The world we are living in right now has a lot of remnants of the past. We could tend to overlook them, undermining their significance since it is something that has already passed. There are many ways to remember why they leave a mark and what it means to us. It is very intriguing how artists, engineers, and scientists of the olden days, managed to achieve what they did without any modern technology. A lot of what we see today is inspired by works of the past. It ultimately helped build the world as we know it today. So, what is the oldest of these works or what is the oldest building in the world that’s known?
In the field of architecture and construction, ancient remains have relevance. Right from the Egyptian pyramids to Stonehenge and the Buckingham Palace- everything has left scope for inspiration and learning.
It is said that to understand a person, take a look at their home. It is the same with ancient remnants. The old ruins, undressed stones, or a small shack could show us what our ancestors valued, what they practiced, and how they lived. The Stone Age is not of interest to archaeologists alone. A layman could always learn new things by observing these old structures. So, what is the oldest building in the world?
How did they come into being? Why were they built? How were they built, and what techniques did they use? And last, but not the least, are they still standing?
All these will be answered below by exploring the oldest known building in the world.
1. What is the Oldest Building in the World?
1.1) Gobekli Tepe
So, what is the oldest building in the world? Well, it is called the Gobekli Tepe. This construction dates back beyond Stonehenge. It is said to have been built during 8000-9000 BC. It is known for being the world’s oldest temple. The structure is found in an archaeological site situated in southeastern Turkey, in Anatolia. It is intriguing how the researchers concluded how old this is. Well, modern technology has given us a fair share of gifts. Through the process of Carbon dating, they were able to analyze different antique tools found during the excavations.
That analysis led to the theory of how old it is. You can even call it the oldest, yet best-preserved stone house! It is believed that a lot of inventions and activities began here. The writing, wheel, and even agriculture are said to have had their beginning here.
It is inferred that the structure belonged to a Neolithic era and included some of the world’s largest circular buildings. They are supported by stone pillars. Archaeologists can study and gain insights about the religions that were followed back then, the unique iconography, etc. Many of the pillars have clues to this as they are painted with human figures, clothes, reliefs of animals, etc. Some have even gone to the extent of claiming it to have been used for cult practices.
2. What was the Gobekli Tepe Used for?
This is a highly disputed topic. The older something gets, the more it leaves room for speculation. Without concrete anecdotes, it is hard to draw reliable conclusions. Recent research has come out with interesting insights. Although, many of them are varied. Archaeologists believed that the temple must have been probably used to practice hunting skills by hunter-gatherers. They could also have used the place to offer their prayers and gratitude to the Gods before they went out on a hunt. It is also said that it was their need to draw animals and depict different scenarios to prepare themselves for a hunt. It wasn’t necessarily done for the work of art or remembrance.
This is also a phase that witnessed the emergence of permanent human settlers, as a community. Many historians believe that it was agriculture that brought about the Neolithic revolution, and hence the agriculture reference for the Tepe.
3. Constructing the Gobekli Tepe
So, how was this built in an age that knew no profound knowledge of architectural techniques and tools? The structure, one of the oldest buildings, was built near a rocky mountainside. It was made of stone pillars and other stone structures(it is called the oldest stone house for a reason). Stone pots, tools, and limestone were used as well. One can understand the construction by observing its layers. It had main two phases or layers. The first or lower layer, which is the foundation was the first test to attempt constructing the building. The second layer was attempted after that to complete the construction.
There have been pieces of evidence of the temple being built, buried, and rebuilt for unknown reasons. That leaves an element of mystery to archaeologists even today.
3.1) Manpower Behind the Walls
Artificial intelligence has taken its reins only in recent years. Back then man was equivalent to a machine. Especially for construction, manual labor took charge. However, there is no conclusive answer nor reasoning as to how much labor was employed. It could be reasonable to assume that many were employed as it was stonework which would require gathering stones and moving them from place to place. There was no equipment to dig up the quarries back then, hence it is safe to assume it needed a lot of hands to build the oldest preserved stone house.
4. Is the Gobekli Tepe Still Standing?
It is mysterious and interesting to notice that something that belongs to the Stone Age has still found its way to the modern age. Now, since it is, the next question could be about how it could be best preserved. The structure was discovered by archaeologists namely Klaus Schmidt, Necmi Karul, and Lee Clare. As per their findings and advice, the Turkish Ministry of Tourism has taken the initiative to preserve this building. The site will eventually be preserved by building a museum surrounding it.
German archaeologist and the original site excavator Klaus Schmidt has made remarkable contributions to this site. It is said that the ‘world’s first temple’ was first used by hunter-gatherers which could have few or no permanent residents. Klaus believed this megalithic building to have been different from other old buildings. His theories are disputed by other researchers as they believe to have insufficient data and a lot of the theories are speculative. Some archaeologists now suspect that another site called the Karahan Tepe is older than the Gobekli Tepe. It is just around 40km away from the Gobekli Tepe.
5. Understanding the Discovery
The location or site was discovered during a survey in 1963. As mentioned before, Klaus Schmidt and his widow have made their contributions to the discovery. Following that, many excavations took place to understand the site. After his passing in 2014, further studies were carried out by Istanbul University, the Anlurfa Museum, and the German Archaeological Insitute and Necmi Karul served as the project director.
Since this was discovered to be one of the first man-made manifestations of architecture and monuments, it has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
6. The Surrounding Geography
If something as old has to survive, then what surrounds it must comply. The climate has somewhat made it favorable for the stones to remain intact, at least a few. The region’s climate was warm and humid, it is more so now. The surroundings included an open grassland which has wheat, barley, and einkorn in plenitude. It also has many grazing animals like gazelles, wild sheep, and goats. During seasonal migrations, hundreds of animals come around the area. There was charcoal found on the premises and the majority of it is said to have been found on pistachio or almond trees. Different researchers had different opinions on where the nearest open water source must have been.
According to Klaus, there was no access to water in the immediate vicinity. The local water table must have been at a higher altitude at the time due to moisture. That would help create springs that are not found now. There was also a probability of having a rainwater collection system there. The cisterns which collected this water were found in the bedrock, beneath the site.
7. The Timeline
The structures were found in different years. The earliest hidden structures are believed to have been constructed towards the end of the pre-pottery neolithic era, as per radiocarbon dating findings. In the 9th millennium BC, the site observed a major expansion. It was probably used till 8000 BCE or maybe a little later. There is evidence to believe that once the site was abandoned, smaller communities came to live amidst these ruins.
7.1) How Did They Draw this Conclusion?
Different methodologies, tools, and techniques were used to reach these inferences. It took a long to deem the probable dates or chronology due to methodological difficulties. Despite the first two dates being out in 1998, the subsequent tools found later gave hints of even older times. Many hypotheses believed that this material was transferred to the site from elsewhere when it was abandoned and it was not necessarily the original ruins. Hence, it was also not possible to understand its purpose.
The researchers also used a cutting-edge technique to find dates of the organic material that was preserved in the building. Those dates are more indicative of having been a Neolithic site, in the middle or early 10th century BC.
Klaus’s research and chronology findings were revised and further researched. It was ultimately dismissed along with the idea that structures came from elsewhere and the dates could have alterations as tools could have been impacted by the old wood effect due to carbon dating.
7.2) Controversy About the Preservation
The conservation efforts sparked a controversy in 2018. The Schmidts claimed that there was huge damage at the site due to the use of heavy equipment. Eventually, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey defended that there was no such equipment used, and there was no damage and reinforced the preservation initiative.
8. What is the Oldest Building in the World? Exploring the Structure
So, what is the oldest building in the world- What is it all about, what did it imply or refer to?
The structure had different images and shapes, which we can look into now. There was a lion’s image at the hill’s edge. Flint and limestone fragments are abundant here. It was even said that it could have been some sort of a sculpture workshop. There were three phallic representations found on the southern plateau’s surface. They were close to ancient quarries and hence, it is hard to date them.
It has sometimes been referred to as the ‘Temple Of Rock’ due to its resemblances to structures at Nevalori. Two pits resemble cisterns at this location. One of the pits also has a high table pin and an internal staircase.
8.1) What Do the Pillars Represent?
The T-shaped limestone pillars with their stone walls unworked are the most unique features uncovered. Four spherical or circular structures have been discovered so far. Workers could have cut through the limestone bedrock to move the slabs. Those pillars are currently the world’s oldest known megaliths.
At the center of each circle, two pillars are facing each other. There are benches inside for seating. The designs are mysterious and different archaeologists have different theories to support it. The pillars have carved animal reliefs and abstract pictograms. Most of these features indicate the place to have been used for resting.
These megalithic temples have sacred symbols which are understood by the general public. There are other pictograms and Neolithic cave paintings that give further evidence. Additionally, there are images of lions, bulls, foxes, donkeys, snakes, and other reptiles, birds, especially vultures. They have depicted it so well that one can tell their gender given their aggressive poses. It must have been used for hunting references.
8.2) References to Human Imagery
Archaeologists discovered that pillar 43(for numbering reasons) is said to have a headless guy with an upright phallus. Human imagery is uncommon. The pillar-shaped T, by anthropology standards to said to represent a body, top, and head. This theory is also backed by the fact it has different pictograms with carvings of hands, arms, and loincloths.
These figures incorporate human-like features- they have arms, a belt, and a piece of clothing covering their genitalia. Klaus stated once that two people’s features are male as they are wearing a nature that is appropriate masculinity at the time. There is only one image of a woman, who appears naked on a slab. However, it is unclear how to determine the sexes.
The wildlife on the pillars, as per Klaus and zooarchaeologist Joris Peters, suggests that they could have more than one iconography. They believe that the stones may have served as totems or must have been used to ward off evil through magic as many of the animals represented are predators.
There aren’t many humanoid figures in Gobekli Tepe. Klaus said that there were burial grounds or graves behind the walls. Human cranium cuts were found there in 2017. Many experts believe it to have been an example of a Neolithic skull cult. It was quite known that human craniums were prepared during the pre-pottery neolithic period at locations like- Ain Mallaha, Jericho, and Yiftahel.
9. Analyses of Klaus Schmidt
Klaus has made a lot of contributions that it would not be right to overlook them. He believed that the Gobekli Tepe was a mountain sanctuary. He insisted that it was a point for the cult of the dead and carved animals were placed to guard the dead. There were a lot of bones from local animals like deer, gazelles, and pigs found. These bones have been identified as leftovers from food. Ceremonies and feasts likely took place in areas where everything was present in abundance.
Klaus believed this structure to have contributed to the urban civilization and its development.
He drew analogies between Gobekli Tepe and other shrines and settlements. It consisted of inferences that implied facts about certain religious systems that built the monument. Klaus believed the place to have bore witness to shamanic rituals and T-shaped pillars that depict human figures. It also indicated certain deities.
10. A Few Other Ancient Buildings
Various buildings in the world, have different styles. Some are partially restored, some are complete and some remain as loose stones. Different structures have different stories. Recent research suggests that some ought to be left partially reconstructed, some untouched to capture its raw ancient features. Let’s take a look at a few of the other oldest buildings in the world, that remain intact today.
10.1) The Knap of Howar
The Knap of Howar is another structure made of stone. It can be said to be a Neolithic farmstead. It may be the oldest stone dwelling still standing in all of Europe. The Knap of Howar stands in Scotland and was created in 3700 BCE.
The structure was made up of stone walls facing the water. There are two stone houses. The second stone house is a workshop, while the first stone house is thought to be resting quarters. Both would have been provided with an entry point or opening in the roof to vent smoke that would have been heated by fires. It is strongly indicative of having human settlers. It is so unique to observe that these structures are still standing today.
Farming was done in these stone houses of the ancient city. It’s believed that the locals raised pigs, sheep, and cattle. Additionally, they grew their grains and promoted agriculture. Due to their closeness to the sea, they would have also relied on fishing and shellfish collection as a source of food.
This site has not yet been fully investigated. Historic Environment Scotland states that they think these two homes are part of a bigger, undiscovered settlement. It is again up to the authorities to find a way that lets it remain best preserved. Further digging could also risk its preservation.
10.2) Bursa of Bougon
This is said to be the third-oldest structure in the world. The Tumulus of Bougon is in western France. This structure is five separate tumuli gathered together in one location. A tumulus is a raised burial ground that has been covered with dirt or stone. Burial chambers were constructed for two major purposes. Honoring the deceased is the first. The more important the person was, the bigger the mound got. Convenience was the second justification. Digging down required cutting through rock, roots, and clay in various parts of the planet.
To remember those who had died in adjacent communities, this ancient structure, the Tumulus of Bougon, was used as burial chambers. One of the earliest instances of funerary buildings is seen at these graveyards. Each tumulus is different in size. It was utilized for appropriate burial during a particular period. One can observe the style of funerary architecture. The complex societies make it hard to understand the culture, however further research has led to more clues. Other artifacts, including ceramics, artwork, stone tools, and beads, have been discovered through archaeological investigation.
One of the world’s oldest structures to date, and the most known to all of us. Stonehenge‘s stone circle was constructed thousands of years ago. There are still numerous questions surrounding the monument. This is one of the oldest buildings, which is situated on a British hill on the outskirts of Salisbury. The continental Europe is home to many such ancient buildings and historic curiosities. The buildings made now could be so flimsy compared to these magnificent structures. Is it accurate that it took more than a thousand years to build? Does it follow the path of the sun? Well, there is only one way to find out!
11. Final Remarks
It is not only intriguing to discover and learn such amazing creations of the past. One must always appreciate the roots of where they hail from. Such discoveries are an artist’s haven. To best learn about it, one must experience it. Exploring such places enriches us and develops the artist in each one of us. You can read the 5 Oldest Buildings from Around the World for more insights on these historic places.
Everyone can draw different inferences from their experiences, which makes it much more unique. So pack your bags, and set out on a historic adventure, and don’t forget to share your fun voyage with us![amazon_auto_links id="280559"]