When people think of ancient ruins, they may often think of marvels like Stonehenge or the Great Pyramid of Giza. Undoubtedly, these remarkable human-made landmarks are ancient sites to behold, withstanding the sands of time for thousands of years. However, the world has a rich history, with humans occupying the earth for millions of years. With that said, compared to some archeologic sites and ruins worldwide, Stonehenge and the Giza Pyramids seem like they were built yesterday! Check out some of these ancient ruins, which are believed to be the oldest in the world.
UPDATE: 2023/01/24 09:39 EST BY TYLER GOLEC
These 14 Ancient Ruins Are The Oldest In The World
One of the major allures to traveling is discovering ancient places and the stunning beauty of what ancient humans were able to create. Throughout the world, there are ancient ruins to learn about, so to help travelers find the most incredible ruins out there, this article has been updated to contain even more ancient content covering the world’s oldest ruins.
14 Sechin Bajo
Sechin Bajo is part of a larger site in Peru—the Sechin Archeological Complex—which is considered the largest (and oldest) Pre-Columbian monument in the world. Occupied between 3500 BCE to 1300 BCE, this breathtaking historical site in Peru houses ancient ruins that paint a picture of pre-Incan culture. In fact, in 2008, archeologists discovered a stone plaza at Sechin Bajo, dated at least 5,500 years old, built around 3500 BCE. Additionally, it’s believed that the Sechin Bajo plaza is the oldest ancient monument in all the Americas!
13 Knap Of Howar
Sitting on Scotland’s Orkney Islands, the Knap of Howar stands as the oldest farmstead made of stone in Northern Europe. Occupied over 5,000 years ago, this ancient ruin is composed of two houses with a low-level doorway and stone cupboards. It’s believed that this modest farmstead belonged to a Neolithic farmer who kept livestock (like cattle and pigs) and cultivated crops like wheat or barley. Additionally, the site also overlooks the ocean, providing gorgeous coastal views of the unique location of Scotland’s Orkney Islands.
Papay Westray, Orkney Islands, Scotland
12 Gobekli Tepe
A photo from Göbekli Tepe, Haliliye, Turkey
Located in Southeast Turkey, Gobekli Tepe was once nicknamed the oldest temple in the world until Boncuklu Tarla was discovered (which is rumored to be thousands of years older). Regardless, Gobekli Tepe still deserves mention, as it’s pretty old compared to other ruins discovered worldwide. Once thought to be a cemetery, researchers discovered Gobekli Tepe’s actual purpose: a megalith for rituals, social gatherings, and other religious events. Additionally, archaeologists speculate that humans used this site during the Pre-Potter Neolithic era, which was around 11,500 years ago.
Sanliurfa Province, Turkey
11 Boncuklu Tarla
Also known as Beaded Field, Boncuklu Tarla was recently discovered to be at least 1,000 years older than Gobeklitepe in Southeast Turkey. Specifically, it’s estimated that this site is at least 12,000 years old! Furthermore, it was said that numerous communities settled in the area where the ruins were found, including the Assyrians, Romans, Ottomans, and Babylonians. Archaeologists and their dedicated team unearthed ruins like homes, temples, and other structures during the discovery.
Mardin Province, Turkey
10 Potok Cave
Ancestors of modern humans—known as the Aurignacian people—survived the harsh winters of the Ice Age. Furthermore, thanks to caves like Northern Slovenia’s Potok Cave, surviving the harsh terrain of the Ice Age made it a little more manageable. Thus, the Potok Cave was said to be a hunting station for the Aurignacian people (or, alternatively, a site of religious rituals). Regardless of its use, hundreds of artifacts in the form of animal bones, stone artifacts, and other evidence of human activity were found in the Potok Cave (specifically near the rear, which was said to be the warmest part of the cave) by researchers, of which their archeological dig spanned for decades (since the early 20th century)!
Mount Olševa, Slovenia
9 The Burrup Peninsula
Also known as Murujuga, the Burrup Peninsula is a site of natural beauty, showcasing Pilbara’s beautiful hills and the local area’s endemic species. However, the Burrup Peninsula is also known for being the home of Australia’s Aboriginal community, inhabiting the area for over 50,000 years. Thus, Murujuga houses some of the world’s oldest petroglyphs and rock carvings, which are around 40,000 years old.
Murujuga National Park (Burrup Peninsula), Western Australia
8 Theopatra Cave
Nestled atop a limestone hill near the village of Theopetra, the Theopatra Cave, which looks like any ordinary cave, is made of nothing more than rocks and dirt. However, this cave reveals a storied past of human civilization in the form of a man-made wall (built for protection from the cold winds during the Ice Age). In fact, researchers estimated that humans began living in the cave 130,000 years ago, during the Middle Paleolithic era. The cave also revealed human life around the Neolithic period, acting as an archeological time capsule!
Meteora, Thessaly, Greece
7 Gona Archaeological Site
On the journey towards Abune Yosef, Ethiopia
Archeologists studied this site for decades, combing through the earth to find discoveries related to the link between archaic humans to modern-day Homo sapiens. Located in the Ethiopian Lowlands, the Gona archeological sites contain key evidence of Homo erectus (an early ancestor to modern-day humans), which dates around 1.8 million years old. Researchers also found fossils of early human species (Australopithecus Garhi) that date back approximately 4.5 million years ago!
A photo from Stonehenge, Salisbury, England, UK
Found along the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, Stonehenge is easily one of the most recognized ancient ruins in the world. These captivating and curious rings of stone date back over 5,000 years and are some of the oldest stone structures on the planet. The mystery of these giant slabs of sandstone is still one that is discussed today. Who built this structure is still debated today though two popular theories maintain that Stonehenge was used as a site for religious rituals or otherwise to monitor the movements of the sun and moon.
: Wiltshire, England
A photo of the fortress of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
The ancient fortress of Sigiriya was carved into a 200-meter vertical rock face near the town of Dambulla in Sri Lanka. On top of the stone of the fascinating remains of an ancient civilization thought to be the capital of the kingdom of Kassapa. Once, it included a citadel, an upper palace, a mirror wall with stunning colorful frescoes, and a gateway in the shape of a lion. I was abandoned when its kind passed though it was used as a Buddhist temple until the 14th century.
: Dambulla in Sri Lanka
A photo of Masada, Israele
Perched atop a cliff, Masada could possibly be one of the most impressive ancient structures on the planet. This ancient fortress overlooks the Judaean Desert and the Dead Sea in Israel. The site is stunning with a haunting beauty. It was built as the palace of King Herod thousands of years ago. This fortress was famously the location of the last stand of the Jewish Revolt; they would end up choosing death over a life of Roman slavery.
Travelers visiting the ruins today can experience the best-preserved examples of Roman siege works in history. Two pathways lead to the top, and though it isn’t an easy hike in the heat, the views are quite nice.
: Judaean Desert, Israel
3 Terracotta Army
The Terracotta Army in Xi’an, China
This well-known collection of thousands of life-sized soldiers and horses found in Xi’an, China, was originally constructed in the 3rd century BC. The Terracotta Warriors, also known as the Terracotta Army, are truly impressive and stand guard near the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi. While many of these soldiers still remain unexcavated, there are currently 600 underground pits full of cleared soldiers. The soldiers are hand-carved, and with their incredible detail, it is estimated that they took 40 years of craftsmanship.
A photo from Karnak, Luxor, Egypt
Taking over 2,000 years to build, Karnak is covered with the contributions of temples, sanctuaries, obelisks, and shrines contributed by different pharos over the years. Travelers visiting the Karnak Temple complex in Luxor, Egypt, can Walk through the Avenue of Sphinxes and discover the Great Hypostyle Hall. While travelers are here, they should stop to admire Sacred Lake and the nearby granite scarab. It’s said that if travelers encircle it seven times, they will have good luck in love.
An aerial photo of Teotihuacan, Méx., México
Found on the periphery of modern-day Mexico City, this famous ancient city was once thought of as an Aztec archeologic site, but now it’s known that the Aztecs did not build the city. The Aztecs simply claimed it as theirs, and who built it still remains unknown. It was likely this was once the largest city in the Western Hemisphere, with pyramids as large as those in Giza. Today, travelers can explore its two iconic pyramids, the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon. They can then stroll along the Avenue of the Dead and visit the Citadel and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent.
: Mexico City, Mexico