We look at skyscrapers and dams and see them as pinnacles of human engineering, content in the fact we can build whatever we want. However, we often fail to remember the technological marvels of ancient history—buildings or temples which seemed impossible to construct by primitive cultures. Here are ten hopefully lesser-known examples of amazing ancient construction.
10 Pueblo Bonito – United States
Photo credit: James Q. Jacobs
Located in Northwestern New Mexico, Pueblo Bonito is the largest and most well-known example of a great house (village) built by the ancestral Pueblo people. The village’s construction began in the early part of the 10th century AD and continued for nearly 180 years, reaching a peak of around 800 separate rooms, with some buildings having as many as five stories.
It was first discovered in 1849 by US Army Lieutenant James H. Simpson and his guide, Carravahal. Since then, Pueblo Bonito has become one of the most excavated and explored ruins in the Southwestern United States. A number of the rooms were damaged when part of the cliff wall behind the village collapsed. (The name of the rock which fell translated as “Threatening Rock,” showing that the builders were well aware of the danger.) Just behind Pueblo Bonito lies a set of petroglyphs, mysteriously showing six-toed feet, made sometime in the late 10th century or early 11th century.
9 Catalhoyuk – Turkey
Photo credit: Omar Hoftun
Found in the southern half of Turkey, Catalhoyuk is estimated to have existed from around 7500 to 5700 BC. It was built by an unknown Neolithic culture that is believed to have been highly advanced. Excavations have been going on there since the site was first discovered in the late 1950s by British archaeologist James Mellaart.
A number of interesting items have been uncovered, including (allegedly) the earliest known map and some of the most exceptional daggers ever seen from that period. The houses of Catalhoyuk have an intriguing quirk: They have no doors and were entered from the roof, by ladder. Also, the dead seemed to be buried underneath the floors of the houses, particularly by the hearts. However, based on the discovery of some disarticulated bones, the bodies may have been left outdoors for a while before they were buried indoors.
8 Locmariaquer – France
Photo credit: S. Moller
Located in France’s Brittany region is a group of the largest prehistoric European megaliths in existence. Originally constructed around 4500 BC, the biggest stone at Locmariaquer was nearly 21 meters (70 ft) in length and between 200 and 280 tons in weight. (We don’t know for sure because the megalith, known as “the Fairy Stone,” was broken long ago, possibly by an earthquake but more likely by human hands.)
Astonishingly, the Fairy Stone was moved in one piece from a quarry over 10 kilometers (6 mi) away. It’s not known exactly how it was transported, but it could have been floated down a nearby channel or simply taken by land utilizing a “wooden cradle,” basically rolling logs on wooden tracks. The purpose of the site is unknown, although there is a dolmen (a type of tomb) located there. Other researchers have put forth theories involving lunar activity.