8. Ziggurat of Ur
The Ziggurat of Ur is a structure found in Southeastern Iraq in the ancient city of Ur now Dhi Qar Province. Construction of the Great Ziggurat was started by King Ur-Nammu and finished by King Shulgi during the 21st century BCE. It remained in use and was restored 1500 years later in the Neo-Babylonian period. The remains of the structure were discovered in the mid-1800s by William Kennett Loftus and excavations at the site started shortly after.
At the time of its construction, the Ziggurat of Ur was not particularly special, as similar structures have been found throughout the Iranian Peninsula. Ziggurats, basically pyramids that are flat on the top were built within complexes of other temples and used as places of worship. Historians believe that the flat tops of the ziggurats carried shrines to deities, but it has not been verified by any other discoveries at the sites.
That doesn’t mean it’s in perfect condition, though. Only the base remains today, and it was damaged greatly during the Gulf War. But, in its bloom the ziggurat was an estimated 100 feet tall, 210 feet long and 150 feet wide. That’s quite an impressive feat considering that the entire building was just made of mud!
The ruins of Tikal are hidden deep within the Guatemalan Rainforest. Artifacts from the site have been dated back to 1000 BCE, and the ruins show evidence that the city was populated continuously until the 11th century CE.
Tikal was a booming population hub for centuries with population estimates around 80,000 to 90,000 at the height of its power. Unfortunately for the people of Tikal and their population growth seems to be what led to the ultimate dying of the city. Archaeologists believe that overpopulation and a run of failing crops paired with drought lead to the abandonment of the Mayan hub after thousands of years of habitation.
The ruins of Tikal went unnoticed by conquerors for many years after the fall of the city, though the native population never quite lost sight of Tikal over the years. Guatemalan natives visited the city in the 1850s and rumors of the historical city crept out from there. The secluded location kept it from the penetration of explorers until the 1950s when an airstrip was built near the site to accommodate travel to the ruins.
After the excavations in the 1900s, the full extent of the ruins became visible. Tikal is a bustling city that shows early urban planning. There are many paths throughout the area connecting different sections of the massive city. Imagine, the residential area alone is thought to cover about 23 square miles! The city is full of limestone buildings varying from homes to palaces to temples and altars. They’ve even found evidence of courts where they believe the citizens of Tikal would play “ōllamaliztli,” an ancient ballgame from Mesoamerica!
4. Labyrinth of Egypt
The Great Labyrinth of Egypt is a bit less visible than the others on this list. There are ruins (kind-of), but the Labyrinth of Egypt is kept active in the historical imagination more so than actual discoveries. The ancient historian Herodotus, who lived in the 5th century BCE, wrote of seeing the Great Labyrinth while visiting Egypt, as did other ancient writers. But here’s the catch, there’s almost nothing left of the structure.
It’s not clear whether Herodotus was using the word labyrinth to describe the complex building style or the fabled structure was meant to be a labyrinth, but it seems that there was a large structure located near the pyramid at Hawara, where Herodotus said it should be at around that time. Unfortunately, though, the structure was demolished for unknown reasons.