Since the dawn of history, humans have created impressive structures that served as a record of their existence and ingenuity. Some structures like the pyramids of Giza leave us awestruck because of their engineering feats. And others like the Great Wall of China were more than just a pretty façade, but a necessary aspect of a national defense strategy.
Regardless of the stories behind why these structures were built, what matters now is that we can still experience them. And if you’re gathering inspiration for a vacation steeped in history, these ancient structures should be on your bucket list. Because of the cultural and historical importance of these structures, it is impossible to find a historical place that hasn’t been aided by modern conservation efforts.
The Parthenon – Athens, Greece
Today, when you think of a place of worship, you probably picture a church, temple, or mosque designed for a monotheistic (one deity) religion. But in ancient times, pantheistic religions (worshiping multiple gods) were much more common. So, it wasn’t strange to erect multiple structures within a civilization that were dedicated to multiple deities. One of the most notable ancient pantheistic religions was in Greece. The Parthenon in Athens is a perfect example and was constructed to allow local Athenians to celebrate and worship Athena, the goddess best known for presiding over wisdom. In other words, Athena is the patron god of Athens, and the city felt it wise to honor her.
But the Parthenon as you know it today wasn’t the first version. In fact, it’s the third version (Parthenon III) that replaced two earlier structures built in 570 BCE (Parthenon I) and 480 BCE (Parthenon II). Incidentally, Parthenon II was destroyed during the Battle of Marathon around 490 BCE by the Persians. But in case you’re concerned that the current Parthenon is too modern, don’t be. It was constructed between 447 and 438 BCE.
Carnac Stones – Brittany, France
So, the Parthenon is a fairly straightforward ancient site that doesn’t require a suspension of belief for you to enjoy it. Its architecture is in line with other buildings from that era. But there are other ancient structures in other parts of the world that defy logic and continue to confound historians and experts. The Carnac Stones in the Brittany region of France is the perfect example of an ancient structure that’s out of place with other architecture and scientific advancements of its time. Officially, the Carnac Stones were compiled sometime between 3,300 and 4,500 BCE. They’re comprised of 3,000 prehistoric stones that serve as a representation of well-known geological alignments from that era.
For years, scientists struggled to understand what the Carnac Stones meant until they stumbled across geoglyphology in 2004. Geoglyphology is a way in which an ancient culture marked its physical territory. The concept isn’t unique to Carnac as multiple ancient cultures around the world used it to outline their areas of influence. But Carnac’s version of geoglyphology is unique — often viewed as a methodology too advanced for its time. Consider that Stonehenge was erected during the same time period but was considered far easier to decipher.
Aqueduct of Segovia – Segovia, Spain
Every structure serves a form of functionality, but some buildings or edifices are more utilitarian than others. The Aqueduct of Segovia is one such phenomenon. It embodies the architectural style of the Roman Empire while also serving an essential purpose — supplying water to the city of Segovia. In fact, the aqueduct was so efficient that it served as a water supply from the Frio River when it was first developed during the first century CE until the 20th century.
As if that’s not impressive enough, try to comprehend the fact that this stone structure was created with little to no mortar. Today the aqueduct is just over 8.5 miles long and features an average height of nearly 100 feet. To this day, the Aqueduct of Segovia is considered one of the best-preserved representations of a Roman aqueduct. Even though the structure continued to be used well into the 20th century, it wasn’t maintained as it should be. It wasn’t until the 1970s that a serious conservation effort was launched to preserve its remaining portions. In 1985, the Aqueduct of Segovia officially became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Oldest Structures You’ll Ever See
There are so many impressive ancient structures in the world that it was hard to narrow it down to just the three we listed here. But each of the ones we selected feature an interesting piece of trivia that you probably didn’t know until today. Whether you choose to visit these places or draft a different itinerary, we hope that you’ll appreciate the ingenuity and creativity of the ancient people who created these.