Lalibela’s name means “the bees respect his authority,” which was a sign that he would one day rule Ethiopia. Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela built his cathedrals over the course of 24 years, with the assistance of angels, according to legend.
Cholula’s Great Pyramid is one of the largest pyramids in the world
When the Spanish conquistadors arrived on the New World’s coasts, they were only looking for one thing: treasure. They swarmed in by the thousands, killing and pillaging every major city they came across. Then, on October 12th, 1519, they surged through Cholula, the place that bears their name today.
Cholula, unlike other cities, was a sacred site with a temple for each day of the year. When Hernan Cortez and his troops pillage every valuable object they come across, they also burn down the temples and build their own. The Iglesia de Nuestra Seora de los Remedios, a church, was one of those temples, which situated atop what many thought to be a large hill. They were mistaken.
The church was built on top of the pyramid
The Spaniards had no idea that the hill on which their church was built was actually a buried pyramid. Not just any buried pyramid, but the world’s largest pyramid. The Pyramid of Cholula is 1,500 feet wide and 216 feet tall, which is equivalent to nine Olympic-size swimming pools, and yes, it is even larger than the Pyramids of Giza.
The Choluteca, who built the pyramid approximately 300 B.C., was most likely responsible for its construction. According to legend, the pyramid is the largest structure ever built by any culture. If that isn’t amazing enough, consider the pyramid’s six tiers, one placed on top of the other. Tlachihualtepetl (“man-made mountain”) is how the natives refer to it.
Al-Hijr is a religious festival in Saudi Arabia
Do you want to visit Petra but are afraid of the crowds? Wish there was a Petra 2.0 to give your Instagram page a boost? Look no further than Al-Hijr (Mada’in Saleh) in Saudi Arabia. Unlike Petra, Al-Hijr is made up of a series of mountain-carved tombs dating from the first century B.C. to the first century A.D.
The Nabataeans, an ancient civilisation that lived between Syria and Arabia from the Euphrates River to the Red Sea, built the massive monuments. Al-Hijr is one of the lesser-known civilization’s best-preserved sites. There are 111 magnificent graves in the area, 94 of which are ornamented and have water wells surrounding them.
There are several tombs in Al-Hijr
Although Petra is still the Nabataeans’ capital (which is only six hours away), Al-Hijr (formerly known as Hegra) was the Nabataeans’ second city. The inscriptions inside the tomb give archaeologists a hint as to how long the city flourished, which was between 1 B.C. and 74 C.E., according to the inscriptions. As previously said, little is known about these ancient peoples.
We do know that they were nomadic people who mostly raised sheep, goats, and camels. The Qasr al Bint, or “Palace of the Daughter or Maiden,” is the largest tomb in Al-Hijr. If any of you decide to visit the rose-colored structures, don’t forget to tag us in your Instagram photo (a little history never hurts).
Stonehenge’s mystical aura
Oh, please! We were going to discuss about one of history’s most magical stone constructions, as you all know. How can we avoid discussing Stonehenge? Locals and visitors alike travel to the historic site for numerous reasons, since it is a monument steeped in mythology and awe. Stonehenge’s legend dates back to the reign of King Arthur, according to National Geographic.
The wizard Merlin crafted the stones, which were then erected by giants. Of course, there are a variety of hypotheses on why the tower was constructed. Some archaeologists and folklorists believe it was a healing center or a scientific observatory where the sun was measured. You might be surprised (or not) by the genuine answer.
The location may have been used as a memorial
The site began as a circular ditch made up of a pattern of wooden posts some 5,000 years ago. Around 2,600 B.C., 80 dolerite bluestones from Wales were added, and the arrangement was constantly altered until enormous sarsen stones were added several hundred years later.
However, some historians did not believe Stonehenge was a ceremonial location to memorialize the deceased until recently, in 2010. The discovery of a second Stonehenge-like site dubbed “Bluestonehenge” lends credence to the theory. Archaeologists believe that location could provide evidence that the two Stonehenges were built as memorials.
The Olmec Heads of Mexico
The Olmec civilization is the oldest Mesoamerican culture that has been discovered so far. The Olmecs are notable for building the first Mesoamerican towns, such as San Lorenzo and La Venta, which predate the Mayan and Aztec civilizations. Between between 1,200 and 400 B.C., they thrived along Mexico’s coast. The Olmecs were also famed for their agricultural prowess as well as their artistic abilities.
One of their most famous masterpieces were the Olmec heads. The Olmec heads, which are defined as head sculptures with indigenous male faces wearing helmets, have been discovered in seventeen different locations. The heads are massive, with the biggest standing at 10 feet tall and weighing in at 40 tons. What enabled such ancient peoples to achieve such a feat?
What was the purpose of the Olmec heads?
It took a long time to construct the Olmec heads. The stones were chiseled out of basalt boulders and blocks from a distance of around 50 kilometres. Sleds and even river rafts were employed to produce and transfer the stones, according to archaeologists. The mountains around San Lorenzo still bear witness to their labors.
Archaeologists believe the Olmecs carved into the stone with stone tools, which is a remarkable accomplishment in the absence of metal tools or hammers. What are the names of the people whose faces are engraved on the stone? They are thought to represent athletes or kings, according to the excavators. What’s more amazing is that there are remains of plaster and colors on the skulls, indicating that they were originally painted.
Petra’s “forgotten city”
Of course, the “lost city” of Petra would be mentioned in this piece. After all, it is one of the Modern World’s Seven Wonders. We know the city from movies, news, and social media platforms, but few people know why it was established in the first place or who built it.
Excuse us while we clench our fists, because we’re going to give you a fat (but not so fat) history lesson on Petra. What was the first lesson? Petra, like Al-Hijr, was built by the Nabataean empire between 400 B.C. and A.D. 106, and served as the empire’s capital and trading center.
The city still has a lot of hidden gems
Petra was ruled by ancient peoples who were skilled in water cultivation before the Roman Empire conquered Jordan (i.e., water capture, storage, and irrigation systems). The fact that archaeologists have merely scratched the surface of the ancient metropolis is even more remarkable. Only 15% of the city has been successfully excavated, with the rest 85% remaining beneath and unexplored.
The discovery of Greek scrolls from the Byzantine era in 1993 was one of the most thrilling discoveries. This excites future archaeologists, who have a strong desire to learn more about the ancient Middle East and the people who lived there.
El Castillo, also known as the Kukulcan Pyramid, is located in Chichén Itzá, Mexico.
The Pyramid of Kukulcan in Chichén Itzá is without a doubt one of the most proud monuments of the ancient Mayans and modern Mexicans. The pyramid is located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, roughly 120 miles from Cancun’s white sand beaches. The name of the city where the pyramid stands translates to “at the mouth of the Itzá’s well.”
What are the Itzá’s origins? The Mayans had an ethnic group known as the Itzá. The pyramid is an architectural marvel that was formerly devoted to Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god. It was not just a massive work of art produced by ancient Mesoamericans, but it also had astrological significance.
The 365 steps of the temple represented the days of the year
The temple has astronomical importance in addition to being a gorgeous piece of architecture. For example, the pyramid contains 365 steps, with 91 steps on each side and the platform being the 365th step, representing the number of days in a year. If the Mayans’ astrological prowess hasn’t yet astounded you, consider this: their pyramid takes the shape of a serpent. How?
On the spring and autumn equinoxes, a serpent-shaped shadow falls over the temple. The serpent’s shadow slithers down to the pyramid’s base as the sun sets. Isn’t it cool? The Mayans were not slackers when it came to STEM education, and they were also capable of calculating eclipses.
Cappadocia, Turkey’s Göreme National Park
What exactly are those chimney-like structures protruding from the ground? This would be Cappadocia’s Rock Sites, a region steeped in mystery and rich in history. These cavern-like buildings are made up of natural and man-made elements. The chimney-like structures were formed by erosion, which resulted in steep slopes and peaks that would eventually become houses for ancient and modern humans.
Between 1800 and 1200 B.C., the Hittite era, the Cappadocia region was populated. Regrettably for the people who lived in the region and its cities, Cappadocia was engulfed in a contentious battle between two empires twice throughout history.
People sought refuge from the ravages of war
The first struggle was between the Greeks and the Persians, while the second was between the Byzantine Greeks and the Persians. People in the Cappadocia region were forced to flee due to repeated wars. Caught between two empires, it was difficult not to get caught in the thick of a waking massacre, so ancient residents began digging beneath the rocks.
Up to eight floors of dwellings and storage rooms could be found inside. The tunnels included air vents that connected to the surface, much like an underground bunker. The tunnels were occasionally used as a means of seeking sanctuary as time progressed. Christians utilized the tunnels to flee Rome in the early days of Christianity in the fourth century.
Indonesia’s Prambanan Temple
There’s something about temples that rekindles your wanderlust and rekindles your love for antiquity. With its enormous spires and revered presence, the Prambanan Temple is nothing to sneeze at. This is a structure that inspires wonder and gratitude for those who put forth the effort to construct it.
The temple, which dates back to the 10th century A.D., is one of the greatest temple complexes dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and rebirth. The temple is one of four that make up the Prambanan Temple Compounds, which has 240 temples in all.
The Prambanan Temple is one of 240 temples on the island of Bali
The Prambanan Temple was more of a place of worship than a place of residence. The structure was erected on a four-square plot with four gates and surrounding walls. The other temples in the Prambanan Temple compound were built during Sailendra’s dynasty’s peak in the 8th century A.D., and were intended to house the Hindu triumvirate’s three gods.
Brahma and Vishnu, the other two gods, were in charge of the universe’s creation and preservation. The Ramayana, or “Rama’s Journey,” is found in each temple. The Ramayana is a short epic poem that tells the story of the birth of the Hindu hero Rama, who is known for his valor and nobility.
Puma Punku’s historic wonders
Yes, all you old alien aficionados out there, our final structural feature is none other than Puma Punku’s ruins. But can we really call them ruins? The “ruins” have been left in hauntingly good shape, leading people to wonder if they were man-made engineering feats or something else entirely.
The buildings were built with laser-like precision, and there are no signs of stone or metal tools in the sculpting on the ruins’ faces. What led to the creation of Puma Punku? Puma Punku is located in Tiahuanaco, Bolivia’s historic city, which had been abandoned for a long time when the Incans discovered it between A.D. 1300 and A.D. 1570.
The spot where everything began
Puma Punku was created by the Tiwanaku culture between A.D. 500 and A.D. 1000, according to archaeology.org. After that, it was renovated and used by the Incas. When the Incas acquired control of the city, they saw it as a sacred site where civilization began. The Inca believed it was a sacred area for ritualistic activities as they investigated the constructions.
The Inca later modified the room into a “memory theatre,” according to some analysts. It was also thought that the paintings showed the first couple to be born of “all ethnic groupings,” and that they served to lay the Inca governance basis.
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