Considering that the existence of modern man dates back 200,000 years, millions of monuments, buildings, and other sites are of great importance to the human race. While we have achieved so much during this time, we have not lived up to our obligations as the planet’s caretakers.
In fact, we raze forests as if there’s no tomorrow and destroy natural areas and historic sites. Our destructive natures have led to innumerable wars, many completely forgotten in the passage of time, which in turn gave rise to numerous forgotten and undiscovered monuments, ruins and other sites of immense historic value. While we’ve taken a look at some of them, it’s important to highlight as many as we can, lest we forget the steps our ancestors took to hew, cut and carve out their spots in our history.
10. Brú na Bóinne, Ireland
References to the monuments of Brú na Bóinne can be found in most Early Irish literature and are steeped in lore and tradition. The tombs, henges and other prehistoric enclosures are associated with the Tuatha Dé Danaan, a race of mythical beings who, according to tradition, ruled Ireland before the Celts came and then retreated into the fairy mounds and fortresses. The area has been used as a human settlement for at least 6,000 years, but the main structures date back to around 5,000 years ago, from the Neolithic period.
As the site predates the Egyptian pyramids, archaeologists were astonished to find that a beam of light penetrates one Newgrange chamber at dawn during the winter solstice to touch the floor just below its tri-spiral, confirming the local legends surrounding the specific chamber and simultaneously proving that it was built with a certain amount of expertise as it relates to astronomy and science.
9. Aboriginal Sacred Site Juukan Gorge, Australia
A cave in Juukan Gorge, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Mt. Tom Price is one of the oldest in the western region of Pilbara and the only inland location in Australia to display evidence of continuous human occupation since the Ice Age. Australians were horrified when they found out that mining company Rio Tinto received ministerial consent to damage the site in 2013, even more so when an archeological dig in 2014 found the site was actually twice its initially believed age and turned up numerous sacred objects and cultural artifacts. One discovery of particular interest was a length of plated human hair, woven together from strands of hair of several different individuals, that was found to be around 4,000 years old. DNA analysis revealed that the hair belonged to the immediate ancestors of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura alive today.
Sadly, the 1972 Aboriginal Heritage Act (WA) does not permit the renegotiation of mining consent. As such, on May 24, 2020, the cave and other sacred Aboriginal sites were blasted.
8. Puma Punku, Bolivia
A dramatic array of stones and the ruins of a large temple complex, stand guard over an arid plane in western Bolivia. These spectacular ruins are what remain of the magnificent architectural feat achieved by a civilization that predated even the Inca – the Tiwanaku. Pumapunku (or Puma Punku), which translates to “door of the puma,” was a sacred site established between 500 and 600 CE. It was developed, and expanded much like its people, reflecting the growing influence of the civilization that built and rebuilt it for centuries.
The civilization was seemingly toppled in a very short space of time and its inhabitants vanished. Yet what they left behind was so amazing that, 500 years later, when the Inca discovered its ruins, they believed Pumapunku to be the location where the gods created the world. Due to the site’s architectural curiosities, which include blocks of andesite with complex shapes, sandstone slabs and terraces of immense weight and millimetric precision, it is shrouded in legend and mystery and often mentioned during discussions of lost ancient super civilizations and the influences of ancient aliens.
7. Pueblo Grande, Phoenix
Long before modern Americans moved into the area now known as Phoenix, it was home to the Hohokam civilization who built and ultimately left the incredible archaeological structures at Pueblo Grande. The Pueblo Grande site has a wide platform mound with retaining structures. This sprawling complex includes more than 20,000 cubic meters of fill and includes numerous buildings and several ball courts.
The Hohokam culture built some of the most sophisticated and largest canal systems all through pre-Columbian North America. They were also the first inhabitants to practice irrigated farming in the area. Today the remains of their irrigation canals form part of the Pueblo Grande archeological site. Pueblo Grande was inhabited from about A.D. 450 to 1450, when it was deserted like so many other settlements in the Phoenix basin. The reasons why these settlements and irrigation systems were abandoned are extensively debated by archaeologists. There are several conflicting theories, including droughts, war, floods and disease.
6. Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia
Though most of us have heard about Petra, the Nabatean capital in Jordan, the Nabateans second-largest city, Madain Saleh, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is still fairly unknown. Once a flourishing city that played a crucial role in the establishment of the trade empire along the ancient spice route, today its tremendous stone tombs are some of the best-preserved remnants of the ancient lost kingdom.
The Nabateans, whose riches and prosperity stemmed from their abilities to obtain and conserve water in the severe desert conditions maintained a monopoly on the trade routes as far north as the Mediterranean port of Gaza. They collected taxes from camel caravans – overloaded with myrrh, frankincense, and spices – which rested at their fortified outposts for water and rest. By 106 AD, however, the Nabatean Empire was conquered by the Romans, and the Red Sea routes replaced the land trade routes. The Nabatean cities were no longer centres of trade, and fell into decline and ultimately, their final abandonment. Hidden deep in the desert, today Madain Saleh is desolate, quiet and stunningly well-preserved. Most of the city continues to remain beneath the desert sands..
5. Abu Hureyra, Syria
Nearly 13,000 years ago, a group of ancient nomads launched a dramatic change in the area we now call Syria. They left their hunter-gatherer lifestyles and became the founders of new development in human civilization: agriculture. Exactly where the historic pioneers of the ancient city, Abu Hureyra, came upon the far-out notion of farming may never be known. Yet according to a recent study of mysterious particles present in the soil, these nomads must have witnessed an exploding comet.
Almost permanently inhabited from 13,000 to 6,000 years ago, even before the advent of agriculture in the area, Abu Hureyra is exceptional and noteworthy for its excellent conservation of fauna and flora, supplying critical evidence of the economic shifts in diet and food production. Abu Hureyra was exhumed from 1972 to 1974 by Andrew Moore and a team of colleagues as a salvage operation prior to the building of the Tabqa Dam, which engulfed this portion of the Euphrates Valley in 1974 to form Lake Assad. Today, Abu Hureyra’s archeological site is deep underwater. Before the remarkable history of Abu Hureyra was submerged, however, archaeologists excavated as many of its ancient remains as they could.
4. Carthage, Tunisia
Carthage was the hub of the ancient Carthaginian civilization, located on the eastern side of Lake Tunis, in what is now Tunisia. Carthage was commonly recognized as the most important trade center of the Ancient Mediterranean and was undoubtedly one of the most prosperous cities of the ancient world. The ancient city was overrun and destroyed several times, first by the Roman Republic in the Third Punic War in 146 BC; then captured and demolished by the Umayyad forces after the Battle of Carthage in 698, up to the Hafsid era when it was taken by the Crusaders during the Eighth Crusade.
The archeological site was explored for the first time in 1830 by the Danish consul Christian Tuxen Falbe and excavations were conducted in the second half of the 19th century. The Carthage National Museum was ultimately established in 1875. Excavations by French archaeologists in the 1920s attracted a great deal of attention because of evidence they presented that indicated accounts of child sacrifice. Needless to say, there has been considerable disagreement among scholars as to whether the ancient Carthaginians performed child sacrifice.
3. Ciudad Perdida, Colombia
Ciudad Perdida was rediscovered in 1972 when a number of local treasure hunters found a collection of stone steps that ran up a mountainside and followed them to the abandoned city, which they called “Wide Set” or “Green Hell.” As gold ornaments and decorative urns from the city started to appear on the local black market, archaeologists led by the director of the Instituto Colombiano de Antropología entered the site in 1976 and concluded their excavation between 1976 and 1982.
Leaders of the local tribes – the Koguis, the Arhuaco and the Wiwas – claimed that they had visited the site on a regular basis before it was widely published, but had remained quiet about it. According to their legends the city is called Teyuna and they claim that it was the center of a network of villages populated by their ancestors, the Tairona. Ciudad Perdida was presumably the manufacturing and political center of the region on the Buritaca River and may well have sheltered between 2,000–8,000 people. Unfortunately the city was abandoned during the Spanish invasion.
2. Caral, Peru
The sacred city of Caral-Supe is over 5,000 years old and seems to be the model of urban architecture embraced by Andean civilizations that rose and fell over the course of four millennia. Many experts believe that Caral could reveal more details about the history of the Andean cultures and the creation of the first cities. The site was settled roughly between the 26th and 20th centuries BC, occupying an area of over 60 hectares (150 acres).
The ancient city was initially believed to be the oldest urban center in the Americas, an assertion that was eventually challenged as several other ancient sites were found in the area, such as Bandurria, Peru. As it accommodated well over 3,000 people, it is one of the best researched and one of the biggest Norte Chico sites currently in existence. The ancient complex is distributed over 150 hectares (370 acres) and includes plazas, walkways and residential areas. Caral was a flourishing megacity around the same time that the great pyramids of Egypt were being constructed. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.
1. Memphis, Egypt
Memphis was among the wealthiest, oldest, and most prominent cities in ancient Egypt, situated at the gateway to the Nile River Valley near the plateau of Giza. It served as the capital of ancient Egypt and an important place of religious worship. The city’s original name was Hiku-Ptah (or Hut-Ka-Ptah) but it eventually became known as Inbu-Hedj which means “White Walls” as it was constructed from mud bricks and then colored or painted white.
Upon the Romans’ invasion of Egypt, Memphis began to decline. This was exacerbated by the emergence of Christianity in the 4th century CE when people stopped visiting the ancient shrines and temples of the Egyptian gods. Following the Arab conquest by the7th century CE, Memphis became a ruin whose structures had been harvested for material to create the foundations for Cairo and other big projects. Temples, shrines, churches, and walls were destroyed and used to construct the city of Fustat, the very first capital of Muslim Egypt, as well as the subsequent city of Cairo. Today, nothing can be found at the site apart from the impressive ruins of walls, foundations, and broken statues, but it continues to be a major tourist attraction.