16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World

Natasha sheldon - September 11, 2018

Archaeology has solved many of the mysteries of the ancient past. However, sometimes the evidence to explain the existence of an ancient structure or building simply isn’t there. How a so-called primitive society with limited technology managed to construct a building that would challenge even modern methods can have experts scratching their heads. Remote locations away from civilization are similarly perplexing – as are the reasons why people constructed certain buildings in the first place.

As a consequence, the how and why for many ancient buildings remains a mystery that can only be answered by conjecture and legends. Here are just 16 mysterious ancient structures that continue to confound the experts today.

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
Gobekli Tepe, by Teomancimit. Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

1. Gobekli Tepe: The Oldest Manmade Place of Worship, constructed before settlements or agriculture

Between 10,000 and 7000 years ago, construction began on a most remarkable structure in southeastern Turkey. Gobekli Tepe consists of seven stone circles built over a 25-acre hill site. The builders of each ring constructed them from nine megaliths, formed into T-shaped pillars. These circles are of varying sizes, measuring between 30 and 100 feet in diameter. The builders carved the pillars of the stone circles with stylized pictures of animals such as lions, crocodiles, scorpions, foxes, bulls, cranes, spiders, ants, and snakes- the remains of which were all found around the site.

Each completed stone circle was confined by a six-foot-high rectangular stonewall which builders may have topped with a roof. The stone circles and animal remains all suggest the site had a ritual significance. These remains coupled with the fact that the central pillars of three of the stone circles seemed to frame the place on the horizon where the Dog Star, Sirius would have risen around 10,000BC, have led experts to brand Gobekli Tepe as the world’s first human-made temple.

However, Gobekli Tepe’s builders constructed the monument on the cusp of the agricultural revolution in the near east. There were no cities, or permanent settlements of any sort for most people were still nomadic hunter-gatherers. However, to build Gobekli Tepe, a workforce of at least 500 people was required. The mystery of Gobleki Tepe, therefore, is not so much what it was for but how- and who- were organizing essentially nomadic tribesmen to converge and co-operating in the building of this sophisticated structure.

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
The Goseck Circle, Germany. Google Images.

2. The Goseck Circle: The German Neolithic astronomical Clock that predates the pyramids and combines advanced science with grizzly superstition.

In 1991, archaeologists conducting a routine aerial circle around the small town of Goseck in Germany were astonished when they made an entirely unlooked for discovery. For on the ground below them were the shadowy remains of a previously undiscovered 75-meter wide circle, cut through at three points. In 2002, Archeologists began to excavate the site. Their findings revealed that the Goseck circle as it became known consisted of two palisaded rings, cut through with three sets of gates. These gates were aligned with sunrise and sunset at the solstices.

The alignment of the gates suggests that Goseck was designed and constructed as an ancient solar observatory. However, the precision and the astronomical know-how of the designers and builders of the sites amazed archaeologists because Goseck was built around 4900 BC during the European Neolithic, meaning the site predated the pyramids. It was in use for two centuries before being inexplicably abandoned. However, Goseck contained an additional, grizzlier mystery.

During the excavations, archaeologists also found a headless skeleton at the southeastern gate of the circle. They also uncovered the remains of fires and human and animal bones with deliberate cut marks upon them. These cuts suggested deliberate “defleshing” was occurring on the site. Whether this activity is related to human sacrifice or a specific type of burial ritual, the curious coupling of advanced knowledge and primitive rituals at Goseck makes the society behind the construction of the Goseck circle a continuing conundrum.

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
Ggantija Temples. Photograph: Daniel Hausner. Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

3. Ggantija: The Impossible Megalithic Structure Built by a Giantess.

Ggantija on the island of Malta is the second oldest man-made structure on earth. The megalithic complex was built between 3600-3000BC, just as agriculture was establishing itself in Malta. Based on the evidence of animal sacrifice and small figurines, experts agree that Ggantija had a ritual significance. What is more uncertain, however, is precisely how an early society with only stone tools at its disposal could have cut and transported the materials used to build the temple.

The complex was formed from a series of interconnecting temples surrounded by a single 6ft limestone wall. Some of the stones used to build the complex were massive, measuring 5 meters in height and weighing as much as 50 tonnes. Experts are at a loss to explain how an early agricultural society, equipped with no metal tools or wheeled vehicles could have moved the stones. Some have speculated that the builders transported the vast rocks on rollers made out of small pebbles. However, the locals have a legend that acknowledges if not explains the tremendous feat of constructing Ggantija.

Large female statues found on the site suggest the temple was dedicated to an agricultural mother goddess. This goddess is remembered in local legends as a giantess called Sansuna who ate nothing but broad beans and honey and bore a child to one of the local men. The legend tells that Sansuna was the builder of Ggantija, a feat that she achieved in a single day by transporting the stones for the complex on her head. It is for this reason that the complex is today known as the Ggantija or the “Giantess’s Tower.”

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
The Yonaguni Monument, Japan. Google Images.

4. The Yonaguni Monument: The 2000-year-old Japanese Underwater Ruins that May or May not be Man-made.

Exactly who was behind the construction of many mysterious structures is subject to speculation. However, some monuments are so unusual that some experts do not believe human hands built them at all. One such ancient monument is the Yonaguni Monument, which lies submerged off the southern coast of Yonaguni, one of the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. The monument consists of a collection of sandstone and mudstone carvings, columns, what appears to be a road, star-shaped platforms, and a massive stepped pyramid all stuck to the seabed.

Many people believe that the monument is a natural formation. The various structures seem to share parallel fractures and joints that experts believe were caused by seismic activity in the area. Their theory is that earthquakes fractured and displaced individual pieces of rock which were then eroded by the currents to produce the curiously carved stone ‘sculptures’ underwater today.” However, Masaaki Kimura, a professor at the University of Ryukyus is just one expert who believes the remains are human-made.

Professor Kimura bases his belief on the precise nature of the monuments. Some of the platforms bear circular and triangular holes that are too precise to be accidents of nature. Also, many of the individual slabs are cut at exact, sharp right angles rather than having the less precise, more rounded shape of a piece formed by erosion. Professor Mu has even gone so far as to date the structures to around 2000 years old. He also speculates that the Yonaguni Monument could be a ruin belonging to the lost civilization of Mu, now submerged beneath the waves of the Pacific.

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
The Houses of Skara Brae. Picture Credit Wknight94. Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

5. Skara Brae – The “Neolithic Pompeii” of the Orkney Islands, built in a rubbish heap- and reburied in it.

In 1850, a storm off the Orkney Islands of Scotland blew away layers of sand to reveal a unique stone-built Neolithic village, constructed sometime between 3100-2480BC. By modern standards, the settlement, known as Skara Brae was tiny. It consisted of just six small houses, tightly packed together and separated from each other by narrow, covered passages that acted as streets. Inside, the amenities of the houses were surprisingly ‘modern.’ The stone walls were plastered with clay and equipped with stone-built dressers for kitchen utensils. Each house also had stone-built ‘box beds’ which were eerily similar to those found around the Scottish islands in later ages.

Although the occupants of Skara brae successfully lived off the land, by foraging, hunting and fishing, the harsh northern climate would have been a challenge. However, the whole design of Skara Brae is designed to insulate and protect its small community. Covered streets and windowless houses aside, the village was also encircled by an embankment which acted as a windbreak for the settlement. However, this windbreak was not purpose-built. Instead, it began life as the rubbish heap of a previous settlement. The builders of Skara Brae simply cut through it to build the houses and passageways- and left the rest in place for protection.

Skara Brae has often been referred to as the ‘Neolithic Pompeii” because of its sudden desertion and remarkable state of preservation. However, the settlement was not frozen in time because of a natural disaster. Instead, for some inexplicable reason, one day the inhabitants of the houses simply upped and left- and reburied their village in the midden heap from which they had created it. Everything was left in situ- including the bodies of some deceased members of the community. However, there are no signs of violence. It seems that something unknowable happened to the community that led them to suddenly abandon their cozy home and turn it into a grave.

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
Stonehenge. Picture Credit: Guenter Wieschendahl. Wikimedia commons. Public Domain.

6. Stonehenge: The World Famous Stone Circle Whose Mysteries Just Keep Deepening

Stonehenge is one of the world’s best-known monuments. However, its mysteries just keep deepening the more archaeologists investigate it. Activity on the site long before the first stone was laid indicates that as early as 4000BC Stonehenge was regarded as sacred. Then in around, 3200 and 2700 BC, a ditch and bank were created and in around 2500BC, the first stones were erected. Over the next 1400 years, the circle evolved to combine welsh bluestones from the Preseli Mountains 200 miles from Stonehenge with local stone from the Marlborough downs 17 miles away.

How the stones were cut and transported remains a matter of speculation, as does the exact function of Stonehenge. The arrangement and alignment of the stones suggest that the circle could have been a stone age calculator designed to predict lunar eclipses or a solar calendar related to the solstices. Or it could have been both. However, exactly why the circle’s original bluestones were transported from Southwest wales to the Wiltshire plain remains one of its most enduring puzzles.

A recent analysis of the cremated remains of twenty individuals found buried in pits contemporary with the initial phases of the circle’s construction shows that the early builders of Stonehenge weren’t all locals. At least ten came from a land far west of Stonehenge, with half of these originating from southwest Wales-the location of the circle’s earliest stones, the Preseli bluestones. Archaeologists now believe that these bluestones may have been part of an existing monument in Wales that was uprooted and moved to Stonehenge. As to why this would happen, nobody knows.

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
19th-century artist’s conception of the Assyrian palace at Dur Sharrukin (today Khorsabad, Iraq).Wikipedia commons. Public Domain.

7. Khorsabad: The Short-lived Assyrian Capital built by Sargon II Mysteriously Abandoned After his Death.

In 721BC, the Assyrian Empire acquired a new King, Sargon II. The relationship between Sargon and his predecessor is unclear from the records- suggesting that Sargon may have usurped the throne. Either way, the new King wanted to make his mark. And what better way than found his own capital city? So, four years later in 717BC, work on Sargon’s new capital began close to the city of Nineveh in modern northern Iraq. The city was named Dur SharrukinThe Fortress of Sargon” or Khorsabad.

Khorsabad was designed to outshining any of Assyria’s existing major cities- and glorify Sargon. This it did with unprecedented style. The new city was perfectly located in rich agricultural land, near ready sources of clay for bricks and mines for the alabaster that would adorn the city’s monuments. It was constructed in a perfect square of over a mile, based on the numerological value of Sargon’s name. Inside the heavily defended walls, Sargon constructed house, temples, and a four-story ziggurat. However, the jewel of Khorsabad was its elaborate royal palace. The private royal apartments alone covered an area of 300m square alone. The décor of the palace was unprecedented and some survive in the Louvre museum today.

Sargon proved himself an able ruler, adding to Assyria’s territory with his military conquests and improving the lives of his people by constructing public and educational amenities. In 706BC, he finally moved into Khorsabad. However, the following year, he died in battle. Almost immediately, despite the money and effort lavished on Khorsabad, Sargon’s successor, his son Sennacherib abandoned it, establishing his capital at Nineveh instead. Why this occurred is uncertain. However, the Assyrians considered it ill-omened for a ruler to die in battle. So, it could be that they regarded Sargon- and everything associated with him as accursed. Either way, the Assyrians never occupied Khorsabad again.

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
View of the Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Sun, from Pyramid of the Moon. Picture by Jackhynes. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

8. Teotihuacan: The Pre Aztec city so advanced it became known as the “Place Where the Gods were Created”

Fifty kilometers north of Mexico City is Teotihuacan, one of the enigmas of South America. Founded in the first century AD, 1000 years before the Aztec period, over the next seven centuries the city grew and developed into one of the largest cities in South America, covering an area of over eight square miles. As it developed, Teotihuacan became the largest city in the Western hemisphere and home to some of the largest and most artistically unique ancient indigenous structures in South America. Yet no one knows who built it– or why it was abandoned.

Teotihuacan was a city of pyramids. Its most famous monument, the Pyramid of the Sun is the third-largest pyramid in the world. This temple, in conjunction with the city’s other monumental complexes such as the Pyramids of the Moon and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl– otherwise known as the Temple of the Plumed Serpent were organized along the city’s main street, The Avenue of the Dead. All were geometrically precise and decorated in a style not found elsewhere in Mexico.

This impressive ceremonial area only encompassed 10% of the total city area. The rest was dedicated to palaces and other residential areas that housed between 25,000- 100,000 people. However, in 650AD, Teotihuacan was razed by fire. Its surviving inhabitants abandoned it utterly and disappeared into the mists of history. Its unique monuments remained to awe those who followed, earning the city its Aztec name which means, “Place Where the Gods were created.” Today, archaeologists are no closer to solving the mystery of who the people of Teotihuacan were or why they finally abandoned the city.

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
Mount Nemrut-West Terrace. Picture Credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis. Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

9. The Royal Sanctuary of King Antiochus: The Funerary ‘Burial’ Sanctuary on Mount Nemrut that lacks a body but is aligned with the Stars.

On Mount Nemrut in southeast Turkey lies the ruin of the lost Kingdom of Commagene, which formed after the break up of Alexander the Great’s Empire. In 62 BC, one of Commagene’s Kings, Antiochus built a royal sanctuary on the mountain. Terraces were built facing north, east and west and populated with a supersized collection of curiously eclectic statues. Persian, Armenian and Greek Gods stood with massive eagles and lions and statues of King Antiochus and his Greek and Persian ancestors. One of the figures of the King seems to be shaking hands with the gods, which some archaeologists believe were initially seated on thrones.

At the center of the sanctuary was a 50-meter limestone burial mound, which an inscription describes as the burial mound of King Antiochus. This mound is a curiosity in itself because it is a burial without a body. For archaeologists have not been able to find King Antiochus’s burial chamber. However, they have discovered a stone-lined shaft running into the mountainside at a 35-degree angle for 150 meters. The bottom of the shaft is empty.

Computer analysis has shown that on two days of the year, one when the shaft was aligned to the constellation of Orion and the other when it was aligned to the constellation of Leo, the sun’s rays would hit the bottom of the shaft. This curious feature plus the fact that the mountain is also known as God’s Mountainor “The Gate of Heaven” suggests Antiochus may have believed Mount Nemrut was more of a spiritual portal into the afterlife rather than a place of physical burial.

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
Puma Punku. Picture Credit: Brattarb. Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

10. Puma Punku: The One and a Half Thousand-year-old Bolivian Temple Complex So Precisely Built Some People Believe Aliens built it.

Puma Punku is situated in the Tiwanaku region of western Bolivia, the area, which the Inca tribes believed the world, was created. The site consists of a collection of ruins dated to 530 AD. The visible buildings include an open courtyard, an unwalled esplanade, a terraced mound topped with a platform and a walled eastern court. Geophysics has uncovered more foundations, water conduits and pools. Taken together, the remains are believed to form a temple complex, although damage to its richly decorated buildings caused by the elements and looting have made the deities the temple is dedicated to obscure.

However, the biggest puzzle for archaeologists is how the builders of Puma Punku constructed the complex in the first place. The stone used to build Puma Punku originates 50 miles away from the temple site. Some of the blocks weighed as much as 130 tons, raising questions of how the isolated communities of the region could summon the necessary labor to move the massive stones.

However, the technology used to cut the blocks is a greater puzzle. The stones used to build Puma Punku are so precisely cut that they interlock precisely with their neighbors and hold together with no mortar. This type of precision would be hard to achieve today let alone one and a half thousand years ago. The mystery surrounding the construction of the complex is so perplexing that some people claim aliens must have completed the building work!

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
19th-century painting of Sphinx of Giza by David Roberts. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

11. The Sphinx: Who built it, when and why? And what Secrets Does it Hide?

The Great Sphinx of Giza is one of the most enigmatic constructions in the world. Located on the Giza Plateau ten kilometers west of Cairo, it faces the rising sun, not far from the three great pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaura. Known to later Pharaohs as Hor-Em-Akhet “Horus of the Horizon,” its original function is unknown as is its exact date of construction.

Some experts believe that weathering patterns on the sphinx indicate water erosion, suggesting that the monument was built between 7000-10,000 years ago when the area around Giza was less arid. However, these marks are found nowhere else on the plateau and may be due to later environmental damage. Others claim that the Sphinx and its neighboring pyramids form a terrestrial map of the constellations as they were 10,500 years ago-making the Sphinx older still. However, as with so much about the Sphinx, tangible evidence that provides solid answers is elusive.

However, what archaeology lacks, imagination provides. Perhaps the most debated mystery of the Sphinx is what lies beneath it. Archaeological surveys have identified various ‘anomalies’ beneath the monument, prompting speculation of secret chambers and hidden secrets. However, as no closer examination has been carried out, these ‘chambers’ could just be natural features.

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
Derinkuyu Underground City. Picture credit: Elena Pleskevich. Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

12. Derinkuyu: The Ancient Turkish City built to house 20,000 people- Underground.

The Cappadocia region of Turkey is home to several unique, underground cities. The largest of them is the multi-leveled city of Derinkuyu, found in the Nevşehir Province. Derinkuyu was an engineering feat, built on multiple levels extending to 85 meters below ground. Each level was painstakingly excavated by hand without the use of machinery to create a subterranean refuge that could accommodate at least 20,000 people.

The city’s heyday occurred between 780-1180 AD when local Christians used it as a refuge during the Arab-Byzantine wars. The city’s great stone doors would have sealed the refugees safely inside so they could wait out the danger of the outside world in a working town perfectly equipped for an extended stay. The city was supplied with air and water by a 55meter ventilation shaft and interior wells. The human-made caves could accommodate humans and animals as well as storerooms for food and workshops for olive oil and wine. There was even a school and on the lowest level excavated so far a cruciform church.

Derinkuyo continued in use until 1923 when Cappadocia’s Christian population was relocated to Greece. However, while experts know a great deal about Derinkuyo’s general usage over the centuries, they do not understand why it was initially constructed. The excavation of the underground city was begun by the Phrygian race, some belief as early as the 8thcentury BC. However, nobody knows their motivation for beginning Derinkuyu.

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
Great Zimbabwe.Picture Credit: Jan Derk. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

13. Great Zimbabwe: The contentious ancient Saharan city whose unknown builders caused a racial debate.

Great Zimbabwe is a ruined city that constitutes some of the oldest and largest ruins in southern Africa. So impressive are the ruins that they gave their Shona name “Dzimba Daz Babwe” or “houses of the Ruler or Chief” to the country they now occupy. Once Great Zimbabwe was thought to be the legendary city of the Queen of Sheba. However, archaeologists have now dated the city to between the 11thand 15thcenturies. However, even for this later period, Great Zimbabwe was an engineering marvel.

At its peak, Great Zimbabwe was home to around 18,000 people. The city consisted of numerous oval-shaped buildings contained within 5-meter high city walls. These walls were held together without mortar and built from precisely cut, blocks of stone- unlike the city walls of many of its European contemporaries. Inside them, the city’s largest building known as the Elliptical Building was similarly impressive. Constructed from identical stone blocks, which formed a double wall, the Elliptical Building also contained a solid conical tower and several other buildings.

The sophistication of the building techniques used to create Great Zimbabwe has created a racial debate as to the identity of its builders. For the former white government of Rhodesia was unwilling to acknowledge that the ancestors of the local Shona tribe who are amongst the potential candidates as its builders could have constructed the city.

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
Nan Madol. Picture credit: Dr. James P. McVey. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

14. Nan Madol: The ‘Venice of the Pacific’ that inspired H P Lovecraft.

In amongst the small collection of Pacific islands known, as Micronesia is the city of Nan Madol. Nan Madol began in the eighth or ninth centuries AD when local islanders began the construction of 100 small, artificial islets on the shallow eastern shore of Pohnpei Island. These islets, which occupied an area of 1.5 by 0.5 km, earned Nan Madol the epithet “The Venice of the Pacific“. However, it was not until the 12thand 13thcenturies that the city proper began to arise.

Archaeologists believe the city was the political and ceremonial seat of power for the ruling elite and that most of the islets housed local chiefs who were forced to move to Nan Madol so their activities could be monitored. At its peak, the entire population of the city was no more than 1000 people, with most of the city workers living on Pohnpei proper. These workers would have commuted into the city’s dedicated service islets. However, not all of Nan Madol’s islands were for the living. For several islets formed the city’s burial area known as Madol Powe and the royal mortuary isle of Nandauwas.

By the time the first European’s arrived in the sixteenth century, Nan Madol had been deserted. Quite how a society equipped with no metal tools and only rudimentary technology built this city of massive basalt blocks and coral columns perplexes archaeologists today. Archaeologists have estimated that the local population would only have been able to move 2000 tons of stone a year- meaning building Nan Madol would have taken 400 years to build.

The island’s mysterious nature is deepened by local legends that suggest that the city was constructed by the magic of two brothers, Olisihpa and Olosohpa who used a dragon to carry the stones. It is small wonder that Nan Madol became the model for HP Lovecraft’s city of R’lyeh in the Cthulhu mythos.

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
Machu Picchu by Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA.”

15. Machu Picchu: The “Lost City” of the Incas built as a refuge in the Andes Mountains

The Inca town known as Machu Picchu was built sometime around 1450. For centuries it remained hidden in the Andes Mountains until in 1911 Hiram Bingham rediscovered it. Bingham believed he had found the lost Inca city of Vilcabamba. Machu Picchu, however, was no city but actually quite a small settlement that was home to no more than 1000 people. Its original name is lost. Instead, it takes its modern name from one of the nearby peaks that surround it.

The town was built on a plateau, radiating outwards from a central plaza into a temple district, high-class residential area and terminating at the homes of its ordinary citizens on the outer edges. All these buildings were constructed with such precision that not even a razor blade could be fitted between the blocks of stone. The residents also cut stairways so they could travel up and down the ridge, as well as carving pools and water channels from the rocks.

Quite why the Incas chose to build a town in such a remote and inhospitable region is unknown. For Macchu Picchu is well away from other Inca towns and probably wasn’t even on the main Inca courier route, meaning it probably communicated with the rest of the empire using smoke signals. Although stone for the buildings was plentiful, farmland was limited, leading the town’s occupants to grow their crops on terraces. It is possible that the town was a fortress or refuge. Surrounded on three sides by mountains, the town’s only access point was from the south, defended by a massive stone wall and entered by a single gate.

No town matching Macchu Picchu’s location and description matches any of the Inca settlements conquered by the Spanish in 1572. It seems that the European conquers missed Machu Picchu altogether. This explains why the city is so well preserved, showing none of the signs of the destruction and devastation that usually accompanied conquest. However, if the town wasn’t conquered, what happened to the people. It seems that at some stage, they simply up and left. However, when they abandoned this nameless mystery of a town, no one knows.

16 Mysterious Ancient Buildings and Structures from Around the World
Longyou Grottos. Picture Credit: Zhangzhugang. Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

16. Longyou Caves. The mysterious man-made grottos of China found in ‘bottomless’ ponds.

Considered to be the “ninth wonder of the ancient world” by the Chinese, the Longyou Caves are an unprecedented man-made phenomenon. The caves were carved by hand and discovered at the bottom of a group of ponds found in Zhejiang province. The grottos were rediscovered in 1992 when a local villager decided to drain one of the supposedly bottomless local ponds. He was amazed to discover that the pond did indeed have a limited depth -and by the hand dug cave at the bottom, that was later flooded by the pond’s waters.

Neighboring ponds were similarly drained- and other caverns were revealed. Eventually, 27 grottos were discovered in all, containing rooms, bridges and pools. The largest grotto covers an area of 21,5000 square feet and is 98 feet tall, resembling a great hall. All the grottos were found to be close together, in some cases separated by only a thin rock wall. The precision and planning that went into their construction were incredible. Pillars were evenly distributed about each cave to support the ceilings and walls. Those walls and stone columns were also carved with animals such as horses, fishes and birds.

The Longyou grottos represented one of the largest underground excavations of ancient times. Yet no written records have been discovered recording their constructions. There is no sign locally of spoil hills made from the thousands of tones of soil and rock that must have been created when excavating the caves. Nor have any tools been found. As a result, No one can explain why they were made– or indeed, who made them.


Where do we get this stuff? Here are our sources:

10 Mysterious Ancient Buildings, Ben Gazur, Listverse, November 24, 2016

12 of the World’s Most Mysterious Monuments & Ruins, S A Rogers, Web Urbanist

10 Most Mysterious Man Made Structures From Ancient Times, Vinod, Listamaze

BBC Travel – An Immense Mystery Older Than Stonehenge

Live Science – The World’s Oldest Temple Was Built Along a Grand Geometric Plan

Google Arts & Culture – Where Giants Dare to Build

ORKNEYJAR – The Discovery of The Skara Brae

Stuff UK & Ireland – Skara Brae, Scotland: The Mystery of The UK’s Own Pompeii

BBC News – Stonehenge: Did the Stone Circle Originally Stand in Wales?

Heritage Daily – Nemrut – The Mountain Tomb

Brewminate – Mount Nemrut: Ancient Meeting Place between East and West

Amusing Planet – The Mystery of Puma Punku’s Precise Stonework

Skeptoid – The Non-Mystery of Puma Punku

History – How old is the Great Sphinx?

National Geographic Channel – Massive Underground City Found in Cappadocia Region of Turkey

Ancient Origins – No Queen of Sheba Involved! Great Zimbabwe Ruins and Those Who Fought for the Truth

The Culture Trip – Discovering Great Zimbabwe: The City History Forgot

National Geographic Channel – Discover 10 secrets of Machu Picchu

Interesting Engineering – The Ancient Man-Made Longyou Caves Surrounded in Mystery

Ancient Origins – Ten Enduring Mysteries of The Longyou Caves

There’s A Giant Rock Formation Off Japan’s Coast And No One Knows If It’s Manmade, Gabby Duran, Allthatsinteresting.com, February 23, 2018

The Megalithic Stone Heads Of Mount Nemrut And The Gate Of Heaven, Ancient Code

Stonehenge: Origins of those who built world-famous monument revealed by groundbreaking scientific research, David Keys, The Independent, August 2, 2018

Nan Madol Ruins, Atlas Obscura

Dur-Sharruki, Joshua J Mark, Ancient History Encyclopedia, July 5, 2014

Teotihuacan: The Mayan city in today’s Mexico has mysterious origins, Kelly Hearn, National Geographical

The Mystery of the Great Sphinx, Brian Haughton, Ancient History Encyclopedia, June 1, 2011