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9 of the Oldest Buildings in the World

You can visit many of these tombs, temples, and structures today.

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old vs new buildings
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Buildings looked a lot different in the days before skyscrapers

Architecture has come a long way since stone structures and wood homes. Still, it’s good to appreciate some of the oldest buildings in the world. Many barely look like buildings, while others are surprisingly well in-tact. Almost all of the oldest buildings are tombs, temples, and passage graves. Meanwhile, the most famous homes in America are a bit more traditional. Read on to learn about some of the oldest buildings in the world and their history.

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Knap of Howar

One of the oldest buildings in the world is the Knap of Howar, which dates back to 3700-3500 BCE. The farmstead is one of the oldest, still-standing stone houses in Europe. It includes two stone homes linked through a hidden passage and joint walls. Archaeologists say Irish or Scottish monks could be the first builders and residents of the Knap of Howar.

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Ġgantija Temples

The Megalithic Temples of Malta, or the Ġgantija Temples, date back to 3600 and 3200 BCE. The two temples on the island of Malta are UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s one of the oldest free-standing monuments in the world. Archaeologists think the temple was used for ritual animal sacrifices, but there are plenty of nicer old traditions from around the world.

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Tarxien Temples

The Tarxien Temples are also in Malta and were built between 3600 and 2500 BCE. The oldest temple is mostly gone, but people reconstructed the three others. The temples feature decorative stone blocks, screens, and altars. An elevated walkway added in 2012 makes it easy for visitors to see the buildings clearly. Architecture fans who like to travel should also check out the most historical landmark in every state.

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Shunet El Zebib, Abydos, Egypt

Shunet el-Zebib

Shunet el-Zebib is partially standing, but mostly in ruins. It’s still, however, one of the oldest buildings in the world. The Egyptian temple built in 2750 BCE is of mud and brick. It has an underground tomb as well as an above-ground complex. Architecturally, it’s a nod to the Egyptian pyramids soon to come. Many of the weirdest archaeological discoveries are from this time period.

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Megalithic structure in Brittany (Barnenez)
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Cairn de Barnenez

The Cairn de Barnenez in Brittany, France, dates back to 4850 BCE and sits on a hill overlooking the English Channel. The monument was once called the “Prehistoric Parthenon” by French writer and politician André Malraux. Although it has 11 passage tombs and two burial chambers, it might be generous to call it a building. Nonetheless, it’s one of the oldest structures on Earth.

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The West Kennet Long Barrow is part of the Avebury Neolithic complex in Wiltshire, England. It is one of the largest and most impressive burial sites in Britain and is much visited.

West Kennet Long Barrow

Many of the oldest buildings in the world were also tombs or temples, and West Kennet Long Barrow is no exception. Archaeologists believe people built the cluster of barrows in 3600 BCE. They found the remains of 46 different people along with artifacts like pottery, beads, and stone tools, according to Atlas Obscura. Humans have been creating tools, art, and jewelry for millions of years, which is why these are some of the oldest artifacts ever discovered.

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Newgrange Neolithic Historical Site, Ireland 3200B.C.
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One of the bigger old buildings in the world is Newgrange, an old passage tomb in Boyne Valley, Ireland. The circular structure takes up about an acre and includes a chamber with three alcoves. Although it’s 5,200 years old, travelers still visit to see the illuminated passage during the winter solstice. Places all around the world have different traditions to celebrate the winter solstice.

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Tomb of Cyrus

Tomb of Cyrus

Built in 530 BCE, the Tomb of Cyrus is one of Iran’s World Heritage Sites and one of the oldest buildings on the planet. It’s also believed to be one of the first earthquake-protected structures in the world, according to Atlas Obscura. The base isolating used on the tomb protects the main structure from moving apart from the foundation.

Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is a former staff writer at Reader’s Digest. There’s a 90% chance Emily is drinking tea right now, but when she’s not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts and liking one too many astrology memes.