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10 of the Most Unbelievable Ancient Structures and Their Stories

by Huxley Brown
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

The ancient world was home to many incredible structures and buildings that have stood the test of time. From towering pyramids to massive temples, these ancient buildings are a testament to the ingenuity and skill of the people who built them.

Many people travel to visit the monuments and structures of the world, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, and the Great Wall of China. However, some ancient and historic monuments are less well-remembered but no less impressive. These are 10 often overlooked but still unbelievable structures, each with its own unique history and significance.

Related: Top 10 Fascinating Ancient Finds From Mesoamerica

10 The Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro

Mohenjo Daro 101 | National Geographic

The Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro is a remarkable engineering feat that has fascinated historians and archaeologists alike. The structure is believed to have been used for ritual bathing and social gatherings, making it an important part of the Indus Valley Civilization’s religious and cultural practices.

The bath is located in a large citadel complex that was discovered during excavations in the 1920s and is considered to be one of the main centers of the Indus civilization. It is surrounded by a courtyard and features steps leading down to the pool, which measures approximately 12 x 7 feet (3.7 x 2.1 meters) and is 2.5 feet (0.76 meters) deep.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Great Bath is its advanced drainage system. The bath had two large and sophisticated drainages that were used to collect and reuse the water for ritual purification. This system is one of the earliest examples of urban planning and engineering in the world, demonstrating the remarkable engineering and architectural skills of the Indus Valley Civilization. The Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro is an important historical landmark that provides a glimpse into the sophistication of the ancient world.[1]

9 The Step Pyramid of Djoser


The Step Pyramid of Djoser is a fascinating testament to the ingenuity and power of ancient Egypt. Built over 4,600 years ago, this pyramid is a monument to the pharaoh Djoser. It is considered the world’s oldest surviving stone structure. The architect Imhotep created the unique design by stacking mastabas—flat-roofed tombs—on top of each other to form the shape of a pyramid. It is believed that the pyramid was originally built to a height of 205 feet (62.5 meters) and was made with over 6 million blocks of stone.

The Step Pyramid is an impressive feat of engineering and architecture and serves as a symbol of Djoser’s power and authority. It still serves as one of the most significant monuments of ancient Egypt, marking the beginning of the Old Kingdom pyramids, which were built as burial sites for pharaohs.

Despite being over 4,600 years old, the pyramid still stands today and remains an important historical site, attracting visitors from all over the world. The Step Pyramid of Djoser is a reminder of the incredible achievements of the ancient Egyptians and their lasting legacy on the world.[2]

8 The Ziggurat of Ur

Great Ziggurat Of Ur & The Ancient City In Mesopotamia. Birthplace of Abraham? Nasiriyah, Iraq.

The Ziggurat of Ur is a stunning example of the architectural and religious structures characteristic of Mesopotamia. This ancient temple tower was built around 2100 BC by the Sumerian people for the moon god Nanna. At its full height, it stood at over 98 feet (30 meters) tall, with a core of mud brick and an exterior covered in baked brick. The structure was square or rectangular in shape, and it had three levels with no internal chambers.

In its heyday of use, visitors would climb a staircase up the side of the ziggurat to reach the top. The Ziggurat of Ur was one of the highest points in the city and would have been visible for miles around, much like the spires of medieval cathedrals. It is one of the few remaining structures of its kind and an important part of Iraq’s cultural heritage.

The Ziggurat of Ur was part of an ancient sacred precinct that included other temples and shrines. The temple on top of the ziggurat was dedicated to the moon god Nanna, the patron deity of Ur. The structure itself was significant as it served as a religious structure, but it was also a symbol of power and authority.

It was built by the king, Ur-Nammu of the Third Dynasty, who used the construction of the ziggurat to legitimize his rule and demonstrate his power over the people of Ur. The Ziggurat of Ur is an important historical site, showcasing the impressive architectural achievements of the ancient Mesopotamian people and their religious beliefs. Its significance extends beyond its physical structure, as it provides insight into the political and social structures of ancient societies. [3]

7 The Bath in Hisham’s Palace at Jericho

Hisham’s palace film

The bath in Hisham’s Palace in Jericho, in Israel, is believed to be the world’s oldest known bathhouse, dating back to around 2000 BC. This ancient structure was used for religious ceremonies and social gatherings and provides valuable insight into early civilization’s bathing rituals and social practices. Its significance lies in its unique role in the evolution of early societies.

Hisham’s Palace covers an area of around 150 acres (60 hectares). It comprises three areas: the palace itself, a mosque and courtyard, and a bath. The bath was particularly impressive and housed an audience hall that was used as a throne room.

The bath hall is heavily and decadently decorated, featuring some of the earliest and largest mosaic panels from Islamic architecture’s classical period. The most famous panel depicts a lion attacking a gazelle underneath a tree. The bathhouse has become famous among historians of Islamic art.[4]

6 Pyramid of Cheops

Uncovering the ancient secrets of the Great Pyramid | 60 Minutes Australia

The Pyramid of Cheops or Pyramid of Khufu, built around 2560 BC, is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in Giza, Egypt. Standing at a height of 481 feet (146.6 meters) with sides measuring 738 feet (225 meters) in length, the limestone and granite pyramid is considered the most perfect of the Giza pyramids due to its near-perfect square shape and orientation to the four cardinal directions. The pyramid was built as a burial site for Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu), and its impressive size and design still amaze people today.

The Pyramids of Giza, including the Great Pyramid of Giza, were built as burial sites for pharaohs during the 4th Dynasty in ancient Egypt, between 2575 and 2465 BC. These iconic structures, known for their engineering and architectural feats, continue to represent the cultural and historical significance of the ancient world.

Before the construction of pyramids, mastabas were used as burial sites during the pre-Dynastic period and were an important advancement in architecture and engineering. The pyramids of Giza are a testament to the innovation and creativity of ancient civilizations.[5]

5 Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat (Full Episode) | Access 360 World Heritage

Angkor Wat is a magnificent temple complex located near Siem Reap, Cambodia. Built during the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, it comprises more than a thousand buildings across an area of 402 acres (172 hectares. The temple complex, built in the capital of the Khmer Empire, took approximately 30 years to build. It was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu before becoming a Buddhist temple by the end of the 12th century.

Angkor Wat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia.

The temple complex is a symbol of the Hindu and Buddhist religions and an amazing example of Khmer architecture. Visitors can explore the intricate carvings and sculptures that adorn the walls of the temple, which depict religious scenes and scenes from Khmer daily life. Angkor Wat is truly a marvel of human achievement. It continues to inspire and awe visitors from all around the world.[6]

4 Christ the Redeemer

Christ The Redeemer Statue History And Facts

Christ the Redeemer is a cultural and religious icon known worldwide. The statue is significant not only for its size and beauty but also for its location and history. As an architectural marvel, it stands tall on Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It boasts a height of 98 feet (30 meters), with horizontally outstretched arms spanning 92 feet (28 meters). Completed in 1931, the statue’s symbolism represents Brazilian identity and national pride, making it a symbol of hope, faith, and peace.

The statue’s fame and importance to Brazil extend beyond its religious and cultural significance. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it is a symbol of Brazil’s rich history and serves as a platform for significant events. The statue is also an essential tourist attraction, attracting millions of visitors every year who come to admire its beauty and the stunning views of the city.

Though the original concept was first thought of in the 1850s, it wasn’t until the 1920s that plans were implemented. After World War I, the Roman Catholic archdiocese in Rio and a group of locals started becoming concerned about the “lack of religious faith” in the Brazilian community, and it was hoped that placing a massive statue of Jesus on top of a mountain in Rio, it would rebel against what they saw as an “increasing godlessness.”

Christ the Redeemer’s importance to Brazil’s identity cannot be overstated. It remains a beloved and cherished landmark that will continue to inspire and awe visitors for generations to come. [7]

3 Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes: The World Wonder That Became History’s Greatest Statue

The Colossus of Rhodes was not only an impressive work of art and engineering, but it also had a significant impact on the ancient world. Standing tall at 110 feet (33.5 meters), the statue was considered one of the most important landmarks of Rhodes, a bustling trading port in the Mediterranean during ancient times. As one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it became a symbol of power and prestige, influencing art and culture for centuries to come.

The Colossus was originally built as a victory monument by the people of Rhodes after they successfully resisted an attack by a powerful army in the aftermath of the division of Alexander the Great’s empire. The giant statue of the Greek god Helios was erected on the Greek island of Rhodes by Chares of Lindos between 292 and 280 BC. It was destroyed in an earthquake in 224 BC.

Despite its short-lived existence, the Colossus of Rhodes continues to inspire and awe people around the world. Its story is a testament to the ingenuity, creativity, and perseverance of ancient civilizations. Today, visitors to Rhodes can witness the remnants of this magnificent statue and appreciate its historical significance, not just as a work of art but also as a representation of ancient Greek culture and achievements.[8]

2 Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza’s Mysterious History Of Sun Worship And Human Sacrifice | Legendary Locations

Chichen Itza is an impressive ancient Mayan city located in south-central Yucatan state, Mexico, covering an area of 4 square miles (10.3 square kilometers). One of its most remarkable features is the ball court, which is the largest in the Americas, measuring 554 feet (168 meters) long and 231 feet (70.4 meters) wide. Here, ritual games were played, where players attempted to hit a 12-pound ball through stone rings.

Chichen Itza is steeped in cultural significance, boasting impressive architectural wonders and intriguing history. The site was first inhabited in AD 550 and served as a political, religious, and commercial center. Its population peaked at 35,000 people, making it one of the most significant ancient Mayan cities.

The stunning El Castillo pyramid, Temple of the Warriors, and Sacred Well are must-see structures that demonstrate the advanced architectural skills of the Mayan people. As one of the most visited tourist destinations in Mexico, Chichen Itza offers a fascinating insight into the rich history and culture of the region.[9]

1 Acopolis of Athens

History Summarized: The Acropolis

The Acropolis of Athens is an iconic symbol of ancient Greek civilization, containing several temples, including the Parthenon and the statue of Athena, which was created by the famous sculptor Phidias. It was constructed in the 6th century BC and remains a popular tourist attraction, attracting visitors from all over the world. Rising about 500 feet (152 meters) above sea level, the Acropolis is situated on a rocky hill with an overall dimension of approximately 557 x 1,150 feet (170 x 350 meters).

The Acropolis is the natural center of Athens, Greece, and has been designated as a World Heritage site since 1987. It was an obvious choice of the citadel for the ancient Greeks, with a single approach and springs near the base. The hill is steep on all sides except for the western side. Many of Athens’s significant cultural and historical bequests, including the Acropolis, have left a lasting impression on the world and continue to influence Western architecture.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen