Architectural Highlights of the Ancient World

As tourists, it is easy to be drawn to the newest, shiniest, perhaps even tallest, building in the area. Of course, these structures should be sought-out and praised, but current architecture enthusiasts shouldn’t forget about the monuments left behind by ancient civilizations. These wonders would be a feat to construct today, and yet they were somehow erected ages ago with only primitive tools and techniques. The list of these places is long, but we managed to narrow it down to a few architectural highlights of the ancient world.




Perched at an altitude of over 12,000 feet, Sacsayhuaman is a walled Inca fortress located in Cusco, Peru. The large, rough-cut stones not only fit together perfectly, without using mortar, but some stones weigh more than 200 tons. At any point in recent history, this would be a marvel, but this fortress was built between 1438 and 1533!




Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple, can be found in Central Java, Indonesia. It consists of nine stacked platforms, topped by a central dome, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues.  Constructed in the 9th century, it was later abandoned in the 14th century and didn’t gain worldwide knowledge until Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles learned of its whereabouts in 1814.




Petra, also known as the “Rose City,” was originally the capital city of ancient Nabataeans, but is now in Southern Jordan. This rock-cut city was carved as early as the 5th century BC and grew wealthy through trade in frankincense, myrrh, and spices. By the middle of the 7th century, the city was largely deserted. We can all thank Johannes Burckhardt for rediscovering it in 1812.



Flavian Amphitheatre

Italy’s Roman Colosseum (also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre) is one of the finest examples of Roman architecture. Commissioned by Emperor Vespasian in 72 A.D., it wasn’t completed until 80 A.D., under his successor and heir, Titus. In its heyday, prior to an earthquake, it was four stories tall, with 80 entrances, and could seat between 50,000 and 80,000 people



The Parthenon

The Parthenon, located on the Athenian Acropolis in Greece, was originally a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. Construction began in 447 B.C. and was completed in 432 B.C. It is considered one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments and is a superb example of Classical Greek Architecture.