World's Most Incredible Archaeological Sites
The fascinating story of the human journey can be traced through the dwellings and monuments that were left behind. Venturing to every corner of the world, we've collected a list of 15 archaeological sites to visit in the world. Some of them you might recognise from just looking at the photos, whereas some are less famous, but nonetheless, every site has a history of their own.
A series of 800-year-old Ancestral Pueblo cave dwellings in Mesa Verde, Colorado, the Mesa Verde National Park serves as a reminder that people flourished in North America long before Europeans arrived. The fascinating rock structures range from single, standalone rooms to villages of up to 150 interconnected spaces.
Angkor Wat is a vast, sprawling network of 12th-century temples, which had been long hidden in the forest in Cambodia. Built as a shrine to Vishnu and later converted to a Buddhist temple, it is the largest religious structure in the world.
The most complete and well-preserved Neolithic site in Europe, the stone homes of Skara Brae were constructed approximately 5000 years ago. Located on the Scottish Orkney Islands, the site provides rare insight into the everyday lives of prehistoric farmers.
Another significant Neolithic site, Göbekli Tepe is far older than Skara Brae. The ruins of engraved megalithic pillars are thought to have been a site of ritual or social use. It was built approximately 12,000 years ago, making it the oldest man-made religious structure on Earth.
The Terracotta Army and the necropolis they were found in together make one of the most intriguing archaeological sites on Earth. Today we can visit the excavation site and see the thousands of life-sized terracotta soldiers which were buried in Emperor Qin's tomb some 2300 years ago. Located close to Xi'an, China, the site was only discovered in the 1970s.
When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD it caused devastation and human tragedy on an unimaginable scale. Despite that Pompeii offers visitors an amazing insight into everyday Roman life as the volcanic ash has helped perfectly preserve the moment in time. The city was buried and hidden for more than 1500 years before it was discovered in 1748.
The rock-cut temples at Abu Simbel are part of the Nubian Monuments UNESCO site. The twin temples were constructed around 3300 years ago during the reign of Rameses II in honour of him and his wife Nefetari. Beautifully intricate and astoundingly imposing, the vast figures of the main temple measure 21 metres high.
The fascinating Ellora Cave network in Western India, is one of the largest of its kind. The rock-cut temples of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain origin were constructed across 100 caves between the 7th and 11th centuries.
There are three Neolithic temples in Malta and Gozo, the most significant of which, the Ggantija Temple on the island of Gozo, is considered to be the oldest free-standing structure on Earth. The Ggantija is thought to have been used in prehistoric fertility rites.
Before the Athenians came the Minoans, a Bronze Age Civilisation that thrived on Crete over 4000 years ago. The Palace of Knossos, thought to be the setting for the Minotaur myth, was controversially restored in the early 20th century, adding to it's fascinating history.
The Roman Forum housed the important government buildings from where the emperors ruled their successful empire. Today visitors can walk the lanes and paths as they view the ruins of these buildings. The famous, Colosseum, to the east of the Forum, has fared better and is the largest standing amphitheatre in the world.
The Avebury Circles aren neolithic stone circles which have bewildered onlookers for thousands of years. Constructed approximately 4000 years ago, they are generally believed to have ritualistic or social significance and considered a sacred destination. The world famous Stonehenge is also located 32 km south and is considered the most sophisticated stone circle in the world, nearby Avebury is the largest, with a circumference of 1.3km.
Once one of the largest Mayan cities in the Americas, the site of Tikal in Guatemala was populated from the 4th century BC until the Classic Mayan decline in the 9th century AD. Made up of great plazas, intricate pyramid temples and palace complexes, the entire site remained untouched and mostly unknown about for nearly 1000 years.
Sicily's famed Valley of the Temples features no less than six temples, built in honour of popular Greek gods during the 5th and 4th centuries BC. The iconic Temple of Concordia is one of the most well-preserved Greek temples in the world.
The twin-peaked island of Skellig Michael is home to a 6th-century Gaelic-Christian monastery. This unique site is comprised of beehive-shaped structures which can only be accessed via a narrow, steep flight of steps.
If you want find out more about other world famous archaeological sites, including the famous Pyramids of Giza in Egypt or the Acropolis of Athens in Greece, don't forget to check our page on other popular World Heritage Sites to add to your future travel bucket list.
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