Ancient architecture is one of the greatest windows into our past. With their help, archaeologists have unearthed numerous pieces of information about prehistoric civilizations that continue to influence our lives. Sadly, there are only a handful of such structures that are still standing. But the ones that have managed to do so deserve to be remembered as the true engineering marvels that they are. So, with that thought in mind, here is a list of ten ancient structures that were ahead of their times.
1. Talianki, Ukraine
Talianki in Ukraine is home to one of the largest settlements of the Neolithic Cucuteni-Trypillian culture. This settlement, dated to around 3850-3750 BCE, consists of concentric rows of interconnected buildings that could hold 15,000 to 21,000 people. Such large settlements would not be seen again until a millennia later, in Mesopotamia.
The Cucuteni-Trypillian culture was an ancient Neolithic civilization that existed around 5500 BCE to 2700 BCE. Since its discovery in the 1800s, historians have unearthed at least 350,000 square kilometers of this civilization spanning Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine.
But the largest of these settlements was discovered only in the 1970s, in the Ukrainian village of Tallianki. Built on a bluff near the Tal’ianki River, this particular settlement was constructed around 3850-3750 BCE.
Similar to other settlements of this culture, the 2,700 interconnected structures at this site are arranged in concentric rows that may have housed 15,000 to 21,000 people.
However, it is hard to know the exact number of residents because the natives of this culture would routinely destroy and rebuild their homes at the same spot. Nevertheless, such large settlements would not be seen for another millennium, until the Mesopotamian civilization.
2. Erbil Citadel, Iraq
Situated in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, the Erbil Citadel is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world. Historians believe that it has been inhabited since at least 5000 BCE and was of great importance in the Neo-Assyrian period. In 2007, when it was evacuated for restoration, one family was allowed to stay back so that its long tradition of inhabitation could continue.
Since at least 5000 BCE, the Erbil Citadel has been occupied by generations of people, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world.
This citadel, located in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, is an ovoid-shaped fortified settlement that has been built upon older settlements. Due to this, it rests on a mound that is 20 to 30 meters higher than its surroundings.
Although it was once a prominent site during the Neo-Assyrian era, a lot of the citadel is in ruins today or has been built over in the last few decades. As a result, there have been some attempts to restore it, the latest being in 2007.
While evacuating the citadel, however, the archaeologists were careful not to disrupt its long tradition of inhabitation and allowed one family to stay back. In 2014, this site was granted UNESCO World Heritage Status. (1, 2)
3. Statue of Ramsses II, Egypt
The 3,200-year-old statue of King Ramsses II was way ahead of its time. This statue was commissioned by the Pharaoh himself at the Great Temple of Ptah in Egypt. It was built with such accuracy that the Sun would shine on it just twice a year – once on 21 February for the king’s coronation and next on 21 October for his birthday.
The Statue of Ramsses II is a ten-meter-tall colossus of the Egyptian King, made from red granite and weighing 83 tons. About 3,200 years ago, it was built under the orders of the Pharaoh to be placed at the Great Temple of Ptah.
One of its greatest marvels is that just twice a year, once on 21 February and again on 21 October, the Sun shines on its face at exactly the same time. These dates were chosen because they coincide with the pharaoh’s coronation and birthday, respectively.
In 2006, when the statue had to be relocated during the construction of the Aswan Dam, this phenomenon was temporarily lost. But in 2019, a team of engineers was finally able to put together a plan that would once again make this feasible. Currently, the statue is on display at the Grand Egyptian Museum, where visitors can bear witness to this incredible sight. (1, 2)
4. Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
Taos Pueblo is an ancient community that belongs to the Native American tribe of Puebloan people. The residential complexes in this pueblo are made from reddish-brown adobe mud and date back at least 1,000 years. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the US.
Located in the US state of New Mexico, Taos Pueblo is an ancient community that belongs to the Taos-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people.
The original site of the pueblo was constructed around 1000-1450 CE, nearly 1,000 years ago, and is now a sacred ruin called the “Cornfield Taos.” The current site is directly to the east of this. Throughout the years, this pueblo has been a central point of trade between various Native American populations.
Here, the clusters of houses are constructed from sun-dried mud bricks, and each year, the walls are recoated with a fresh layer of adobe plaster. Traditionally, these buildings were made without any proper doors or windows.
Instead, the residents would climb up a long ladder to access the rooms through holes in the roof. Today, it is the only Native American settlement that holds a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. (1, 2)
5. Palace of Knossos, Crete
The Palace of Knossos in Crete, Greece, dates back to 1700 BCE and had the earliest known bathtubs in human history. Excavations at this site have turned up ceramic bathtubs, hot and cold indoor plumbing systems, and drainage systems. This palace complex also had the first known flush toilets adjoining the bathrooms.
Knossos was the capital of the Minoan civilization that began in Crete around 5000 BCE. In 1700 BCE, this city became home to the civilization’s largest palace, known as the Palace of Knossos.
Due to the selenite contained in its building material, this palace quickly became renowned for the way light emanates from its surfaces. However, the most incredible discoveries at this site are perhaps their plumbing and drainage system.
During excavations at this site, archaeologists unearthed the remains of an ancient plumbing system that supplied hot and cold water through hydrothermal vents.
The city’s engineers had also made use of the steep grade of the land and created a drainage system that allowed for “flush” toilets, bathtubs, and manholes to exist throughout its premises.
Also read: 10 Astounding Facts About Ancient Cities