10 Most Incredible Archaeological Sites You’ve Probably Never Heard About
From a mysterious palace with a murky past
to a long-lost Inca laboratory in r ural Peru! Here are ten of the most incredible archaeological
sites you’ve probably never heard of! 10: Ardashir Palace
Ardashir’s Palace, also known as the Temple of Fire, is a relatively unknown archaeological
site in modern Iran.
It was built as a castle in the 2nd century
AD by the great emperor Ardashir I, ruler of the Sassanid Empire. Archaeologist Morteza Djamali says that this
empire was the most powerful political and economic rival of the Roman Empire for nearly
half a millennium.
The castle is positioned on the slope of a
mountain just a few dozen miles from Shiraz. Over 2000 years ago, the castle was built
in a city called Peroz, after the Sassanid Empire defeated the last king of Partiah and
took over the area.
It would be several centuries later that the
Persians showed up to conquer Peroz, changing its name to Firuzabad. The Sasanian Kings built numerous palaces
and forts as well as fire temples to burn fires as a symbol of divine light.
This was extremely important for those who
practiced the Zoroastrian religion who believed that light from the burning flame represented
good triumphing over evil. The palace was incredibly lavish and unique,
suited for a god-king when it was built.
Archaeologists believe it was designed to
be a show of wealth and power rather than a functioning defensive structure. Another curious thing about Ardashir’s Palace
is that it doesn’t match any other buildings made by the Parthians or Sassanians; it’s
It was built next to a pond, fed by a natural
spring, and archaeologists say this probably had something to do with the goddess of water
and growth, Anahita. This was the site of the royal gardens and
to people on Earth in the desert, it probably looked like heaven thousands of years ago.
Today, there is not much left of the palace. It’s a decimated ruin in an unvisited part
of Iran, slowly eroding into nothing. However, it was recently registered as a UNESCO
World Heritage Site in 2018 which will hopefully help to preserve the once amazing palace.
9: The Chalk Horse
In England, there is a chalk horse that was carved onto the top of a hill 3000 years ago
and it is still there today. It’s known as the Uffington Horse, and it’s
located in Oxfordshire.
Excuse me, Oxford-shr -see, I’m learning!! It dominates the view for miles around withhe
huge white horse made of chalk, looking like an abstract stick figure running across the
flank of the hill.
The horse has thin legs, an oddly long tail,
and a single round eye in the middle of its square head. It’s the oldest hill figure anywhere in England
and is known as a pictogram. It’s about the size of a football field and
can be seen clearly from over 20 miles in the distance.
But how did such a remarkable figure survive
so many centuries? There has been a cleaning ritual going on
here for three thousand years. Volunteers with hammers, buckets of chalk,
and a love of history, come every year to reapply the chalk and keep the horse white.
But the custom goes back to when the horse
was first designed. It’s one of the oldest continued rituals in
humanity, with participants never missing a year and people coming from all the nearby
villages to make sure the horse is maintained.
In ancient times, there was a fair held in
a prehistoric fort nearby, and those attending the fair would be sure to maintain the horse. Today, the chalking is overseen by the National
Trust. They make sure the original shape and design
of the horse are kept safe.
Anyone can volunteer to do the work, and they
are never short of volunteers. But just who drew the horse in the first place? Nobody knows for sure, but it’s likely a piece
of Celtic artwork left behind by an ancient tribe residing in the area.
In Celtic art, horses are often depicted pulling
the chariot of the sun across the sky, and that may be what this horse is doing. 8: Mysterious Alaskan Fort
An elusive Alaskan fort from the 19th century was recently discovered using specialized
Researchers from Cornell University have finally
pinpointed the location of the remains of the last fortress built by the local Tlingit
people. They were trying to hold back the invading
Russian forces as Russia spread across Alaska in 1804.
The fort was a physical barrier, and the last
great building that the Tlingit would make before Russia invaded and commandeered Alaska
for 60 years. That is of course before the Russians eventually
sold it to the United States in 1867 for a cool $7 million.
To try and keep the Russians away, the Tlingit
built a sapling fort at what is today Sitka, Alaska. This is where the mouth of the Indian River
connects with Sitka Sound. It was an ideal defensive position, though
it didn’t make much of a difference.
The Russians plowed through them anyway and
tore their fort down. For the past century or so, archaeologists
have been trying to find its remains – and now, they finally have. The fort is named Shiskinow, and was found
by Thomas Urban and his team using ground-penetrating radar to identify its perimeter.
These modern tools found the exact place where
the fort had been erected and destroyed, though nobody has actually dug up any significant
artifacts just yet. And if you’re wondering how the Tlingit lost
the battle with Russia even though they had a fort, it was in part because their supply
of gunpowder blew up while it was being transported in a canoe.
The fort held out for five days until it was
finally overtaken, and the clans had to escape in the night. 7: Yangling Mausoleum
The Han Dynasty in China ruled for over 400 years and they left behind some of the most
spectacular tombs in the world.
While you might think of Egypt as the place
to go for amazing tombs, the Han had tombs resembling entire palaces, measuring millions
of square feet in size and containing everything you would need in the afterlife including
soldiers, concubines, weapons, musical instruments, you name it.
The Yangling Mausoleum is found about a dozen
miles from the modern city of Xi-an, in the Shaanxi province. It’s arguably one of the most impressive burial
plots anywhere in China. It’s actually a double mausoleum, containing
tombs of both emperor Liu Qi and the empress Wang.
The mausoleum was built in 153 AD and covers
almost 5000 acres. It holds more than just the tombs as well,
since it’s complete with a variety of burial pits, a huge ceremonial site, a graveyard
riddled with the bodies of human sacrifices, and a cemetery that was used for burying criminals.
At the center of the immense mausoleum are
the royal tombs, with the other burial pits and cemeteries branching out from the core. In total, the mausoleum contains 86 pits,
some of which are over 300 feet deep.
Inside the pits, archaeologists have discovered
many naked pottery figurines that look like creepy miniature mannequins! They also found chariots and horses, weapons
and many pottery animals. One of the reasons the mausoleum is so interesting
is that it obviously shows the hierarchical structure of the day, with the royalty at
the center of the universe and everyone else along the fringe.
The mausoleum is also amazing because it’s
all underground. The tombs are in subterranean chambers with
tunnels leading from one room or cemetery to the next. In ancient times, there were even huge gates
separating the individual chambers.
Do you want to go visit?? Let me know in the comments below!! 6: Vatican Necropolis
You may be familiar with St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. But what you may not know is that hidden under
the famous basilica is a city of the dead and gone, and the actual body of St.
himself may be down there in the gloom, not yet identified. The basilica is a wonder, filled with amazing
pieces of art from frescoes to sculptures. It has rich and detailed architecture, fascinating
woodworking, and is a must-see attraction in Vatican City.
But almost nobody knows that there are five
stories beneath the architectural wonder, ruins that date back to the beginning of the
Roman Empire. In fact, the altar at St. Peter’s was built
over 2000 years of history, spanning six different periods.
Beneath the basilica there is a pagan burial
ground from the 1st century AD. Above that is a burial ground mixed with pagans
and Christians from the 5th century AD. These two levels alone make up the entirety
of the span of the Roman Empire, which only actually flourished officially from between
27 BC and 476 AD.
Then there’s the mystery of St. Peter, who
is said to be hidden between the two main levels. There is a mysterious earthen mound here with
a large hole dug in the center of it, with the bones of someone who has never been officially
identified but is said to be St.
Peter. 5: Amphitheatre of El Jem
The Amphitheatre of El Jem is located in the small town of El Jem in central Tunisia. It looks almost identical to the Colosseum
of Rome. In fact, if you didn’t know any better, you
probably wouldn’t be able to tell the two places apart.
It had a seating capacity of 30,000 and its
walls are over 100 feet tall. The only other amphitheaters larger than this
is the Colosseum itself and the broken theater of Capua. Plus, the Amphitheater of El Jem and the Colosseum
of Rome are the only two structures like this that still have an intact façade and all
three galleries unbroken.
The amphitheater was constructed in the 3rd
century and, just like the Colosseum on the other side of the water, was used for gladiator
battles, chariot races and exotic animal hunts. At the time, the city was the center of olive
oil manufacturing and its residents were becoming very wealthy.
The amphitheater remained in almost perfect
condition even after the fall of the Roman Empire, up until the 17th century. However, that was when the archaeological
site began being pillaged. People started stealing stones from the amphitheater
to help build their own homes and even as building blocks for the Great Mosque in Kairouan.
Later on when the Ottomans and Turks were
having their troubles, the amphitheater became a hideout and fortress for rebels. 4: Baalbek
You may not have heard of Baalbek, but it has been around for an extremely long time!! Known during Roman times as Heliopolis, Baalbek
dates back to at least 9000 BC.
making it one of the oldest cities in the world. This ancient Phoenician city is located in
what is today Lebanon, just slightly north of Beirut. It’s hard to imagine the true grandeur of
this old city and important pilgrimage site, but have no doubt that it was amazing.
The city was named in honor of the Sky God
Baal and legend goes that this city was built where Baal first arrived on Earth. This makes ancient alien theorists believe
that this is where the sky god Baal would actually come to earth, visit the people and
take off again.
People traveled from all over the region to
give worship to the sky god Baal and his consort, the Queen of Heaven, Astarte. In the very core of the city was a huge temple
dedicated to Baal and his consort.
The temple is gone today, though its foundation
is still underneath the Roman Temple of Jupiter that was built over it several thousand years
after Phoenicia was gone. There is a lot about Baalbek that we just
Heliopolis was built on a massive platform
of stones that were placed there way before the Romans came around. The purpose of the ancient structure is unknown
and the massive building blocks that were used remain a mystery.
Researchers have identified the cornerstones
of the original temple, as well as some of the monoliths used in the original retaining
wall. The cornerstones were about 100 tons each,
with some of the largest monoliths weighing 1,500 tons.
They are some of the largest building blocks
that have ever existed in the entire world. Nobody has a clue as to how these enormous
and heavy stones were moved 11,000 years ago. Keep in mind, this was about six thousand
years before Stonehenge was built.
The stones are so huge and perplexing that
even those who came later, like the Romans and Alexander the Great, simply used the stones
to build their own temples without moving them. If the stones were too big for the Romans
to move, just how in the world did the Phoenicians do it? 3: Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri, also known as the City of Victory, was the capital of the ancient Mughal
Empire for a very short period of 10 years.
According to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre,
it was built in the 16th century as a huge complex of monuments and temples, and it contained
one of the biggest mosques anywhere in India. The City of Victory was built by Emperor Akbar
sometime between 1571 and 1573.
It was the first ever city planned to be the
capital of the empire, meant to be filled with palaces, mosques, public buildings, and
room for an entire army. And of course, room for the king and all his
However, Fatehpur Sikri was short-lived and
by 1585, the capital had moved to Lahore, which is today still the capital of Pakistan. So, what went wrong? After all, it was a splendid city and there
was no reason for it to be left in ruins.
The problem was that Emperor Akbar went to
war in 1585 and had no choice but to move the capital, and by 1610, there was nobody
left in the old city. It was built, abandoned, and amazingly is
still in almost perfect condition today.
2: Caves of Monte Castillo
The Caves of Monte Castillo are nothing short of mystifying. The cave system boasts four main caverns,
each one filled with art that can be traced back to the earliest humans that ever lived
The caves are located in the north of Spain,
and some refer to them as “the troglodyte city.” Monte Castillo itself is a limestone hill
about 1100 feet tall. It’s the caves underneath that hold all
the treasure, and by treasure I mean countless passages, corridors, and subterranean caverns
that were inhabited for the past 150,000 years.
But the most incredible thing about it is
the artwork. One of the most amazing things found is known
as the Gallery of the Hands, a small cavern filled with hand stencils made with red ochre,
dated back to the year 39,000 BC.
It’s kind of insane how much art was left
behind by our ancient ancestors. There are hundreds of figures that go back
to the earliest days of Homo sapiens in Europe, with the figures comprising animals like deer,
horses, bison, and even mammoths.
There are also abstract figures that some
have suggested could be representations of some of the first gods or alien visitors! The drawings have incredible detail with shadowing
and fine lines. As ancient origins points out this is some
of the oldest artwork ever discovered belonging to a pre-literate culture and there is much
to learn about these ancient people! 1: Moray Ruins
The Moray ruins can be found in the Sacred Valley of the Inca.
But Moray isn’t what you think, it’s not
a typical ruined city. There are no remains of houses, temples or
fortresses here. Instead, experts believe Moray may have been
used by the Inca as an agricultural laboratory.
The ruin itself is a bowl-shaped hollow that
kind of looks like an amphitheater mixed with a rice paddy. The circular terraces are positioned strategically
so that each terrace is a different temperature and exposed to a slightly different climate.
Researchers have discovered that there’s a
difference of 27 degrees Fahrenheit between the top of the ruin and the bottom, along
with differences in exposure to wind and sun. Those small changes make a big difference! The prevailing theory right now is that the
Inca were using Moray as an agricultural research station.
Soil samples have shown that the Inca brought
soil from different regions to grow a variety of crops here. It could be that they were trying to create
microclimates, or natural greenhouses, to study the different environmental effects
on crops when exposed to different temperatures and given different times in the sun – though
whatever knowledge they gained from these experiments is still a mystery.
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