The Oldest Surviving Buildings In The World



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Sadly, most of human history predates the historical record. You're not going to find much in the way of monuments from 100,000 years ago, but the oldest structures in the world are still mind-bogglingly ancient.

The building you live in may be decades older than you, but that's peanuts compared to the oldest standing buildings in the world. Some date back at least 6,000 years, many of which are holy sites and burial chambers, places that have been considered hallowed - or just spooky - places throughout history. Several of these sites can be found in Europe, but of course the Middle East boasts its fair share, as do a surprising number of islands. The following structures are some of the oldest buildings still standing today.

  • Wayland's Smithy (c. 4th Millennium BC) - England

    Wayland's Smithy (c. 4th Millennium BC) - England
    Photo: Msemmett / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    It makes sense that Wayland's Smithy, one of England's oldest standing structures, is located along the Ridgeway, its oldest existing road. Measuring 85 miles from Overton Hill to Ivinghoe Beacon, the Ridgeway is roughly 5,000 years old and dates back to the Bronze Age.

    As for Wayland's Smithy itself, the Neolithic long barrow was constructed around 3400 BC (though it was built atop an older structure that dates to approximately 3500 BC). The Saxons believed it was the home of Wayland, a legendary blacksmith in Scandinavian, Germanic, and Anglo-Saxon mythology.

  • The Cairn Of Barnenez (c. 4800 BC) - France

    The Cairn Of Barnenez (c. 4800 BC) - France
    Photo: NewPapillon assumed / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    The Cairn de Barnenez predates the Great Pyramid of Giza by about 2,000 years and is the "largest megalithic mausoleum" in Europe. That's a fancy way of saying it's a burial chamber made of stone. 

    The cairn contains 11 passage tombs, where pottery shards, stone axes, and other artifacts have been discovered - some of which date as far back as the Stone Age.

  • The St. Michel Grave Mound (c. 5th Millennium BC) - France

    Located near Carnac, a town in northwestern France, the Tumulus - or grave mound - of St. Michel is the largest such grave mound on the European continent.

    The mound's exact date of construction has been difficult to pin down, but it's believed to have been built sometime in the fifth millennium BC. The chapel seen atop the mound is a relatively new addition.

  • The Necropolis Of Bougon (c. 5th Millennium BC) - France

    As its name suggests, the Necropolis of Bougon is not a single structure but several barrows that date back to the Stone Age. Located in western France, the five barrows span a broad range of years from around 4700 to 3500 BC. Some 220 human remains have been unearthed here, along with several Neolithic artifacts.

    The necropolis is open to the public, and a museum providing further information about the site is located not far away.

  • Listoghil (c. 4300-3500 BC) - Ireland

    Located in Ireland's Sligo County, Listoghil is the central structure within the prehistoric tombs of Carrowmore. Carrowmore contains 30 stone monuments, some in the form of boulder circles and others in more sophisticated dolmens.

    Listoghil was excavated in the late 1990s, but its chamber was looted in the mid-19th century. DNA evidence suggests that older male leaders were buried here and in neighboring chambers.

  • The Dolmen Of Menga (c. 3750-3650 BC) - Spain

    The Dolmen Of Menga (c. 3750-3650 BC) - Spain
    Photo: Manfred Werner / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    The Menga Dolmen is one of three burial chambers located in Spain's Andalusia region dating back to the Neolithic and Bronze Age. As UNESCO describes the site, "These three tombs, buried beneath their original earth tumuli, are one of the most remarkable architectural works of European prehistory and one of the most important examples of European Megalithism."

    The Menga Dolmen is the largest example of a massive, prehistoric tomb structure in Europe, though all three are significant not only for their size but also for their completeness. During the summer solstice, the rising sun shines right through the dolmen's entrance corridor, evidence that the structure probably held some ceremonial or ritualistic importance.