Amazing Archaeological Sites You Probably Haven’t Heard Of: Part 3

History is a vast early warning system.

Norman Cousins

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted about archaeological sites! Since I just went to see a few in Mexico a few months ago, I’ve gotten the itch to hunt down more lesser-known sites for you guys. I could probably write several books on just lesser-known archaeological sites, so there will be plenty of future posts, but for now you can check out the sites below, my first post, my follow-up post, and my list of amazing archaeological sites you’ve probably heard of.

Have you heard of any of these? Better yet, have you visited any of these!? Let me know in the comments below.

Tikal, Guatemala

Tikal is an ancient city in Guatemala dating to the 1,000 BCE with evidence of early agriculture and was abandoned by the 11th century. Tikal may have been the largest city during Mayan times, home to over 100,000 people. Tikal was the capital of the conquest state that controlled economic, political, and social aspects throughout the region and even ventured into Mexico and other civilizations for trade and conquest.

The Tikal Temple is one of the largest structures at 154ft tall and one of the most impressive aspects of the site. Today the archaeological site is partially ensconced in rainforest and only partially excavated. The archaeological zone span 6 square miles, so it’s no wonder only pieces have been uncovered and there is so much more to learn by future excavations.

Pula, Croatia

Say hello to the only remaining Roman amphitheater with intact walls on all sides. Guess what, it’s not in Italy, but Croatia. It was constructed between 27BCE and 68CE, Pula is also one of the six largest surviving arenas and Croatia’s most well-preserved monuments. It was first built entirely with wood, but was later expanded and reconstructed in stone to accommodate more people and gladiatorial fights. The arena remained in use until gladiator fights were prohibited in the 5th century.

During the Middle Ages, the site was used for grazing and (more excitingly) for tournaments for the knights of Malta. Today, the site is used as a theatre and a venue for certain public events and meetings. How cool is it that a Roman monument is still in use today and in such great condition?

Ellora Caves, India

In the state of Maharashtra in India, there are a collection of 34 Buddhist, Hinduist, and Jainist temples carved right into the mountain and caves. These are not some crude carvings, but elaborate and immensely detailed temples, monuments, and art. The temples date between 600CE to 1000CE. Inside you’ll find monuments to all of these religions which shows a tremendous amount of cooperation, harmony, and respect between different religions during the time.

The largest temple is found in cave 16 which houses the largest single monolithic rock carving in the world, the Kailash Temple featuring a chariot honoring the god Shiva. Of the 100 caves at the site, 34 are open to the public. Make sure to spend time in caves dedicated to each of the religions and don’t miss the monasteries nestled in the cave system as well!

Jerash, Jordan

Want to visit the most intact Roman city outside of Italy? Venture over to Jordan (don’t miss Petra during this trip either!). Because of its location during ancient times, the city also has Greek, Byzantine, and Nabatean influences as well. Settlement in this city date back to the Neolithic, so you won’t find a shortage of history here. After the Roman conquest of the city drove the Greek rulers out, Jerash was annexed into the Roman Empire.

The entire archaeological zone has some of the best Greek and Roman architecture outside of those countries. Each conquest by another civilization led to changes and additions to the site through to the modern era. So many cultures and religions gaining and losing power in the area led to a unique assortment of monuments and buildings that you really won’t see many other places in the world. Today, you can visit the archaeological sites and museums to take a step back in time and then head over to the modern city to see all the things it has to offer you!

Volubilis, Morocco

Volubilis was one of the most remote cities in the Roman Empire, today it sits near Meknes in northern Morocco. The entire site is preserved so well with only minimal damage from time and an earthquake in the 18th century. The site is partially excavated and considered Berber and Roman. The site itself was occupied since the 3rd century BCE, but grew rapidly during Roman rule in the 1st century. It expanded to about 100 acres and became important in the olive industry. Local tribes conquered the city and it was never taken back by the Romans due to its remote location.

Over the next few centuries it was inhabited first as a Christian community, the an Islamic settlement, and by the 700s it became the seat of the Idrisid dynasty. However the seat of power moved to Fes in the 11th century and Volubilis became mostly abandoned. Today you can see many standing buildings in great condition with a fantastic view of the surrounding country. It’s definitely a site that should be on your bucket list!


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