Scholars have long argued over which city is the oldest on earth. The loss of archaeological evidence to time and destruction can make tracing a city’s founding challenging. While the destination for the oldest city on earth remains undecided, here are a handful of cities thought to be strong contenders:
Burrup Peninsula, Australia
The Damper Archipelago in Murujuga National Park is home to what is thought to be the oldest collection of rock carvings in the world. The impressive petroglyphs have great historical significance as they document the history of the Aboriginals who have resided in Australia for more than 50,000 years, with these petroglyphs estimated to be around 40,000 years old.
An example of a megalith, much like Stonehenge, this collection of arranged stones were thought to have been placed on the peninsula by the Yaburara people, a collective who lived in the archipelago until their massacre during the 19th century. It is estimated that there are between 300,000 - 1,000,000 images at the Dampier Rock Art Precinct describing 40,000 years of history.
Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
The Pyramids of Giza in Egypt are the last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World. Erected during the Golden Age of the 4th Dynasty, the impressive geometrical structures were constructed between 2550 and 2490 BC upon request from the Pharaohs.
Jutting into the sky above, the Pharaohs required the pyramids to be built in order to make their transition into the afterlife easier. The Egyptians believed that body preservation could lead to eternal life and that collecting items such as jewellery could help establish their position as rulers, even after death.
Despite 130 other pyramids scattered across ancient Egypt, Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus have the most historical significance. The largest of the three, the Great Pyramid, was built from 2 million blocks and although it is unknown precisely how these structures were built, it is estimated that 100,000 men would’ve been required to complete these towering landmarks.
With thousands of years of fascinating history, Athens has arguably the most interesting past of all the cities in Europe. According to Greek mythology, King Cecrops wanted to name the city after him but the Gods disagreed, believing that it should be given an immortal name. Therefore, a competition was held between the gods on the Acropolis with the residents and King Cecrops deciding who was worthier of becoming the patron of the city. Athena won the contest and thus the city was named after her.
Today, Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world, with 5,000 years of inhabitants. There is also plenty to see and do; from viewing the towering Parthenon, the most famous of the Greek temples, to wandering around the Ancient Cemetry of Kerameikos, you can marvel at the incredible architecture that has stood the test of time.
2,000 temples line the streets of Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India. One of the seven holy cities of the Hindus, this vibrant location settled on the banks of the River Ganges, this is one of the oldest continually inhabited places you can visit.
A place to honour the dead, many Hindus travel here each year to die as it is said that the cycle of rebirth ends here. Although many are cremated with their ashes added to the river, those that die and are considered amongst the holier are placed into the river with a rock.
Lisbon boasts culture, community and colours as well as plenty of history and intrigue. Throughout its early years, it was occupied by the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Carthaginians and the Romans, make this a diverse capital.
Under the reign of the Phoenicians, the city started as a trading post under the name Olisipo, which translated means ‘delightful little post,’ In 105 BC, the Romans took over control of Lisbon, with Julius Caesar making it a municipium.
Göbekli Tepe, Turkey
Despite only being discovered in 1994, the historical significance of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey challenges historians perceptions of pre-civilisation. Widely believed to have been constructed over 12,000 years ago, predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, the Neolithic archaeological ruins are estimated to have been built around the end of the last Ice Age.
The site was falsely acknowledged as an ancient burial ground in the 1960s. However, German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt decided to revaluate this in 1994. The relic in Turkey includes the towering carved stones that have been preserved thanks to backfilling of the site, compressing the earth around each pillar in order to prevent damage. The tallest of the ruins stands 16-foot tall, with an approximate weight of betwen 7 and 10 tonnes and although many of the pillars are plain, some are elaborately decorated with carvings of animals such as lions, foxes and vultures.