The world is littered with the ancient ruins of man-made cities and settlements that stretch back thousands of years. Represented are 100 ruins that embody some of the outstanding achievements of humanity across various cultures and civilisations.
1 – Por-Bazhyn – The Mysterious Island Fortress in Siberia
Por-Bazhyn, meaning “Clay House” in the Tuvan language are the remains of an adobe monastery or a fortified palace, that was built on a small island in Lake Tere-Khol, located in the Sengelen mountains of southern Siberia, Russia. Radiocarbon dating and dendrochronological studies suggest that Por-Bazhyn was built around AD 777 by the Uighurs, a tribal confederation under the Orkhon Uyghur that ruled from AD 742 to 848.
2 – Rujm el-Hiri – the “Stonehenge of the Levant”
Rujm el-Hiri (meaning “”stone heap of the wild cat”), also called Gilgal Refā’īm (meaning “wheel of spirits”), is an ancient megalithic monument, located in the Israeli-occupied region of the Golan Heights. Archaeologists dating sediment eolian samples, and the study of pottery sherds excavated in situ, suggest it was constructed either during the Early Bronze Age II around 3000 to 2700 BC, or from the Chalcolithic–Early Bronze Age I between 3880– 3540 BC (although there is still no consensus).
3 – The Sunken Town of Pavlopetri
Pavlopetri, also called Paulopetri, is a submerged ancient town, located between the islet of Pavlopetri and the Pounta coast of Laconia, on the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece. Ceramics recovered in situ confirms that Pavlopetri had Mycenaean occupation, but further archaeological evidence suggests that the town was occupied as early as 3500 BC.
4 – The Ancient Egyptian Pyramids
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramids are described as pyramid-shaped monuments, constructed mostly as funerary tombs and ceremonial complexes for the departed pharaohs during the Old Kingdom (2575 BC to 2150 BC) and Middle Kingdom (2050-1550 BC) periods. To date, approximately 118 pyramids of various definitions have been discovered across Egypt (although sources differ with some citing 138), mainly sited on the west bank of the River Nile and grouped into several clusters or pyramid fields.
5 – Herodium – The Palace Fortress of King Herod
The Herodium, also called Har Hordus (meaning “Mount Herodes”), is an archaeological site and ancient palace fortress, located at Ar-Rahniah in the Judaean Desert on the West Bank. The Herodium was built on an extended hill at a site Herod supposedly fought against Jews loyal to his enemy Antigonus (the last Hasmonean king), emerging victorious. Contemporary accounts by the Roman Jewish historian Josephus, stated that Herod “built a town on that spot in commemoration of his victory, and enhanced it with wonderful palaces… and he called it Herodium after himself”.
6 – Ġgantija – The Megalithic Temple Complex
Ġgantija is an archaeological site, and ancient Neolithic temple complex located on the Xagħra plateau in the Mediterranean island of Gozo, in the Republic of Malta. Evidence of occupation on the island dates from as early as 5000 BC, during the Għar Dalam phase in the Early Neolithic Period, with a later wave of settlers to the island, who started a temple building phase during the 4th millennium BC.
7 – Siq al-Barid – ‘Little Petra’
Siq al-Barid, also called ‘Little Petra’ is a Nabataean site in the Ma’an Governorate of Jordan that features rock cut tombs, stone-built architecture, and a complex system of hydrological engineering. Siq al-Barid was founded by the Nabataeans (also called Nabateans), a nomadic Bedouin tribe from the Arabian Desert who moved their herds across the desert in search of pastures and water.
8 – The Great Serpent Mound
The Great Serpent Mound is a large mound effigy representing a snake with a curled tail, that was constructed on the site of a classic astrobleme formed from the impact crater of an eroded meteorite that impacted less than 320 million years in the state of Ohio in the United States. Historically, the mound was attributed to the Adena culture (1000 BC – 100 AD), with construction suggested between 381 BC and 44 BC based on Adena Gorgets and points excavated from the mound, but more recent studies from 1996 propose the Fort Ancient Culture (1000 to 1750 AD), with a construction date of AD 1070.
9 – The Roman Villa of Tiberius
The Villa of Tiberius is a ruined Roman villa complex located in the present-day town of Sperlonga, in the province of Latina on the western coast of Italy. The villa hosted elaborate dinner parties, with the focal centrepiece being a large natural cave containing a rectangular and circular pool, embellished with coloured opus sectile flooring, artificial stalactites and encrustations, statues called the Sperlonga sculptures, and a triclinium (a dining space with couches) centred on an island in the caves mouth.
10 – Sarmizegetusa Regia – The Mountain Capital of the Dacians
Sarmizegetusa Regia was the capital and political centre of the Dacians, located in the Orăştie Mountains of the Grădiștea Muncelului Natural Park, in present-day Romania. During the reign of the Thracian King Burebista (82/61 BC to 45/44 BC), the Getae and Dacian tribes were unified into the Dacian Kingdom, with the capital being moved to Sarmizegetusa Regia (possibly from the Geto-Dacian stronghold at Argedava).
11 – Noushabad – The Hidden Underground City
Noushabed, also called Oeei or Ouyim is an ancient subterranean city, built beneath the small town of Nushabad in present-day Iran. The earliest parts of the city were constructed sometime during the Sassanid period between AD 224 to 651 and continued to be excavated during the post-Islamic era, with evidence of occupation lasting until the Qajar dynasty.
12 – Ketl – The Great House
Chetro Ketl is an archaeological site, and the ancient ruins of an Ancestral Puebloan settlement, located in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico, United States of America. Chetro Ketl was built over an extended period beginning in AD 990, with construction largely completed by AD 1075. The plan of the complex resembles a D-shaped structure covering nearly 3 acres and consists of 400 rooms with several large kiva used by Puebloans for rites and political meetings, often associated with the kachina belief system.
13 – Teōtīhuacān – Birthplace of the Gods
Teōtīhuacān, named by the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs, and loosely translated as “birthplace of the gods” is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in the Teotihuacan Valley of the Free and Sovereign State of Mexico, in present-day Mexico. The development of Teōtīhuacān can be identified by four distinct consecutive phases, known as Teōtīhuacān I, II, III, and IV, with phase I starting around 200 – 100 BC during the Late Formative era, when the inhabitants coalesced around sacred springs in the basin of the Teōtīhuacān Valley.
14 – Kerma – The Ancient African Kingdom
Kerma, also called Karmah is an archaeological site and the former capital of the ancient Kerma Kingdom, located in the Dongola Reach above the Third Cataract of the River Nile in present-day Sudan. The Kingdom of Kerma was an indigenous Nilotic culture that emerged around the mid-third millennium BC, most likely from the C-Group culture in the southern part of Upper Nubia. At its peak, the kingdom controlled several Cataracts of the Nile, covering territory almost as extensive as that of its Egyptian neighbours.
15 – Göbekli Tepe
Göbekli Tepe is an archaeological site and multi-phase tell, believed to be the oldest known Mesolithic temple complex, located in the South-eastern Anatolia Region of Turkey. The main structures identified have been dated to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) from around the 10th millennium BC, with further remains of smaller buildings from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), dated to the 9th millennium BC.
16 – The Prehistoric Altar of Monte D’Accoddi
Monte d’Accoddi is an ancient prehistoric complex, located on a hill in the Flumenargia territory, in the Sassari area of Sardinia. Studies of the monument have described Monte d’Accoddi as a prehistoric altar, a viewing platform, a step pyramid, or even an ancient architectural ziggurat. The site consists of two primary phases, with the earliest period of construction dating from around 4,000–3,650 BC and is generally associated with the Ozieri (also known as the “culture of St. Michael”) which was a prehistoric pre-Nuragic Hunter-gatherer culture later mixed with husbandry and agriculture.
17 – Rani ki vav – The Inverted Stepwell Temple
Rani ki vav is an ancient stepwell temple located on the banks of the Saraswati River, in the Gujarat state of India. The temple was constructed during the 11th century AD and is attributed to the Chaulukya dynasty (also known as the Chalukyas of Gujarat or the Solanki dynasty) which ruled parts of what is now Gujarat and Rajasthan in north-western India.
18 – Nemrut
Nemrut is a mountain in the Taurus Mountain range that separates the Mediterranean coastal region from the central Anatolian Plateau in southern Turkey. In 62 BC, King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene constructed a tomb-sanctuary on the summit of the mountain, at an elevation of 2,134 metres. During his reign, Antiochus created his own cult to be worshiped after his death in a Greek form fused with Zoroastrianism. In an inscription, he decreed that his tomb would be constructed in a remote place close to the gods, with him being deified and worshipped among their ranks.
19 – Akrotiri
Akrotiri is an archaeological site and a Cycladic Bronze Age town, located on the Greek island of Santorini (Thera) near the present-day village of Akrotiri (for which the prehistoric site is named). The earliest evidence for habitation at Akrotiri suggests a small settlement that relied on agriculture and animal husbandry, which developed into a prosperous trading hub with Minoan influences (evident by inscriptions in Linear A, the writing system of the Minoans and Minoan monkeys in a fresco) during the 3rd millennium BC. The town was destroyed during the Theran eruption, also called the Minoan eruption sometime in the 16th century BC, that devastated the island and communities on nearby islands and the coast of Crete.
20 – Longyou Caves
Longyou Caves is a complex of 24 artificial caves, constructed into the sandstone geology of Fenghuang Hill in the Zhejiang province of China. The five caverns, independent from each other measure between 18-34 metres, reaching heights of up to 20 metres with supporting pillars and distinctive shapes curved with shaking imprints across the cavern walls and ceilings. Few historical records or archaeological evidence has been found to definitively date the caves, but archaeologists have recovered glazed clay pots in the silt soils of the cavern floor, dated to the Western Han Dynasty from 206 BC to AD 23.
21 – Petra
Petra is an archaeological site and ancient city of the Nabataeans, located around the mountain of Jabal Al-Madbah in southern Jordan. Petra, originally named Raqmu was founded by the Nabataeans (also called Nabateans), a nomadic Bedouin tribe from the Arabian Desert who moved their herds across the desert in search of pasture and water. The city grew into the proposed centre or capital of the Nabatean kingdom, and swelled at its apex to a population of between 10,000 and 30,000 inhabitants by the 1st century AD.
22 – The Etruscan Pyramid
The so-called Etruscan Pyramid is a megalithic rock-cut monument, located in the Tacchiolo valley near the city of Viterbo, Italy. The monuments name is owed to its lateral pyramidal shape carved from natural magmatic rock, whilst its construction is probably first attributed to the Rinaldonian Civilisation that preceded the Etruscans.
23 – Cape Matapan & Taenarum – Gateway to Hades
Taenarum, also known as also known as Tainaron or Matapan is an ancient Greek city, located on the Cape Matapan at the end of the Mani Peninsula in Greece, which during antiquity was a mythical gateway to Hades. The inhabitants built several temples at the site, with the most notable being in dedication to Poseidon and Apollo, for which Strabo in the first century AD and Pausanias in the second century AD, describe a cult temple that worshipped Poseidon and fronted a cave-like temple on the headland.
24 – The Mysterious Stone Spheres of Costa Rica
The Diquís Spheres are over 300 stone Petrospheres on the small island of Isla del Caño, and the Diquís Delta in Costa Rica. The spheres were created by the Diquís culture that emerged in the Valley of the Rio Grande de Térraba, where they established complex social, economic, and political systems to govern their society. The Diquís Spheres range in size from just a few centimetres, to over 2 metres in diameter, and are mostly made from gabbro, a phaneritic (coarse-grained) mafic intrusive igneous rock that is similar to basalt.
25 – The Mozu Kofungun Keyhole Burial Mounds
The Mozu Kofungun burial mounds are a cluster of keyhole shaped tomb complexes that were constructed during the Kofun period in present-day Sakai, located in the Osaka Prefecture of Japan. The tradition of constructing Kofun tombs started during the late 3rd century AD, with the most common form being known as a “zenpō-kōen-fun”, which are distinctively shaped like a keyhole, having one trapezoid end and one circular end mound.
26 – Khara-Khoto – The Black City
Khara-Khoto, also called Khar khot (meaning “black city” in Mongolian) is a ruined fortified city near the Juyan Lake Basin in the far west of Inner Mongolia, China. The city was a centre of religious learning, art, and a trading hub that was founded in AD 1032 as a Tangut stronghold of the Tibeto-Burman tribal union, emerging into the empire of Western Xia.
27 – Tongwancheng – Capital of the Xia kingdom
Tongwancheng was the capital of the Xia Kingdom, founded by the Xiongnu people at the southern edge of the Maowusu Sands of the Ordos Desert, in present-day Inner Mongolia. In AD 407, a branch of the Xiongnu established the kingdom of Xia during the Sixteen Kingdoms period. Xia was ruled over by Helian Bobo, a Tiefu Xiongnu who founded his capital in the heart of the Ordos region from AD 413, with the intention to be lord of 10,000 states (“Tong” means “unite,” while “wan” means 10,000).
28 – Vallum Aulium – Hadrian’s Wall
Hadrian’s Wall (Vallum Aulium) was a defensive fortification in Roman Britannia, that ran 73 miles (116km) from Mais at the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea to the banks of the River Tyne at Segedunum at Wallsend in the North Sea. Construction began in AD 122, following the route of the Stanegate road to the south and was completed in just seven years. Local limestone was used in most of the wall’s construction, except for the section to the west of the River Irthing where a raised turf palisade was erected.
29 – Vallum Antonini – The Antonine Wall
The Antonine Wall (Vallum Antonini) was a defensive wall built by the Romans in present-day Scotland, that ran for 39 miles between the Firth of Forth, and the Firth of Clyde (west of Edinburgh along the central belt). Construction began during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius in AD 142, in Caledonian territories previously held by the Damnonii, Otadini, Novantae, and the Selgovae tribes.
30 – The Giants’ Graves
The Giants’ Graves or Giants’ tombs, refers to the collective of tombs scattered throughout modern-day Sardinia, that feature a type of megalithic gallery grave built by the Nuragic civilisation. One of the largest Giant’s Graves is found at Coddu Vecchiu near Arzachena, consisting of a of a stele, stone megaliths, and a gallery grave that was built around 1800–1600 BC during the early Nuragic period.
31 – Karakorum – The Mongol Capital
Karakorum, also called Kharkhorin is an archaeological site, and former capital of the Mongols, located in the Orkhon Valley in the present-day Övörkhangai Province of Mongolia. Karakorum developed into a city during the reign of Ögedei Khan (the third son of Genghis Khan and second Great Khan of the Mongol Empire), who constructed the Tumen Amgalan Ord palace in AD 1235, as well as several houses of worship for his Buddhist, Muslim, Taoist, and Christian followers, gardens, lakes, and dwellings that were encircled by an earthen wall.
32 – L’Anse aux Meadows – The Viking Settlement in Canada
L’Anse aux Meadows is an archaeological site, and the remains of a Norse settlement in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. A study of the Norse architectural type, artefacts, and carbon dating suggests that the Norse settled at L’Anse aux Meadows around AD 990–1050. Archaeologists suggest that the settlement served as an exploratory base and winter camp, with industrial activity for iron production and woodworking, likely used for ship repair.
33 – Machaerus – The Palace Fortress of King Herod
Machaerus is an archaeological site and a fortified palace, located on the eastern side of the Dead Sea in present-day Jordan. Herod I, also known as Herod the Great constructed the fortress in 30 BC, to be used as a military base to safeguard his territories east of the Jordan. According to the Roman author, Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus), “Machaerus on the south, at one time, next to Jerusalem the most strongly fortified place in Judea.”
34 – Isca Augusta – The Roman Legionary Fortress
Isca Augusta, also called Isca Silurum, and Carleon Roman Fortress is an archaeological site and the remains of a large legionary fortress located in present-day Carleon, Wales. Isca Augusta was founded around AD 74 by the then governor of Britain, Sextus Julius Frontinus, to support the Roman campaigns in subjugating the native tribes of Wales that had resisted Roman rule.
35 – Tenochtitlan
Tenochtitlan was the capital of the Aztec civilisation, situated on a raised islet in the western side of the shallow Lake Texcoco, which is now the historic part of present-day Mexico City. The Mexica supposedly sacrificed one of the daughters of the Culhuacan rulers, flaying her skin, on the command of their god Xipe Totec. This led to the Culhuacan attacking the Mexica, driving them to the refuge of an infertile island “among the stone-prickly pear cactus fruit”, where they founded their new city in the year “ōme calli” around AD 1325 to 1345.
36 – Aggersborg – The Giant Viking Trelleborg
Aggersborg is the site of a Viking trelleborg (ring fort), that was built near Aggersund on the north side of the Limfjord in Denmark. Aggersborg is Denmark’s largest trelleborg and dates from the Viking age between AD 970-980 (although archaeologists have also discovered that the fort overlaid an earlier Viking-Age rural settlement consisting of sunken huts connected with a couple of large farms), either during Harold Bluetooth’s reign, or that of his successor Sweyn Forkbeard.
37 – The Gila Cliff Dwellings
The Gila Cliff Dwellings is an archaeological site, and ancient settlement constructed by the pueblos Mimbres branch of the Mogollon, located in southwest New Mexico of the United States of America. The Gila Cliff Dwellings refers to two main ruin sites, along with a collection of smaller ruins that was inhabited sometime during the Classic Mimbres Period from AD 1000-1130. Evidence of unconnected occupation can be traced through a 2,000-year sequence, starting with Archaic rock shelters, a Mogollon circular Pit House, and Classic Pueblo periods to the Apache.
38 – Amarna – The City of the “Heretic Pharaoh”
Amarna, also called Akhetaten is an archaeological site and an Ancient Egyptian city, located on the eastern banks of the River Nile, in the present-day Minya governorate of Egypt. Amarna was constructed in 1346 BC to serve as the capital city of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, the 10th ruler of the late Eighteenth Dynasty. Akhenaten (originally named Amenhotep IV) abandoned the traditional polytheistic religions of Egypt, instead introducing the worship of Atenism, which was centred on the cult god Aten and depicted as the disc of the sun.
39 – Camulodunum – The First Capital of Britannia
Camulodunum was a Roman city and the first capital of the Roman province of Britannia, in what is now the present-day city of Colchester in Essex, England. The Romans constructed the first legionary fortress or castrum at Camulodunum, protected by a large palisaded Vallum and Fossa. The fort was garrisoned by the Legio XX Valeria Victrix (identified by a boar on the standard), one of the four initial legions in the Roman invasion. After AD 49, the fortress was decommissioned and converted into a civilian town for discharged legionnaires and named Colonia Victricensis.
40 – The Ancient Pyramid City of Túcume
Túcume is an ancient city that is traditionally considered to be the last great capital of the Lambayeque Kingdom, located in the lower valley La Leche River in the Lambayeque Region of Peru. Construction of Túcume began around AD 1000, with the city growing to become an important regional centre following the abandonment of the pyramid complex at Batán Grande.
41 – Ancient Troy
The ruins of Troy (also called Ilios or Ilion and Ilium) in present-day Hisarlik in Canakkale, Turkey – comprises of a multi-period site now partially buried in an artificial tell illustrating the gradual development of the city in north-western Asia Minor. The development of the city layers is detailed in 9 distinct phases, with the earliest period of occupation dating from the 3rd millennium BC in the Bronze Age.
42 – Jiaohe – The Castle City
Jiaohe, also called Yarkhoto and Yarghul is an ancient ruined city and fortress, located on a land plateau shaped like a willow leaf in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. The city served as the capital of the Anterior Jushi Kingdom from 108 BC to AD 450, and was an important centre of trade on the silk road for facilitating exchanges between the east and west.
43 – The City of Ur
Ur is an ancient city-state of Mesopotamia located in the Dhi Qar Governorate of southern Iraq. The first royal dynasty of Ur was established during the Early Bronze Age, with Ur becoming the capital of southern Mesopotamia around 2500 BC. The city would come under Akkadian influence with the rise of the Akkadian Empire between 2400 and 2200 BC, before coming under Gutian rule with the empire’s collapse during the mid-22nd century BC.
44 – The Oracle of Delphi
Delphi was an ancient sanctuary of the Pythia, located on the south-western slope of Mount Parnassus in central Greece. The Pythia was established as a high priest cult around the 8th century BC (although some sources suggest they may be present in some form as early as 1400 BC), and continued to be consulted for important political and religious decisions until the 4th century AD. The Delphic oracle was at its peak during the late 6th century BC, being consulted on affairs of state, with the fame of the oracle spreading to the far reaches of the Greek-speaking world. The site also became the location of the Pythian Games, one of the four Panhellenic Games and precursors of the Modern Olympics.
45 – Grianan of Aileach – Seat of the Kingdom of Ailech
The Grianan of Aileach, also called Greenan Ely or Greenan Fort, is a stone ringfort located on the summit of Greenan Mountain in County Donegal, Ireland. The fort is believed to have been constructed by the Cenél nEógain, a branch of the Northern Uí Néill dynasties during the 8th or 9th century, serving as the principal seat of the Kings of Ailech which ruled the medieval Irish province of Ailech, otherwise known as the Kingdom of Ailech.
46 – The Limes Arabicus
The Limes Arabicus was a defensive line that formed part of the wider Roman limes system, demarcating the border of the Roman province of Arabia Petraea to the frontier lands of Arabia, known as Arabia Magna and Arabia Felix. During the Severan dynasty (AD 193–235), the frontier was reinforced with castra (forts), mainly centred in the strategic Wadi Sirhan region in the north-western Arabian Peninsula that served as a gateway for trans-Arabian trade. During the 3rd to 4th century AD, a system of castella, watchtowers, and fortresses were constructed at intervals of every 100 kilometres (62 miles).
47 – Avebury Stone Circle
Avebury is the largest megalithic stone circle in the world, consisting of a large henge with an outer circle of stones, and two smaller stone circles situated in the centre of the monument. It is the result of many phases of construction during late prehistory, with the earliest phase dating from the middle of the third millennium BC. The landscape of the Avebury Stone Circle is a World Heritage Site, located in the county of Wiltshire, England.
48 – Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace is a large cliff dwelling complex on the east wall of Cliff Canyon, located in the Mesa Verde National Park in the state of Colorado. Cliff Palace was constructed around AD 1190 beneath a rock escarpment and remained occupied until AD 1300. The complex consists of 150 rooms supporting up to 100 inhabitants, along with 23 kivas that may have functioned as the centre of a large polity.
49 – The Ancient City of Termessos
Termessos was a fortified city, founded by Pamphylian tribes called the Solymi (also called the Solims) near the peak of the Solymos (Güllük Dağı) mountain, in the Taurus mountain range in present-day Turkey. Little is known about the historical context of Termessos, but the earliest encounter with the city comes from text called the Anabis of Alexander by Arrian of Nicomedia, who describes the conquests of Alexander the Great. In the Anabis, Alexander surrounded Termessos in 333 BC, where Alexander likened the city to an “eagle’s nest”, failing to take the city.
50 – The Caves of Valerón
The Caves of Valerón, also known as Valerón’s “Monastery” is an ancient pre-Hispanic rock-cut complex of honeycomb caves on the north-west face of the Mountain of the Galician (“Montaña del Gallego”) in the Spanish island of Grand Canaria.
The caves were constructed by the ancient Canarians using stone and wooden tools, inside a large 20-metre-tall natural arch made from a basaltic arch covering a volcanic tuff (a type of rock made of volcanic ash ejected from a vent during a volcanic eruption that lithified into a solid material).
51 – Masada
Masada are the ruins of an ancient fortress and palace, built in the 1st century BC on a plateau by King Herod, overlooking the dead sea in Israel. After the destruction of the Second Temple during the “Great Revolt”, Masada was the centre of an epic siege occurring around AD 73 to 74.
52 – Axum/Aksum
Axum/Aksum are the ruins of the capital of the Aksumite Empire, located near the base of the Adwa mountains in Ethiopia. The Empire was founded around 400 BC and grew into a major trading power that lasted until the 10th century AD. The wealth of Aksum is represented in the architectural legacy of the Empire, from the giant Stelae obelisks to the ornate palaces left behind.
53 – Pueblo Bonito
Pueblo Bonito are the ruins of an ancient Puebloan “Great House”, located in modern-day New Mexico, in the United States. The Puebloans or Pueblos, were an ancient Native American culture that developed a series of major construction projects across Utah and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Pueblo Bonito is the largest example of a “great house” that was planned and constructed in stages between AD 850 to AD 1150.
54 – Sigiriya
Sigiriya are the ruins of an ancient city, located in the Matale District in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. The Cūḷavaṃsa, a written chronology of the monarchs of Sri Lanka credits King Kashyapa I with the construction at Sigiriya, which developed into a complex urban city centred on the Sīnhāgirim, meaning Lion Rock (a large granite peak that rises 200 metres above the surrounding plain).
55 – Mohenjo-daro
Mohenjo-daro, meaning ‘Mound of the Dead Men’ is an archaeological site and ancient city complex, located west of the Indus River in Larkana District, Sindh, Pakistan. Mohenjo-daro was designed on a grid plan layout, comprising of rectilinear buildings built from fired mortared bricks and sun-dried mud-brick that covered an area of 741 acres.
56 – Meroë
Meroë, also called Medewi is an archaeological region and the ancient capital city of the Nubian Kingdom of Kush, located on the east bank of the River Nile in Sudan. The Nubian Pharaohs created a revived period in Egyptian culture, in both religion, art and architecture, including a new phase of pyramid building not seen since the “Age of the Pyramids” during the Old Kingdom.
57 – Persepolis
Persepolis is the ceremonial capital city of the Achaemenid Empire, also called the First Persian Empire that covered an area of 2.1 million square miles from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west, to the Indus Valley in the east. The first evidence of occupation dates from around 515 BC, possibly established by Cyrus the Great (who founded the Achaemenid Empire), but the first phase of major construction was during the reign of Darius I.
58 – Mari
Mari is an archaeological site, located near Abu Kamal on the western bank of the Euphrates in Syria. Unlike many cities that grew from an earlier settlement or nucleus of settlements, Mari was purpose-built as a city during the Mesopotamian Early Dynastic period I around 2900 BC by either the Sumerians, the Kish civilisation or the East Semitic speaking people from Terqa in the north.
59 – Hattusa
Hattusa was the capital of the Hittite Empire, centred in modern-day Boğazkale, Turkey. The Hittites were an ancient Anatolian people, who established an empire covering Anatolia, northern Levant, and Upper Mesopotamia. Around the middle of the 17th century BC, King Hattusilis I established Hattusa as his capital on a section of a mountain slope at the southern end of a small fertile plain.
60 – The Maunsell Sea Forts
Although not ancient, the Mansell Sea Forts are certainly worthy of a mention. Located off the English coast in the Thames and Mersey estuaries, the Maunsell Forts are Second World War defensive platforms that were built to defend the UK against enemy aircraft. Named after the civil engineer responsible for their design; Guy Maunsell, construction of the forts begun in 1942 until they were eventually decommissioned in the 1950’s. Maunsell designed two distinct fort concepts for deployment, the singular Naval Forts and the cluster array Army Forts.
61 – Qatna
Qatna, also called Katna is a ruined ancient city, located near the village of al-Mishrifeh in the Homs Governorate of Syria. Qatna was built on a limestone plateau on the shores of the Mishrifeh Lake (that dried up during the end of the Bronze Age). By the Middle Bronze Age I (2000 BC), Qatna had established itself as a Kingdom, bordered by the Yamhad to the north, the Mari to the East and the Canaan to the south. The Kingdom centred on the city of Qatna, which had become a metropolis and trading hub, covering an area of 270 acres.
62 – Merv the Great
Merv, also known by many names such as Alexandria, Antiochia in Margiana and Marv-i-Shahijan or “Merv the Great” was an ancient city located in present Turkmenistan. Several cities have existed during different periods at Merv, with the earliest recorded occupation dating from around 3000 BC. The first city period was founded around 500-600 BC, as part of the Achaemenid (First Persian Empire) expansion by Cyrus the Great.
63 – Guyaju Caves
Guyaju Caves (also called the Yanqing Ancient Cliff House) is a cave complex located on the slopes of Tianhuang Mountain in the Yanging District of China that was discovered in 1984.
The cave system comprises of 350 chambers, in a system of 117 caves that were hewn from the granite rock face of a secluded gorge, covering an area of around 24.7 acres (100,000 square meters). No dateable archaeological evidence has survived, nor any mention in historical literature, so the true origins of who constructed Guyaju remains a mystery.
64 – Ciudad Perdida
Ciudad Perdida, translated in Spanish as the “Lost City”, also known as “Teyuna” and “Buritaca” locally is an archaeological site in the jungles of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. Archaeological evidence suggests that the city was founded around AD 800 by the Tayrona (also spelt Tairona), a Pre-Columbian culture that first occupied the region at the beginning of the 1st millennium AD and founded around 250 settlements. Ciudad Perdida most likely served as the region’s centre, supporting a population of around 2,500-3,000 inhabitants.
65 – Venta Silurum
Venta Silurum was a Roman town in the province of Britannia, established around AD 75 in the modern village of Caerwent in South East Wales. The town was located on a major Roman highway between Isca Augusta (Caerleon) and Glevum (Gloucester). Venta Silurum became the Romanised capital of the defeatured Silures (a tribal confederation), whose ordo (local council) provided local government and administration for the district.
66 – Timgad
Timgad, also called Thamugas or Thamugadi are the ancient ruins of a Roman city, located near the modern-day town of Timgad in the Aurès Mountains of Algeria. Timgad was founded by Emperor Trajan around AD 100 as “Colonia Marciana Ulpia Traiana Thamugadi” and served as a Roman colony for veterans of Trajan’s army. The colony was intended to function as a bastion in Roman Africa against the Berbers, a mix of ethnic indigenous inhabitants who resided mostly in North and Western Africa.
67 – Tanis
Tanis is an archaeological site and ancient Egyptian city on the Tanitic branch of the Nile River delta near the modern-day town of Ṣān al-Ḥajar al-Qibliyyah. Tanis was built as the capital of the 14th nome of Lower Egypt, with the earliest Tanite buildings dating from the 21st Dynasty, the first Dynasty of the Third Intermediate Period, lasting from 1069 BC to 945 BC. Many of the materials used to construct the city were repurposed masonry and stone from nearby population centres such as the former capital of Pi-Ramesses (Per Ramessu).
68 – Takht-e Soleymān
Takht-e Soleymān are the ruins of an ancient complex, located near the modern-day town of Takab in the West Azerbaijan Province of Iran. The earliest occupation dates from the 5th century BC during the Achaemenid period (also called the First Persian Empire). Takht-e Soleymān’s first phase of construction was during the Sassanian period around the 5th and 6th centuries AD where the site was called Shīz. The Sassanian’s built a fire temple of the Zoroastrian faith called the Athur-Gushnasp (Azargoshnasb) around the sacred Avestan Chechasta Lake.
69 – Cliff Villages of Bandiagara
The cliffs of Bandiagara is a large geological escarpment rising above the surrounding flatlands in Mali that contains various archaeological sites and 289 ancient settlements. The cliffs were first settled by the Toloy, an ancient troglodyte culture between the 3rd and 2nd century BC. In the 11th century AD, the cliffs were settled by the Tellem, a Sub Saharan group that built many of the existing dwellings and structures around the base of the escarpment as well as directly into the cliff-face.
70 – Khami
Khami are the ruins of the former capital of the Kalanga Kingdom of Butua near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The Kingdom of Butua emerged after the collapse of Great Zimbabwe in the mid-16th century into a Tolwa state around AD 1640. The Kingdom was ruled by the Tolwa dynasty, who’s prosperity came from trading gold and cattle with Arab and Portuguese traders.
71 – Pella
Pella is an archaeological site and the historical capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedon. Pella was founded next to the modern-day town of Pella, near the Macedonian Gulf in northern Greece. Most scholars believe that Pella was built as the capital for Archelaus I, who was King of Macedon from 413 to 399 BC, although some attribute Pella to Amyntas III, who ruled Macedon from 392 to 370 BC. Pella is famed as the birthplace and ruling seat of Philip II and his son, Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great who succeeded Philip II to the throne at the age of 20.
72 – Skellig Michael
Skellig Michael are the ruins of a monastic settlement located on a twin pinnacle crag, off the coast of County Kerry in Ireland. It is speculated that a monastery was founded on Skellig Michael during the 6th century AD, due to the remoteness and the abundance of rock for construction. The earliest definitive record mentions the monks on Skellig during the 8th century AD in a transcript about the death of ‘Suibhni of Scelig’.
73 – The Great Pyramid of Cholula
The Great Pyramid of Cholula is a temple complex believed to be dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl in the San Andrés Cholula, Puebla municipality of Mexico. The Cholula pyramid is the largest by volume in the Americas, in addition to being the largest known pyramid by volume in the world, measuring at its base 450 by 450 metres (in comparison to the Great Pyramid of Egypt measuring 230 by 230 metres or the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán that measures 220 by 230 metres).
74 – Salona
Salona (full name – Martia Iulia Valeria Salona Felix) are the ruins of the ancient capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia, located in the modern-day town of Solin in Croatia. The earliest occupation of Salona dates from the 7th century BC, where an Illyrian settlement was established near the banks of the River Jadro on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. After the Romans conquered the region and established the province of Illyria, followed by Dalmatia, Salona was elevated to the status of the provincial capital after siding with Gaius Julius Caesar in the civil war against Pompeius and Marcus Licinius Crassus of the first Triumvirate.
75 – Nan Madol
Nan Madol are the ruins of the former capital of the Saudeleur Dynasty, located on Temwen Island off the shores of the island of Pohnpei, in the modern-day Federated States of Micronesia. The city was constructed sometime between AD 1200 – 1500 with a distinctive megalithic architecture that used pieces of a columnar basalt quarried from a volcanic plug on the opposite side of Pohnpei.
76 – Ostia Antica
Ostia Antica is an archaeological site and harbour of ancient Rome, near the modern-day Lido di Ostia in the X Municipio of the commune of Rome. Ostia Antica was founded on the mouth of the Tiber River and was attributed by the Romans to the fourth King of Rome, Ancus Marcius who reigned during the 7th century BC. The earliest archaeological evidence dates from the 4th century BC, with a Roman castrum being constructed in the 3rd century BC to protect the coastline of Rome that later developed into one of Rome’s first colonia.
77 – Aquae Sulis
Aquae Sulis, meaning “the waters of Sulis” was a Roman town in the province of Britannia, located in the modern-day city of Bath in England. The site was first occupied by the Iron Age Dobunni, who worshipped the Goddess Sulis at a sacred hot spring. After the Roman conquest across Britannia in AD 43, a formal temple complex was constructed at Aquae Sulis around AD 60 and was adapted to the worship of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare, and the sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy.
78 – Kuélap
Kuélap is a large pre-Columbian walled city, fortress (debated) or temple complex built by the Chachapoyas, also called the “Warriors of the Clouds”, a culture of the Andes living in the cloud forests of the southern part of the Department of Amazonas of present-day Peru. Kuélap is located on a limestone ridge 3000 metres above sea level in the mountains overlooking the Utcubamba Valley. The site was established in the 6th century AD, with the main period of construction occurring between AD 900 and 1100.
79 – Serjilla
Serjilla is an abandoned settlement, part of a group of 40 similar sites known as the “Dead Cities” that are organised into 8 archaeological parks in northwest Syria. The Dead Cities formed a centre of agriculture for the region, supplying wheat, grapes, olives and wine for Antioch and Apamea from the Roman classical period when the Byzantine Empire was near its peak.
80 – The Ellora Caves
The Ellora Caves is a large rock-cut monastery temple complex located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, India. The complex has over 100 caves, features a multi-faith collection of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain sculptures and monuments that date from AD 600 to 1000. These consist of 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves as well as monasteries dedicated to each religion.
81 – Great Zimbabwe
The Kingdom of Zimbabwe was a medieval kingdom of 150 tributaries that existed from AD 1220-1450 in modern-day Zimbabwe. The Kingdom was centred on the capital, Great Zimbabwe, located near Lake Mutirikwe and the town of Masvingo. The capital was constructed in the 11th century during the late Iron Age and continued to be expanded up until the 15th century. Spanning an area of 1780 acres at the Kingdoms height, Great Zimbabwe would have housed up to 18,000 inhabitants.
82 – Derinkuyu
Derinkuyu is an underground hive city in the Derinkuyu district, Turkey, one of 36 proposed underground city complexes found throughout the region of Cappadocia. According to the Turkish Department of Culture, the soft volcanic rock was first excavated by the Phrygians (an Indo-European culture from the 8th–7th century BC) who constructed primitive dwellings, whilst other sources have attributed early construction to the Persians or Hittites. By the Byzantine period, the city contained a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers, covering an area of 445 km2 (172 sq miles) that could house a population of up to 20,000 inhabitants.
83 – Ani
On the eastern borders of Turkey in the province of Kars lies the ruined Armenian city of Ani. Renowned as a cultural and commercial centre on the Silk Road, Ani grew to become a bustling metropolis of over 100,000 inhabitants at its height. Ani was first mentioned in Armenian chronicles in the 5th century that described a fortress settlement of the nobles of the Kamsarakan dynasty.
84 – Rutupiae
Rutupiae (Richborough Castle) are the ruins of a Roman Saxon Shore Fort located in Richborough, Kent in the United Kingdom. Although a matter of scholarly debate, historians generally agree that Rutupiae was the landing site for the Claudian invasion of what would become the Roman province of Britannia in AD 43. Because of its position near the mouth of the Stour, Rutupiae became a major British port under the Romans and the starting point for the road now known as Watling Street.
85 – Choquequirao
Choquequirao, meaning “Cradle of Gold” in Quechua is an archaeological site in the Vilcabamba mountain range, overlooking the Apurimac River in Southern Peru. Choquequirao was built by the Inca sometime in the 15th – 16th century and covers an area of over 4447 acres at an elevation of 3050 metres.
86 – Maijishan Grottoes
The Maijishan Grottoes is an elaborate range of rock-cut ceremonial chambers, containing over 7200 Buddhist sculptures and 100 square metres of murals in Tianshui, northwest China. They were first constructed in the Later Qin era (a state of Qiang ethnicity of the Sixteen Kingdoms) around AD 384–417.
87 – Ancient Miletus
Miletus is an ancient Greek city, located in western Anatolia, near the mouth of the Maeander River in the Aydın Province of present-day Turkey. The earliest evidence of occupation dates from the Neolithic period, where small settlements first inhabited the region from around 3500-3000 BC. By the Bronze Age, a centralised city had emerged that was influenced through maritime trade with the Minoan civilisation (as indicated by Minoan pottery discovered in situ).
88 – El Tajín
El Tajín is a ruined ancient city of the Classic era of Mesoamerica, located in the highlands of the municipality of Papantla in Mexico. El Tajín, named after the Totonac rain god and meaning “of thunder or lightning bolt” was first occupied around 5600 BC by nomadic hunters and gatherers that evolved into sedentary farmers. The first city builders are contested by archaeologists, with some theories suggesting the Totonacs and the Xapaneca, or possibly the Huastec around AD 100.
89 – Tintagel
Tintagel are the ruins of a medieval fortification located on a headland next to the modern-day village of Tintagel in Cornwall, England. Tintagel developed into a prosperous stronghold and centre of trade, which archaeologists propose was an elite settlement inhabited by a powerful local warlord or even Dumnonian royalty. In 1138, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain gave rise to the mythical figure of King Arthur, which Geoffrey associates Tintagel as the site where Uther Pendragon, King of Britain seduced Queen Igerna (wife of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall).
90 – Salamis
Salamis is an archaeological site and an ancient city-state, located at the mouth of the River Pedieos in Cyprus. According to mythology, the city was founded by Teucer, the son of King Telamon of Salamis Island. The city prospered as a centre of Greek culture and art, adopting the Greek alphabet in Cyprus in place of the older Cypriot syllabary.
91 – Ma’rib
Ma’rib is the ancient ruins of the former capital of the kingdom of Saba in modern-day Ma’rib in Yemen. The city flourished as a centre of trade on the caravan routes, that linked the Mediterranean with the Arabian Peninsula and held a trade monopoly on the movement of frankincense and myrrh in the region. Some biblical scholars suggest that Ma’rib was the centre of the Kingdom of Sheba, although ruins in many other countries, including Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia and Iran have all been credited with the same distinction.
92 – Chan Chan
Chan Chan is an archaeological site and ancient capital of the Chimú Kingdom, located at the mouth of the Moche valley in an arid section of the coastal desert of northern Peru. The Chimú culture emerged around AD 850-900, having succeeded the Moche culture and controlled an area of 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) of coastline from Piura in the north to Paramonga in the south. The Kingdom was centred on Chan Chan, a large adobe city that covered an area of 4942 acres, making the site one of the largest pre-Columbian cities in South America.
93 – Volubilis
Volubilis is an ancient Berber city that many archaeologists believe was the capital of the Kingdom of Mauretania. By the 3rd century BC, the Carthaginians had established a proto settlement and constructed a temple dedicated to the Punic god Baal. The inhabitants were seminomadic pastoralists with Berber ancestry who were a culture with the ethnicity of several nations, mostly indigenous to North Africa and some northern parts of West Africa.
94 – Thera
Thera is an archaeological site and ancient city located on the Greek island of Santorini, also called Thera. The city was founded by Dorian colonists sometime during the 9th century BC. According to mythology – Theras (a descendant of the Phoenician ruler Cadmus and son of the king of Thebes, Autesion) established the city, naming the island and his new settlement, Thera.
95 – Koi Krylgan Kala
Koi Krylgan Kala, also called Qoy Qırılg’an qala locally is an archaeological site in the Ellikqal’a District of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, within Uzbekistan. Koi Krylgan Kala was constructed around 400 BC to serve as a large ceremonial centre and complex during the Chorasmian, Afrighids dynasty that ruled over a large oasis region called Khwarezm. At its centre, is a monumental building laid out on a circular plan with eternal fortified walls and 9 towers that encompass a circle 87 metres in diameter.
96 – Skara Brae
Skara Brae is a Neolithic settlement on the Bay of Skaill in Orkney Scotland that dates from 3180 to 2500 BC. The inhabitants of Skara Brae used flagstones, layered into the ground, and filled the spaces with earth and middens (domestic rubbish) to construct their homes. Given the number of homes, it is estimated that around 50 people inhabited Skara Brae and are known as the Grooved ware people (based on the pottery style).
97 – Carthage
Carthage was the capital of the Carthaginian Empire, located on the eastern side of Lake Tunis in Tunisia. The city was founded as a colony by the Phoenicians, an ancient Semitic-speaking thalassocratic civilisation that originated in the Levant region of the eastern Mediterranean. Although the foundation date is disputed, Timaeus of Taormina, a Greek historian places Carthage’s founding in 814 BC, a date that is generally accepted by historians. With the emergence of the Roman Republic, a sustained rivalry ensured for the dominion of the western Mediterranean.
98 – Hardknott Roman Fort
Hardknott Roman Fort, also known as Mediobogdum in the Ravenna Cosmography is a Roman Fort constructed at the Hardknott Pass in the Lake District, Cumbria, England to guard against raids by the Scots and Brigantes. The fort is built on a rocky spur at an altitude of 800 feet and is one of the highest forts constructed in the Roman province of Britannia (the highest being Epiacum/Whitley Castle). Hardknott Fort dates from around the 2nd century AD, during the reign of Hadrian and was garrisoned by the Fourth Cohort of Dalmatians from the Balkans and infantry soldiers from Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
99 – Montezuma Castle
Montezuma Castle is a limestone cliff dwelling constructed between AD 1100 and 1350 by the Sinagua. First mentioned by European-Americans in the 1860’s, the monument was mistakenly named for the Aztec Emperor “Montezuma” and although not a castle in the traditional sense, it served as a multi-story complex that could offer defence from attacking enemy tribes. The castle is situated 27metres up a limestone cliff and housed between 30-50 people in 25 rooms. The overall complex is split over five levels and covers an area of almost 370 m2.
100 – Gümüşler
Gümüşler Monastery is an ancient Byzantine monastery carved out of rock in the modern-day town of Gümüşler in Turkey. Gümüşler was called Tracias during the Byzantine period and was a centre for religious learning, constructed sometime between the 8th-12th century AD. The monastery was built by carving the structure from a single tuff rock mass formation and consists of a square-shaped courtyard 15 metres deep, and with a church comprising of four freestanding closed aisles based on the Greek cross plan.
Header Image Credit : Emrahuygun – CC BY-SA 4.0