Special Report

The 30 Oldest Structures in the World

In the summer of 1976, a ground fire burned through a vegetated area on the island of Guernsey, revealing a granite slab protruding from a high mound of earth. The ensuing excavation revealed an undisturbed 6,500-year-old burial site now named Les Fouaillages — one of the oldest monuments ever discovered in western Europe. (Here are the 50 oldest things in the world.)

Ancient structures are discovered every year, adding to our understanding of human cultural evolution. Many of the oldest structures in existence had religious significance. These include tombs where bodies were interred with items intended to assist their owners in the afterlife, temples dedicated to the deities that a particular culture revered, and altars where animals and possibly even humans were sacrificed. (Here are ancient civilizations that have sacrificed humans.)

24/7 Tempo has compiled the 30 oldest structures in the world by consulting a number of archaeological, engineering, historical, and general interest websites, including Archaeology, World Archaeology, Archaeology News Network, Interesting Engineering, Building TalkOldest, Realm of History, The Culture Trip, Reader’s Digest, All That Is Interesting, and Smithsonian Magazine.  

Some sites date back to the Paleolithic era, which began some 2.5 million years ago and lasted until around 10,000 B.C. The era is marked by hunter-gatherer societies who used chipped stone and bone tools. Most sites, however, were built during the following Neolithic era, during which nomadic societies began to settle in permanent or semi-permanent locations and also began to refine their stone tools. 

During this time, animal domestication and agriculture sprouted up independently in numerous societies. Some of the oldest structures in the world include tombs and burial mounds, religious temples, protective walls, and even entire cities. Here are the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

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