Old! An Understatement.
Damascus (Syria), believed to be 11,000 years old, is the oldest city in the world that has been continuously inhabited. Although, some researchers argue that this title should go to Aleppo, again in Syria, which has evidence of being 13,000 years old.
13,000 years is a pretty long time, don't you think? These cities have withstood the test of time and come of age. Now what about structures like bridges, dams, theaters, and the like, that are hundreds of years old, have always been standing tall, no matter what, and are still being used? Nothing less than a miracle, one might think!
Let's get down to business, and have a closer look at some of the most amazing man-made structures in the world, that have been built centuries ago, withstood the test of time, and are still being used for some purpose, as we speak.
Oldest In-Use Structures Around
Uttar Pradesh, India
Also known as Dhamekh or Dhamekha, this is a huge stupa located at a place called Sarnath, which is less than 10 miles away from the city of Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, India. The stupa (dome-shaped shrine) has its affiliation to Buddhism. The main stupa was originally 300 feet high, but currently Dhamek Stupa stands around 143 feet tall. Its walls have Brahmi script inscriptions, as well as carved figures of humans and birds.
Meaning 'Fabricius' Bridge', Ponte Fabricio is still how it was originally built. Also known as Ponte dei Quattro Capi, this arch bridge is over 200 feet long, and connects Campus Martius to Tiber Island. The bridge was designed by Lucius Fabricius, and its construction includes tuff, bricks, and travertine.
Built by Julius Caesar Augustus Caesar for Marcus Marcellus, the Theatre of Marcellus was once Rome's biggest open-air theatre, and could hold as many as 11,000 spectators. Built with tuff, concrete, and stones, over time, it has gone through numerous modifications, construction-wise, and today even houses apartments, while other parts are used for small to medium-sized concerts.
Coruña, Galicia, Spain
The Tower of Hercules is an ancient Roman lighthouse in Spain. Even though it is 2,000 years old, it is being used even today. Rehabilitated in 1791, this lighthouse is 187 feet tall, and overlooks Spain's North Atlantic coast. Previously known as 'Farum Brigantium', this structure is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also a national monument of Spain.
Built of concrete and stone, The Colosseum, once upon a time, could hold more than 50,000 spectators, mainly for gladiator-related events. This huge amphitheater is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. The Colosseum is an extremely popular tourist destination, and every year on Good Friday, the Pope leads the 'Way of the Cross' procession starting from here.
This 1,900-year-old structure is one of the best-preserved buildings in Rome. It has always been in use, and at present is a museum and Roman Catholic Church. Standing 142 feet tall, the Pantheon is the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. It is also known as 'Santa Maria della Rotonda'.
Also known as Castel Sant'Angelo, this 2nd-century mausoleum was converted to a fortress-cum-castle in 400 AD, and was even used by popes. Originally built by Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for his family and also himself, since the 5th century, it has lost most of its tombs and decorative items. In once-upon-a-time Rome, it was the tallest structure around.
2nd Century AD
This 1,900-year-old dam in Spain is amazingly still used by local farmers to irrigate crops. In 1993, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Proserpina Dam is more than 1,400 feet in length.
Madhya Pradesh, India
Sanchi, also known as the land of the 'stupas', is a tiny village in the state of MP in India. It has numerous Buddhist monuments, some as old as 3rd Century BC, which is why it is an important destination as far as Buddhist pilgrimage is concerned. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a very popular tourist destination.
Also known as Aula Palatina, the Basilica of Constantine was built by Roman Emperor Constantine. Its main hall is 220 feet long. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was partially damaged in air raids during WWII, but was repaired later on. At present, it is a church of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland.
Also known as the Basilica of Saint Sabina, this Catholic Church has remained the same ever since it was built in the early 5th century. This church is 200 feet long, and has 18 panels, 17 of which depict different scenes from the Bible. In the 9th century, this church was fortified, and in subsequent centuries, its interiors were renovated from time to time.
Known as Hagia Sophia, this basilica was converted to a mosque in the 15th century, and since the year 1935 is being used as a museum. It is made of ashlar and brick, and is around 270 feet long. With a massive dome, this structure remained the biggest cathedral in the world till the 15th century.
Bethlehem, West Bank
The Church of the Nativity is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but has also been included in UNESCO's List of World Heritage Sites in Danger. It is one of the oldest church structures in the world today. It was commissioned by Constantine and his mother Helena. Prominent bell towers were included when constructional additions were made to it in the 6th century. The site is of great significance to both, Christianity and Islam.
Also known as the Great Mosque of Kairouan, this is one of the oldest mosques in the world, and the most important one in Tunisia. It was built by Uqba ibn Nafi, an Arab general. With an area of nearly 9,000 square meters, the Mosque of Uqba is one of the oldest places of worship as far as Islamic faith is concerned.
7th Century AD
This Buddhist monastery is also known as Qokang Monastery, Jokang, Jokhang Temple, Jokhang Monastery, or Zuglagkang. It is believed to be the most sacred monastery in Tibet, and is also the most popular tourist attraction in the area. Its construction is a mix of Indian, Chinese, and Nepalese designs. The Jokhang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was founded during the reign of King Songtsen Gampo.
Shanxi Province, China
This Buddhist temple is situated in Doucun in Wutaishan, and was built in the 8th Century under the Tang Dynasty. Its Great Buddha Hall is the oldest preserved timber building in China, and has 17 sculptures and a pagoda.
Also known as 'Sky City', Acoma Pueblo is a Native American village in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As per records, this place is 900 years old, but Acoma tribal traditions point towards the probability that people have lived here since 2,000 years or so. A federally recognized tribal entity, originally the area was 5 million acres, but at present has just 5,000 people with an area of 500,000 acres.
12th Century AD
Angkor Wat is the largest religious structure in the world. Built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II, it was first a Hindu, and then a Buddhist temple complex. Most of the 1,000-year-old temples in Angkor are still in use by the locals for religious functions.
It is amazing how these structures have been preserved as time has gone by, so well, that they are being used by mankind even today. Do we have a lesson or two in construction that can be learned from our ancestors?