All around the world, we can find a vast amount of ancient sites that totally challenge mainstream researchers. From ancient landmarks to cities in ruins, numerous archaeological sites have proven to be shrouded in mystery. Some of these mysterious ancient cities have been hidden for thousands of years, and even today they continue to inspire and intrigue us in so many ways.
Here are 5 Mysterious Cities from the Ancient World
Ruins of Puma Punku
Puma Punku is the name of a large temple complex located near Tiwanaku, in Bolivia, and is part of a larger archaeological site known as Tiahuanacu. The temple’s origin is a mystery, but based on carbon dating of organic material found on site, archaeologists believe the complex may have been built by the Tiwanaku empire – one of the most important civilization prior to the Inca Empire – that flourished between 300 and 1000 AD.
The most intriguing thing about Puma Punku is the stonework. Puma Punku was a terraced earthen mound originally faced with megalithic blocks, each weighing several tens of tons. The red sandstone and andesite stones were cut in such a precise way that they fit perfectly into and lock with each other without using mortar. The technical finesse and precision displayed in these stone blocks is astounding. Not even a razor blade can slide between the rocks. Some of these blocks are finished to ‘machine’ quality and the holes drilled to perfection. This is supposed to have been achieved by a civilization that had no writing system and was ignorant of the existence of the wheel. Something doesn’t add up.
If we travel all around the world towards the limits of Europe, we will arrive at Turkey where we find the magnificent ancient underground city of Derinkuyu.
Simply put, Derinkuyu is the largest underground city discovered to date.
Although estimated to have been built at the beginning of the 7th century, some archaeologists claim that it dates back to 1400 BC. This ancient underground city consists of around 18 and 20 levels located deep underground.
Scholars are still debating what the exact purpose of this ancient city was.
This underground city has a total area of around 7,000 square feet; the entire underground city has not been excavated. The fact that Derinkuyu has around twenty floors adds to the mystery of how ancient man was able to achieve such incredible construction.
Interestingly, the security system that was used in Derinkuyu is both very effective and relatively easy to manage. Each floor of Derinkuyu could have been closed off separately; huge circular stones were used to isolate the entrances, these “doors” could only be worked with on the inside.
This Phoenician city, where a triad of deities was worshipped, was known as Heliopolis during the Hellenistic period. It retained its religious function during Roman times, when the sanctuary of the Heliopolitan Jupiter attracted thousands of pilgrims. Baalbek, with its colossal structures, is one of the finest examples of Imperial Roman architecture at its apogee.
The complex of temples at Baalbek is located at the foot of the south-west slope of Anti-Lebanon, bordering the fertile plain of the Bekaa at an altitude of 1150 m. The city of Baalbek reached its apogee during Roman times. Its colossal constructions built over a period of more than two centuries, make it one of the most famous sanctuaries of the Roman world and a model of Imperial Roman architecture. Pilgrims thronged to the sanctuary to venerate the three deities, known under the name of the Romanized Triad of Heliopolis, an essentially Phoenician cult (Jupiter, Venus and Mercury).
The importance of this amalgam of ruins of the Greco-Roman period with even more ancient vestiges of Phoenician tradition, are based on its outstanding artistic and architectural value. The acropolis of Baalbek comprises several temples. The Roman construction was built on top of earlier ruins which were formed into a raised plaza, formed of twenty-four monoliths, the largest weighing over 800 tons.
The Temple of Jupiter, principal temple of the Baalbek triad, was remarkable for its 20 m high columns that surrounded the cella, and the gigantic stones of its terrace. The adjacent temple dedicated to Bacchus is exceptional; it is richly and abundantly decorated and of impressive dimensions with its monumental gate sculpted with Bacchic figures. The Round Temple or Temple of Venus differs in its originality of layout as well as its refinement and harmonious forms, in a city where other sanctuaries are marked by monumental structures. The only remaining vestige of the Temple of Mercury located on Cheikh Abdallah Hill, is a stairway carved from the rock. The Odeon, located south of the acropolis in a place known as Boustan el Khan, is also part of the Baalbek site, and considered among the most spectacular archaeological sites of the Near East.
Baalbek became one of the most celebrated sanctuaries of the ancient world, progressively overlaid with colossal constructions which were built during more than two centuries. Its monumental ensemble is one of the most impressive testimonies of the Roman architecture of the imperial period.
Pre-Hispanic City of Teotihuacan
The holy city of Teotihuacan (‘the place where the gods were created’) is situated some 50 km north-east of Mexico City. Built between the 1st and 7th centuries A.D., it is characterized by the vast size of its monuments – in particular, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, laid out on geometric and symbolic principles. As one of the most powerful cultural centres in Mesoamerica, Teotihuacan extended its cultural and artistic influence throughout the region, and even beyond.
Teotihuacan and its valley bear unique testimony to the pre-urban structures of ancient Mexico. Human occupation of the valley of Teotihuacan began before the Christian era, but it was only between the 1st and the 7th centuries A.D. that the settlement developed into one of the largest ancient cities in the Americas, with at least 25,000 inhabitants.
The city’s urban plan integrated natural elements of the Teotihuacan Valley, such as the San Juan River, whose course was altered to cross the Avenue of the Dead. This north-south oriented main reference axis of the city is lined with monumental buildings and complexes, from which the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, as well as the Great Compound with the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (also known as Temple of the Plumed Serpent) stand out. One characteristic of the city’s civil and religious architecture is the “talud-tablero”, which became a distinctive feature of this culture. Furthermore, a considerable number of buildings were decorated with wall paintings where elements of worldview and the environment of that time were materialized. The city is considered a model of urbanization and large-scale planning, which greatly influenced the conceptions of contemporary and subsequent cultures.
At the peak of its development the city stretched out over 36 km2. Outside the ceremonial centre, which, despite its imposing size, represents only 10% of the total surface, excavations have revealed palaces and residential quarters that are of great interest at, for example, La Ventilla, Tetitla, Zacuala, and Yayahuala to the west, and Xala and Tepantitla to the east. The city was razed by fire and subsequently abandoned during the 7th century.
Sacred City of Caral-Supe
The 5000-year-old 626-hectare archaeological site of The Sacred City of Caral-Supe is situated on a dry desert terrace overlooking the green valley of the Supe river. It dates back to the Late Archaic Period of the Central Andes and is the oldest centre of civilization in the Americas. Exceptionally well-preserved, the site is impressive in terms of its design and the complexity of its architectural, especially its monumental stone and earthen platform mounts and sunken circular courts. One of 18 urban settlements situated in the same area, Caral features complex and monumental architecture, including six large pyramidal structures. A quipu (the knot system used in Andean civilizations to record information) found on the site testifies to the development and complexity of Caral society. The city’s plan and some of its components, including pyramidal structures and residence of the elite, show clear evidence of ceremonial functions, signifying a powerful religious ideology.
The Sacred City of Caral-Supe reflects the rise of civilisation in the Americas. As a fully developed socio-political state, it is remarkable for its complexity and its impact on developing settlements throughout the Supe Valley and beyond. Its early use of the quipu as a recording device is considered of great significance. The design of both the architectural and spatial components of the city is masterful, and the monumental platform mounds and recessed circular courts are powerful and influential expressions of a consolidated state.