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9 Of History’s Oldest Structures And The Stories Behind Them

9 Of History’s Oldest Structures And The Stories Behind Them

Dating back nearly 12,000 years, history’s oldest man-made structures offer insight into the first steps of civilization. During the Neolithic Age, from around 9,000 BCE to 3,000 BCE, the world changed dramatically. As agriculture developed, formerly nomadic societies began to settle, and temporary camps became permanent homes and buildings made from massive stones. These represent the world’s oldest structures.

Into the rock, these ancient peoples carved their fears, hopes, and dreams. They left behind both mysterious pictograms and clear animal reliefs. They raised the world’s first megaliths, large rock monuments for religious ceremonies and burials. They built homes, maze-like temples, underground tombs, and platforms for ceremonies and sacrifices. These structures are as diverse as the peoples who made them, appearing in places like Turkey, Malta, France, and Peru.

The World’s Oldest Structures: Megalithic Temples, Malta

Dating back to 3,500 to 2,500 BCE, the Megalithic Temples of Malta are some of the oldest structures in the world. These stone temples are older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. Rediscovered and restored in the 19th century, they were likely built by local farmers, as evidence of livestock sacrifices was found inside.

Several temples are scattered around Malta, many of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The most important is the two-temple complex at Ggantija. According to UNESCO, these are among the oldest freestanding stone buildings on Earth. The ancient Maltese prioritized both architectural skill and artistic creativity, evident in these structures.

The temples show construction methods and designs that were ahead of their time, such as concave facades and indications of corbeled roofs. Builders used local stone: coralline limestone for the exteriors and more malleable globigerina limestone for the decorative interiors. The latter shows tremendous artistic talent and craftsmanship.

Panels inside the temples are decorated with drilled holes, tree, plant, animal, and spiral motifs. Artifacts found within the temples suggest they were important ritualistic sites.

Knap of Howar, Scotland

The Knap of Howar, located on the Scottish island of Papa Westray, is a Neolithic farmstead dating back to 3,500 BCE. It consists of two adjacent, rectangular buildings with thick walls and low doorways, believed to be the oldest preserved stone house in northern Europe.

According to Historic Environment, the Knap of Howar’s buildings are contemporary with the chambered Orkney tombs, such as Midhowe. They are some of the earliest Neolithic settlements in this part of the continent and the best preserved.

The two buildings are oblong-shaped, with intact entrances and standing about 5.25 feet tall. A short passage connects them. Excavations have uncovered stone tools, evidence of agriculture, and domesticated animals. Ritual ceremonies were likely practiced there, as indicated by the discovery of an antler and a mace head made from whalebone.

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