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8 Unbelievably Advanced Ancient Man-Made Structures That Still Astonish Us

Sunday, August 9, 2015 9:13
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For anyone who hasn’t noticed, I am like the little kid that keeps tugging on your shirt asking, “But why” on topics like this. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, What If Everything You Were Ever Taught Was A Lie? I cannot help myself. I think about that ALL the time. Admittedly, I am enamored with this subject, and so are many of you. I know that because some of the following posts are the most wildly successful ones I’ve posted:

What is the Antikythera Mechanism? – 6 Discoveries Science Can’t Explain

Largest City Ever? – Enormous 5,000 Year-Old Underground City Discovered 

5 Shockingly Advanced Ancient Buildings That Should Not Be Possible 

Ten Mysterious Ancient Civilizations Modern Science Cannot Explain 

Ten Actual Lost Treasures No One Has Ever Found 

Top 10 Ancient Cities Forgotten By Time 

Top 10 Legendary Ancient Lost Worlds That Disappeared 

Top 10 Mysterious Underground Cities 

Ten Mysterious Underwater Cities You Haven’t Heard Of 

Most people don’t have enough interest to do serious research into this area, and I don’t know that I would say I have any “serious research” either. I watch, listen to, or read anything I can get my hands on within the subject, but my time is too limited to do much more. How? Why? Who? How long ago? We know so much more today than our institutions teach in academia. Why the cover-ups? Are they “science deniers?” [kidding]

While it may seem that the scope of modern construction with its ‘pillars’ of concrete and glass has taken the progressive path, the vast ambit of ancient architecture had already traversed the advanced route by the sheer design prowess of some incredible buildings and structures (a few of which were even built more than 5,000 years ago). So, without further ado, let us check out 8 such unbelievably advanced ancient man-made structures that still manage to baffle us after millenniums have passed since their founding.


1) Gobekli Tepe, in Turkey (circa before 9000 BC) –

Located in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, the mysterious Gobekli Tepe (or ‘Potbelly Hill’) boasts of an archaeological mound that is 15 m (49 ft) in height and over 300 m (984 ft) in diameter. First identified in a survey conducted way back in the 1960’s, this tell (or mound) flaunted a series of limestone slabs and T-shaped pillars, some of which were over 30 ft tall. Intrigued by these imposing finds, the researchers had conducted their detailed stratigraphy tests to reveal that the site is at least 11,000 years old (or 6,000 years older than Stonehenge!). And oddly enough, in spite of this early neolithic date – when humans had still not developed major tools to take on such gargantuan projects, the advanced ancient structures were built (by mere manpower) in a site with no proximate water source.

In fact, the entire arrangement of these massive stones was seemingly ceremonial in nature, with no evidence of nearby walls, hearths, or houses that would shed light on the ‘domestic’ habitation side of affairs. This had led to the touting of the Gobekli Tepe as the ‘oldest human-built temple in the world’ (or even the oldest human construction). However, arguably more fascinating is the presence of numerous animal remains in the area, including gazelle and auroch bones – which suggests that over hundreds of workers laboring on the site subsisted on just foraging and hunting, as opposed to agriculture. To that end, the Gobekli Tepe constructions built by hunter-gatherers, might even predate the scope of agriculture itself!


2) Jericho, in Gaza/Israel (circa 9000 BC) –

Sometimes claimed as the ‘oldest continuously inhabited settlement‘ in the world, the city of Jericho stands as a testament to the triumph of human ‘ordered’ civilization over natural settings. To that end, the site of Jericho was already marked by nomadic hunters as a crucial place of gathering by 9000 BC; and these people might have also built some kind of a rudimentary shrine in the place. And this cradle of civilization now bolstered by an agricultural scope, was already founded by 8000 BC, with the examined ruins suggesting the advanced habitation patterns of regular townsfolk inside the ‘city’. This incredible transition from hardy nomadic tendencies to a bountiful sedentary lifestyle, is partly evident from the found remains of wheat, barley and even flint blades of sickles inside the settlement’s parameters. The ambit of irrigation is also suggested, with the prevalence of underground springs that lead to a strikingly green oasis in the barren waste bordering the River Jordan.




These impressive ancient remnants are complemented by the presence of more imposing ruins – comprising a huge 2,600 ft (or 800 m) long wall with a defensive circular tower of 30 ft diameter. The historians have even discovered the vestiges of an even grander settlement that was built upon the site in 7000 BC, after the mother-city was supposedly destroyed in fire. This scope of habitation has continued ever since with succession of walled towns in the vicinity, ranging from Herod’s Roman-style palace built in 1st century BC to Caliph Hashim’s opulent palace built in 8th century AD. There is also a religious angle thrown into this ancient architectural mix – with the long held tradition that Jesus himself was baptized at a site that was just 6 miles east of Jericho.


3) Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni, in Malta (circa 4000 BC) –

Simply put, the Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni located in the island of Malta, is the only known prehistoric underground temple in the world. Discovered quite accidentally in 1902 when some men were boring cisterns for a new housing development, the Hypogeum (literally translating to ‘underground’ in Greek) was found to have three superimposed levels of chambers, with the lowest level starting 10.6 m (35 ft) below the ground level. And, judging from its founding date of 4000 BC, suffice it to say, these subterranean chambers were painstakingly scooped out by using rudimentary equipment – like chert, flint and obsidian tools and antlers. Interestingly enough, from the architectural perspective, many of the chambers and rooms seemingly imitates the then-contemporary style of above-ground megalithic temples.

Now on the bizarre side, the Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni was probably built as some sort of an expansive underground sanctuary, but was gradually transformed into an ossuary – as is evident from the discovery of remains of more than 7,000 people that are ominously arrayed along the entrance way. However, the ‘piece de resistance’ of this fascinating specimen of ancient architecture arguably relates to its mind-boggling acoustic properties. To that end, male voices emanating at a range of 95 to 120 Hz range, can reverberate throughout the whole complex. And what’s more, if the male voice is kept at around the 110 Hz frequency mark, it results in a trance-like effect that resounds through the enclosed space and even might stimulate the ‘creative part’ of the human-brain!


4) Newgrange, in Ireland (circa 3200 BC) –

While not as celebrated as its neolithic cousin – the Stonehenge, the Newgrange in the Boyne Valley, County Meath, Ireland, is actually older than both the Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid at Giza, but no less mysterious. Originally attributed to the mythical Kings of Tara of ancient Ireland, the megalithic mound grave clearly gives an indication of the engineering prowess of the neolithic inhabitants of the area. To that end, the mound in question roughly covers an area of an acre, with its 55 ft long inner-passage connecting to a central chamber that further branches into three arms. This entire spatial scope is estimated to be covered by a cairn that contains an astronomical 200,000 metric tons (220,507 US tons) of loose stones. And if that was not enough, the imposing structure is wholly water-resistant, and is further ringed by an arrangement of standing stones.

As for the mysterious part – in spite of the absurdly extensive man-made structure, the mound grave only contains the remains of five people! Moreover, historians are still baffled by a bevy of unsolved factors. How were the standing stones transported to the site (or where they deposited by glaciers?)? How many people were actually involved in this monumental project (considering the relatively low population of the area)? Why are some of the stones decorated with distinctive geometric patterns, and yet hidden from view? And, on top of all these questions, the point of certainty hints at the specific orientation of the Newgrange that allows the rising winter solstice sun to shine along the path of the passageway and finally into the central chamber.


5) The Great Pyramid Of Giza (circa 2560 BC) –




A list of unbelievably advanced ancient man-made structures cannot be complete without the one-and-only Great Pyramid Of Giza. The ancient architectural specimen was built in around 2560 BC, and held the record for the world’s tallest structure for 3,800 years with its impressive height of 481 ft (146.5 m). As for other mind-boggling figures, the monumental giant has a base area of around 570,000 sq ft, and a gargantuan volume of 88 million cubic ft (or 2.5 million cubic m) that accounts for an extraordinary 5.9 million tons of mass. This astronomical scope was achieved by the use of a whopping 2.3 million stone blocks (ranging from 2 to 30 tons) – that comes to an average of 800 tons of stones being installed each day, with 12 stones being precisely placed every hour! Some of these stones (especially, the ones used in the inner chambers) weigh more than 50 tons, and yet they were transported to the site from Aswan, which is 800 km (500 miles) away.

Given such a vast scope of the construction process, and that too in an epoch which was more than 4,500 years ago – one would be inclined to think that the monument might be a bit on the imprecise side with inaccurate measurements and geometry. Well, in that case, that someone will be wrong! In terms of construction, the Great Pyramid was built on an artificially flattened site that deviates from a perfectly horizontal plane by just a minute 2 cm. Even the aforementioned base edges of the structures account for an almost perfect square, thus making the corners nigh impeccably right-angled to each other. And, perhaps the most impressive feat of all – the four sides of the pyramid are almost immaculately oriented with the four cardinal directions of North, South, East and West.

This wondrous scope of immaculate geometry was visually complemented by large blocks of ‘casing stones‘. This flat-topped limestone pieces were polished to perfection with a range of abrasives like sandstone, brick and fine sand, and then placed atop the pyramid-structure. The end result of such high levels of polishing yielded smooth surfaces that were incredibly shiny beyond reckoning. And, considering that there was limited pollution and smog circa 2500 BC, the Great Pyramid of Giza must have been an otherworldly magnificent spectacle during the time of its completion – with shiny, glass-like facades basking in the glory of the effulgent sun. Quite poetically and rather aptly, the Ancient Egyptians called the Great Pyramid by the name of ‘Ikhet‘, which simply translates to ‘Glorious Light’.


6) Great Dam of Marib, in Yemen (circa 800 BC) –

Though archaeological evidences have suggested a patchwork of earth dams and complementary canal network dating from 21st century BC, the Great Dam of Marib itself was probably built in the 8th century BC, near the the ancient city of Ma’rib, which was the capital of the fabled Arabian Kingdom of Saba (of the ‘Queen of Sheba’ fame). Already known for their deep trade networks that covered rare items like frankincense and spices, the Sabeans must have also initiated agricultural reforms over the centuries, to supplement their thriving yet ‘poor in water’ kingdom. One of the outcomes of these policies was the decision to capture the periodic monsoon water from the nearby mountains, and use it in the lands around the lower-level urban areas. As a result, the gargantuan Great Dam of Marib was built to regulate the waters of the Wadi (or watercourse) ‘Sadd’; and this massive feat of ancient engineering was over a whopping 2,000 ft long (for comparisons sake, the Hoover Dam is just 1,244 ft long)!

Now, in terms of sheer technology, this 2,000 ft long structure didn’t pertain to rudimentary arrangement of rocks, but rather entailed a completely water-tight construction of packed earth bolstered by fine stone-and-masonry. In fact, Great Dam of Marib with its pyramid-shaped cross-section, boasted of complementary canals, gates, sluices, and spillways – that irrigated more than 25,000 acres of nearby farmland. When translated to a timeline, this pre-concrete advanced ancient structure survived over 1,000 years (in stark contrast to our modern dams that hardly survive 100 years), before cracking up and finally giving in to natural elements by 6th century AD. This incident surely contributed to major economic repercussions in the arid area, so much so that it might have even been alluded to in the Quran itself!


7) Pont du Gard, in France (circa 50 AD) –

Measuring over 160 ft (49 m) in height and 900 ft (274 m) in length, the Pont du Gard stands out as the ancient bastion that proudly signifies both Roman engineering and architectural prowess. Designed (in around the middle of 1st century AD) to supply fresh water to the city of Nimes (in southern France) across the Gardon River, this mammoth structure was just a part of a massive infrastructure that was spread over 30 miles, and connected the aforementioned city with the original water source. Considering such an expansive scale, the Pont du Gard must have been successful in its purpose, with estimations of the ancient aqueduct’s capacity to supply 108 US gallons (or 409 liters) of water per person per day! This must have equated to an overall large volume of water, since Nimes (or Nemausus) had a population of over 50,000 people in its Roman-era heyday.




Now in terms of sheer engineering aptitude, the ancient man-made structure was constructed with a gradient of one in 3,000, thus resulting in a drop (height difference) of 55 ft between the actual water source and the outlet on the other side supplying the city. And interestingly, the blocks of stones are set without the use of mortar – which sort of endows the structure with an unfinished bearing, especially with the uncouth-looking protruding knobs. But this probably was an intentional ploy on the part of the engineers, with the hard water depositing its minerals along the roughly-hewed sides of the water channel (at the top level of the aqueduct). This in turn made maintenance work easier, as the workers cleaned these components by attaching scaffolding to the ‘gripping’ edges.


8) Colosseum, In Italy (circa 70 AD) –

When we talk about the Colosseum, it is important that we talk about the humongous volume of its spatial scope. To that end, being elliptical in plan, the Colosseum is 189 m (615 ft) long, and 156 m (510 ft) wide – which accounts for almost 500 m (1,640 ft) in circumference, with a base area of 6 acres (24,000 sq m). Its enclosing tiers originally rose to a height of 55 m (180 ft) – thus taking the total volume of the ancient Roman amphitheater a whopping 1,320,000 cubic m or 47 million cubic ft! In that regard, it comes as no surprise that during peak events, the Colosseum could hold up to 60,000 to 80,000 people. And more such a gargantuan ambit was constructed from around 100,000 cubic m of travertine stones and tufa – with the stone blocks being placed without any mortar. Instead the Roman engineers opted for more than 300 tons of iron clamps for internalized reinforcements – a design consideration that surely worked in favor of the ancient architectural specimen, which has survived many natural calamities, ranging from earthquakes, fires to even lightning strikes.

But the best architectural innovation of the Colosseum arguably related to its internal design that was impeccably tailored to both crowd and animal control. To that end, the seating arrangement of the amphitheater was contrived in such a manner so as to streamline the audience organization based on their occupations (and even societal background). This allowed the spatial scope of the stadium to easily manage over 50,000 loud, cheering spectators in a clockwork-like manner. The seating arrangements were further complemented by the subterranean hypogeum, with its intricate double-leveled underground system of cages and tunnels that housed the animals and gladiators alike. These ‘participants’ were directly brought to the upper ground level arena via elevators – an effective design scope that had been showcased in a cinematic fashion in Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator‘. The hypogeum was also used for the purpose of stretching expansive awnings over the open-top of the amphitheater. And, these elaborate systems of pulleys, canvas, ropes and sockets were operated by actual sailors who were specifically recruited for the job.

If interested, you can also take a gander at these other fascinating ancient architectural specimens that have just missed out on the list – Parthenon and Stonehenge.

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