The Oldest Houses In The World That Are Somehow Still Standing

Shrines, castles, temples, and cathedrals are built to last, so it's no wonder that they make up most of the oldest standing buildings in the world. Many of them were commissioned by emperors and kings and rank among the most beautiful architectural structures ever created. But what about the little people? How many of their homes stand the test of time?

Of course, the oldest houses in the world are caves - places where Stone Age humans carved out shelter from the elements. In Italy's Sassi di Matera districts and Iran's Meymand, caves like these were more or less continually inhabited for thousands of years - even up to the present day. There are also more modern types of homes that date back centuries. Both England and the Faroe Islands lay claim to some of the oldest inhabited houses in the world.

  • Sassi di Matera, Italy (c. 10,000 BC)

    Located in Italy's Basilicata region, the caves in Sassi di Matera show evidence of human habitation since the Paleolithic, or "Old Stone Age," which ended about 12,000 years ago. UNESCO calls the site the "most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region," and some caverns have been converted into modern hotels.

  • Knap Of Howar, Scotland (c. 3500-3000 BC) 

    Knap Of Howar, Scotland (c. 3500-3000 BC) 
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Constructed sometime during the Early Neolithic period, the Knap of Howar was discovered in the late 1920s when the structure was exposed by winter storms. Historic Environment Scotland has deemed it "the best preserved and most complete example of an Early Neolithic stone house known in Scotland (and possibly in north-west Europe)."

  • Jarlshof, Scotland (c. 2700 BC)

    Jarlshof, Scotland (c. 2700 BC)
    Photo: Nigel Duncan / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    First settled by Neolithic people in the Bronze Age, Jarlshof remained in use up until 1600 AD. 

  • Meymand, Iran (c. 2000 BC)

    The area now known as Meymand was originally settled during the Stone Age. Relatively speaking, its 300 cave dwellings are fairly young; they've only been inhabited for the last three or four millennia.

  • Mousa Broch, Scotland (c. 300 BC)

    The "best-preserved" of Scotland's Iron Age roundhouses, Mousa Broch is mentioned in ancient Norse sagas. 

  • Roman Lighthouse, England (c. 2nd Century AD)

    Roman Lighthouse, England (c. 2nd Century AD)
    Photo: Chris McKenna / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Located at Dover Castle in Kent, England, this lighthouse (or "pharos") is one of only three to survive the fall of the Roman Empire. It's also "the most complete standing Roman building in England," according to Google Arts & Culture.