Ten Amazing Caves of the Ancient World

Ten Amazing Caves of the Ancient World

Caves play an important role in the story of humanity. In addition to providing shelter for our earliest ancestors, caves were also often considered to be mystical and magical realms. For some cultures, caves are the gateways to the underworld, while others believed that supernatural beings dwelled in these subterranean areas. Here we look at ten incredible caves or cave systems of the ancient world, from 70,000-year-old shelters for prehistoric humans to 18 th century meeting places for black magic and sordid rituals.

Devetashka - the Bulgarian Cave with 70,000 Years of Human Habitation

Devetashka cave is an enormous cave in Bulgaria, which has provided shelter for groups of humans since the late Paleolithic era, and continuously for tens of thousands of years since then. Now abandoned by humans, it remains a site of national and international significance and is home to some 30,000 bats.

Devetashka cave, which is known as Devetàshka peshterà in Bulgaria, is located roughly 18 kilometres north of Lovech, near the village of Devetaki. Beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, rivulets, majestic natural domes and arches can be found within the enormous cave and one can see why various human populations would have chosen Devetashka as their home.

The earliest traces of human presence date back to the middle of the Early Stone Age around 70,000 years ago. The Devetashka cave also contained one of the richest sources of cultural artifacts from the Neolithic (6th millennium - 4th millennium BC).

The Dark Reputation of the Dunmore Cave of Ireland

Dunmore (meaning ‘great fort’ in Irish) Cave is a limestone cave located about 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) to the north of Kilkenny City, near Castlecomer. Within the cave, there is around 300 meters (99 feet) of known passages and caverns.

Dunmore Cave was at one point of time within the territory of the ancient Irish kingdom of Ossory, which was situated between the Viking strongholds of Dublin, Waterford and Limerick. The rivalry of the different Viking clans in Ireland provided one of the most chilling episodes in the history of Dunmore Cave.

According to the Annals of the Four Masters, around A.D. 928, the Vikings of Dublin were marching to attack their rivals in Waterford. On their way to their enemy’s place, it is said they raided and pillaged the surrounding countryside. When they arrived at Dunmore Cave, they found a large number of women and children hiding in it. Allegedly hoping to capture them alive so that they could then be sold as slaves, the Vikings devised a plan to drive them out of the cave. They lit large fires at the mouth of the cave in order to force them out of their hiding. The fires grew too large and consumed the oxygen in the cave, resulting in the suffocation of the refugees. It is recorded that a thousand people died in this manner.

In 1973, the bones of 44 people, mainly belonging to women, children and the elderly, were found in Dunmore Cave, thus giving some credence to the annals. Yet, whether there were as many as a thousand victims, or perhaps less, is another question.

The Historic Grottoes of Folx-les-Caves: Ancient Hideout and Traveler Waypoint

The mysterious man-made caves in Belgium burrow thousands of feet into the soft rock south of Brussels. The grottoes of Folx-les-Caves are located in the municipality of Orp-Jauche in the province of Walloon Brabant. In the distant past, the grottoes were used as mines. One of the rocks found there was tuff, a type of soft volcanic rock which is rich in calcium carbonate. It is unclear when humans first mined the grottoes. Some have speculated that they were in use since Neolithic times, i.e. around 2600 B.C., and that aurochs horns were used as mining tools.

The mines are a labyrinth of about 60,000 square meters (approximately 650,000 square feet) as a result of centuries of mining. This made it a perfect hiding place for refugees seeking to escape those who occupied Belgium over the centuries. It has been suggested that the mines have been used by refugees as early as the Roman period all the way to the Second World War.

The most famous tale relating to the grottoes of Folx-les-Caves is that of Pierre Colon, who lived some time during the 18th century. Colon was a thief dubbed the ‘Belgian Robin Hood’, as he, like his English counterpart, stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Colon was said to rob rich merchants passing through a forest nearby, and his hideout was the grottoes of Folx-les-Caves. Eventually, the law caught up with the benevolent thief, and he was hanged to death on the spot where he committed his crimes.

The Magnificent Ellora Caves of India

The Ellora Caves are a unique sanctuary that blend the art and culture of three different religions – Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism – and illustrate the spirit of tolerance, characteristic of ancient India, which permitted these three religions to establish their sanctuaries and communities in a single place.

Ellora is situated not far from Aurangabad, in the Indian state of Maharashtra. This site is home to 34 monasteries and temples, extending over a distance of more than 2km. These structures were dug into the wall of a high basalt cliff. It is unclear when these caves were built, and estimates range from between 200 B.C. and 600 A.D. to between 600 A.D. and 1000 A.D. The oldest caves can be found on the southern side of the cliff and are of Buddhist origin. They are comprised of monasteries and a single large temple (Cave 10). A lot of effort was put into these structures. For instance in Cave 12, the three-storied building is believed to have been built entirely by human hands and hard labour. The rock-hard floors and ceiling of this cave were made level and smooth, reflecting the immense skill and craftsmanship of the builders.

Moving north from the Buddhist group, one reaches the Hindu Caves. These 17 caves belong mainly to the Saivite sect, and date to the Rashtrakuta period in the middle of the 8th century A.D. For instance, Cave 16 is said to have been built by the Rashtrakuta king, Krishna I, and dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva.

The last four caves belong to the Jain group. These were said to be built between A.D. 800 and A.D. 1000 by the Digambara sect. These caves are massive, well-proportioned and decorated. For example, there are delicate carvings of lotus flowers and other elaborate ornaments in Cave 32. In addition, the builders of these caves are said to have drawn their artistic inspiration from the pre-existing structures at Ellora.

The Hellfire Caves of West Wycombe

The Hellfire Caves of West Wycombe are a network of man-made chalk and flint caverns in Buckinghamshire, England, made famous by their sordid past. They are named after the infamous Hellfire Club, made up of high-ranking members of society, noblemen, and politicians, who are believed to have engaged in rituals, orgies, and black magic deep within the subterranean chambers beneath West Wycombe. Nevertheless, the caves are a place where myth and reality are so entangled that it is difficult to separate one from the other.

According to accepted accounts, English politician Sir Francis Dashwood commissioned an ambitious project in 1748 to supply chalk for a 5 kilometer road between West Wycombe and High Wycombe and so the caves were said to be dug out for mining purposes. It was here that Dashwood created a meeting center for the Knights of St Francis of Wycombe, a private members club which later became known as the Hellfire Club.

The club motto was Fais ce que tu voudras (Do what thou wilt), a philosophy of life later used by Aleister Crowley. Legend has it that members engaged in numerous illicit activities including sex parties, drinking, wenching, and mock rituals.

The Wondrous Ajanta Caves

The Ajanta Caves are a series of more than thirty caves that were constructed around 200 BC and were used as retreats for Buddhist monks during the monsoon season. The caves were abandoned after the 7th century AD when Buddhism declined in India, but are still considered sacred today by the locals.

During their use, the caves were expanded and decorated. They are full of beautiful paintings and create a serene atmosphere for the visitor. Many of the paintings and sculptures depict the life of Buddha, as well as his previous incarnations, known as Jatakas. However, an interesting feature is that the number of female depictions is as abundant as the males. To the common viewer, images of semi-naked women in caves used as monk retreats are unusual. Paintings with half men, half animal depictions are also present, bearing resemblance to the mythology of many other ancient cultures.

The Ancient Caves of Uplistsikhe, Fortress of the Lord

Uplistsikhe, whose name translates to 'Fortress of the Lord', is an ancient rock-hewn town which played a significant role in Georgian history over a period of approximately 3,000 years. Archaeological excavations have revealed extraordinary artifacts dating from the late Bronze Age all the way up to the late Middle Ages.

Beginning its history in the 2nd millennium BC, Uplistsike has been identified as one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia. Back then, the complex was a very important cultural center for pagan worship in the Kartli (Iberia) region. Archaeologists have unearthed numerous temples and findings relating to a sun goddess, worshipped prior to the arrival of Christianity.

The ancient cave city was built on a rocky bank of the Mtkvari River, approximately 15 kilometers east of the town of Gori. The rock-cut structures include dwellings, a large hall, called Tamaris Darbazi, pagan places of sacrifice, and functional buildings, such as a bakery, a prison, cellars, and even an amphitheater, all connected by footways and tunnels. Between the 6th century BC and 11th century AD, Uplistsikhe was one of the most important political, religious, and cultural centers of pre-Christian Kartli, one of the predecessors of the Georgian state, and flourished until it was ravaged by the Mongols in the 13th century.

Beit Guvrin, The Land of 1,000 Caves

The Beit Guvrin-Maresha caves in Israel have been used for thousands of years as quarries, burial sites, storerooms, stables, hideouts, dovecotes, cisterns, baths, and places of worship. They are comprised of chambers and networks with various functions, and are situated below Maresha, one of the important towns during the time of the First Temple, and Beit Guvrin, a significant town in the Roman era, when it was known as Eleutheropolis.

The great "bell caves" of Beit Guvrin, of which there are around 800, date from the Late Roman, Byzantine, and even Early Arab periods (2nd–7th century AD), when the locals created a quarry to mine stone for mortar and plaster, and to extract lime for cement. The quarry was opened from a one-meter hole in the hard Nari surface above. When the ancient diggers reached the soft chalk below, they began reaming out their quarry in the structurally secure bell shape, each bell eventually cutting into the one adjacent to it. Although not built to be inhabited, the caves may have been used as refuges by Early Christians. In the North Cave, a cross high on the wall, at the same level as an Arabic inscription, suggests a degree of coexistence even after the Arab conquest of the area in AD 636. Many of the caves are linked via an underground network of passageways that connect groups of 40–50 caves together.

One of the large caves in Beit Guvrin contains nearly 2,000 small niches carved into the rock. The most commonly accepted theory is that the cave was a columbarium – a place to raise doves. These were valued in the ancient world, both for the excellent fertilizer they produce and as a good source of protein.

Enigmatic symbols and carvings in Royston cave in England confound experts

The Royston Cave is an artificial cave in Hertfordshire, England. It is not known who created the cave or what it was used for, but there has been much speculation. The cave was discovered in August 1742 in Royston. A worker was digging holes to build footing for a new bench at a market. He discovered a millstone while he was digging, and when he dug around to remove it, he found the shaft leading to the cave. When the cave was discovered, it was half-filled with dirt and rock. Once the earth was removed, workers discovered numerous sculptures and carvings, dating back as early as 1200 AD.

The images are mostly religious, depicting St. Catherine, the Holy Family, the Crucifixion, St. Lawrence holding the gridiron on which he was martyred, and a figure holding a sword who could either be St. George, or St. Michael.

Some believe that Royston cave was used by the Knights Templar. Others believe it may have been an Augustinian store mine. Another theory is that it was a Neolithic flint mine. None of these theories have been substantiated, and the origin of the Royston Cave remains a mystery.

The Enduring Mysteries of the Longyou caves

Located near the village of Shiyan Beicun in Zhejiang province, China, lies the Longyou caves - an extensive, magnificent and rare ancient underground world considered in China as ‘the ninth wonder of the ancient world’. The Longyou grottoes, which are thought to date back at least 2,000 years, represent one of the largest underground excavations of ancient times and are an enduring mystery that have perplexed experts from every discipline that has examined them.

First discovered in 1992 by a local villager, 36 grottoes have now been discovered covering a massive 30,000 square meters. Carved into solid siltstone, each grotto descends around 30 meters underground and contains stone rooms, bridges, gutters and pools. There are pillars evenly distributed throughout the caves which are supporting the ceiling, and the walls, ceiling and stone columns are uniformly decorated with chisel marks in a series of parallel lines. Only one of the caves has been opened for tourism, chosen because of the stone carvings found inside which depict a horse, fish and bird. Scientists from around the world in the fields of archaeology, architecture, engineering, and geology have absolutely no idea how they were built, by whom, and why.


3 Stumping Examples of Cave Art That Predate Civilization by at Least 40,000 Years

Cave art at Jabiru Dreaming inside the Kakadu National Park. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tens of thousands of years ago, our ancestors roamed the planet in search of shelter and food. From time to time, they would discover cave systems that they would eventually turn into their home and end up decorating with fascinating examples of ancient art.

We have countless examples of ancient cave systems that were occupied by humankind worldwide, with traces of habitation dating back more than 60,000 years in some cases.

Precisely in these ancient caves is where our ancestors made their first steps to document their surroundings.

They painted, carved, and sculpted what are considered some of the most ancient examples of art the world has ever seen. These ancient art pieces are an invaluable part of human history, recognized even by some of the greatest artists of the modern world.

After seeing the cave paintings at Lascaux France, Pablo Picasso said: “We have invented nothing new… after Altamira, all is decadence…”

Ancient humankind was, in some way, obsessed with conveying a message for future generations to see. They painted, sometimes for pleasure, sometimes because they felt a need to document things. Still, whatever the case, numerous examples around the globe of cave art have demonstrated that the love for art has existed in the heart of humans for longer than we’ve ever thought possible.

Some of these examples are extremely ancient. Caves in Australia, for example, feature paintings that predate 28,000 years ago. The oldest known cave paintings in the world are considered to be more than 44,000 years old, discovered in the Franco-Cantabrian region in Western Europe and inside a cave in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

The oldest example of cave paintings are hand stencils and simplistic geometric forms the oldest acknowledged examples of figurative cave art are somewhat younger, close to 35,000 years old.

The more we explore our world, the more discoveries we make that leave us perplexed by the rich history left behind by ancient humans.

Sulawesi Cave Art with hand imprints, Indonesia. Shutterstock.

In November of 2018, a group of researchers found the oldest known figurative paintings ever made, dating back around 52,000 years, depicting an unidentified animal inside the Lubang Jeriji Saléh on the island Borneo.

In December of last year, scientists discovered cave art believed to be at least 43,9000 years old, depicting “the oldest pictorial record of storytelling and the earliest figurative artwork in the world.” This discovery was made in the Maros-Pankep Karst cave in Sulawesi.

In the Maltravieso cave in Spain, we find what is considered the oldest known cave painting, a red hand stencil which is thought to be more than 63,000 years old, believed to have been drawn by ancient Neanderthals.

In Europe, the oldest known examples of figurative art can be found in France inside the Chauvet Cave. The paintings are believed to date back to around 30,000 BC. However, given the precision and style of cave art, some experts have suggested that the drawings are too advanced for this era and question this age.

That, however, discredits ancient humans who were undoubtedly capable of great things.

Tens of thousands of years ago, people had the ability to create art. Not just ordinary lines and symbols that may appear random, but various elements that, when seen as a whole, tell a story of the ancient world. Ancient humankind did not paint on cave walls randomly. Their art had a meaning, it carried weight, and it profoundly impacts the way we understand the ancient world.

Shutterstock.

Evidence of that is the importance of the art we are discovering even today.

This brings us to our first example of advanced ancient art discoveries inside caves.


10 Amazing Caves of the Ancient World

Caves play an important role in the story of humanity. In addition to providing shelter for our earliest ancestors, caves were also often considered to be mystical and magical realms.

For some cultures, caves are the gateways to the underworld, while others believed that supernatural beings dwelled in these subterranean areas.

Here we look at ten incredible caves or cave systems of the ancient world, from 70,000-year-old shelters for prehistoric humans to 18th century meeting places for black magic and sordid rituals.

Devetashka – the Bulgarian Cave with 70,000 Years of Human Habitation

Devetashka cave is an enormous cave in Bulgaria, which has provided shelter for groups of humans since the late Paleolithic era, and continuously for tens of thousands of years since then. Now abandoned by humans, it remains a site of national and international significance and is home to some 30,000 bats.

Devetashka cave, which is known as Devetàshka peshterà in Bulgaria, is located roughly 18 kilometres north of Lovech, near the village of Devetaki.

Beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, rivulets, majestic natural domes and arches can be found within the enormous cave and one can see why various human populations would have chosen Devetashka as their home.

The earliest traces of human presence date back to the middle of the Early Stone Age around 70,000 years ago. The Devetashka cave also contained one of the richest sources of cultural artifacts from the Neolithic (6th millennium – 4th millennium BC).

The Dark Reputation of the Dunmore Cave of Ireland

Dunmore (meaning ‘great fort’ in Irish) Cave is a limestone cave located about 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) to the north of Kilkenny City, near Castlecomer. Within the cave, there is around 300 meters (99 feet) of known passages and caverns.

Dunmore Cave was at one point of time within the territory of the ancient Irish kingdom of Ossory, which was situated between the Viking strongholds of Dublin, Waterford and Limerick. The rivalry of the different Viking clans in Ireland provided one of the most chilling episodes in the history of Dunmore Cave.

According to the Annals of the Four Masters, around A.D. 928, the Vikings of Dublin were marching to attack their rivals in Waterford. On their way to their enemy’s place, it is said they raided and pillaged the surrounding countryside.

When they arrived at Dunmore Cave, they found a large number of women and children hiding in it. Allegedly hoping to capture them alive so that they could then be sold as slaves, the Vikings devised a plan to drive them out of the cave.

They lit large fires at the mouth of the cave in order to force them out of their hiding. The fires grew too large and consumed the oxygen in the cave, resulting in the suffocation of the refugees. It is recorded that a thousand people died in this manner.

In 1973, the bones of 44 people, mainly belonging to women, children and the elderly, were found in Dunmore Cave, thus giving some credence to the annals. Yet, whether there were as many as a thousand victims, or perhaps less, is another question.

The Historic Grottoes of Folx-les-Caves: Ancient Hideout and Traveler Waypoint

The mysterious man-made caves in Belgium burrow thousands of feet into the soft rock south of Brussels. The grottoes of Folx-les-Caves are located in the municipality of Orp-Jauche in the province of Walloon Brabant. In the distant past, the grottoes were used as mines.

One of the rocks found there was tuff, a type of soft volcanic rock which is rich in calcium carbonate. It is unclear when humans first mined the grottoes. Some have speculated that they were in use since Neolithic times, i.e. around 2600 B.C., and that aurochs horns were used as mining tools.

The mines are a labyrinth of about 60,000 square meters (approximately 650,000 square feet) as a result of centuries of mining. This made it a perfect hiding place for refugees seeking to escape those who occupied Belgium over the centuries.

It has been suggested that the mines have been used by refugees as early as the Roman period all the way to the Second World War.

The most famous tale relating to the grottoes of Folx-les-Caves is that of Pierre Colon, who lived some time during the 18th century. Colon was a thief dubbed the ‘Belgian Robin Hood’, as he, like his English counterpart, stole from the rich and gave to the poor.

Colon was said to rob rich merchants passing through a forest nearby, and his hideout was the grottoes of Folx-les-Caves. Eventually, the law caught up with the benevolent thief, and he was hanged to death on the spot where he committed his crimes.

The Magnificent Ellora Caves of India

The Ellora Caves are a unique sanctuary that blend the art and culture of three different religions – Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism – and illustrate the spirit of tolerance, characteristic of ancient India, which permitted these three religions to establish their sanctuaries and communities in a single place.

Ellora is situated not far from Aurangabad, in the Indian state of Maharashtra. This site is home to 34 monasteries and temples, extending over a distance of more than 2km. These structures were dug into the wall of a high basalt cliff.

It is unclear when these caves were built, and estimates range from between 200 B.C. and 600 A.D. to between 600 A.D. and 1000 A.D. The oldest caves can be found on the southern side of the cliff and are of Buddhist origin. They are comprised of monasteries and a single large temple (Cave 10).

A lot of effort was put into these structures. For instance in Cave 12, the three-storied building is believed to have been built entirely by human hands and hard labour. The rock-hard floors and ceiling of this cave were made level and smooth, reflecting the immense skill and craftsmanship of the builders.

Moving north from the Buddhist group, one reaches the Hindu Caves. These 17 caves belong mainly to the Saivite sect, and date to the Rashtrakuta period in the middle of the 8th century A.D. For instance, Cave 16 is said to have been built by the Rashtrakuta king, Krishna I, and dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva.

The last four caves belong to the Jain group. These were said to be built between A.D. 800 and A.D. 1000 by the Digambara sect. These caves are massive, well-proportioned and decorated.

For example, there are delicate carvings of lotus flowers and other elaborate ornaments in Cave 32. In addition, the builders of these caves are said to have drawn their artistic inspiration from the pre-existing structures at Ellora.

The Hellfire Caves of West Wycombe

The Hellfire Caves of West Wycombe are a network of man-made chalk and flint caverns in Buckinghamshire, England, made famous by their sordid past.

They are named after the infamous Hellfire Club, made up of high-ranking members of society, noblemen, and politicians, who are believed to have engaged in rituals, orgies, and black magic deep within the subterranean chambers beneath West Wycombe.

Nevertheless, the caves are a place where myth and reality are so entangled that it is difficult to separate one from the other.

According to accepted accounts, English politician Sir Francis Dashwood commissioned an ambitious project in 1748 to supply chalk for a 5 kilometer road between West Wycombe and High Wycombe and so the caves were said to be dug out for mining purposes.

It was here that Dashwood created a meeting center for the Knights of St Francis of Wycombe, a private members club which later became known as the Hellfire Club.

The club motto was Fais ce que tu voudras (Do what thou wilt), a philosophy of life later used by Aleister Crowley. Legend has it that members engaged in numerous illicit activities including sex parties, drinking, wenching, and mock rituals.

The Wondrous Ajanta Caves

The Ajanta Caves are a series of more than thirty caves that were constructed around 200 BC and were used as retreats for Buddhist monks during the monsoon season. The caves were abandoned after the 7th century AD when Buddhism declined in India, but are still considered sacred today by the locals.

During their use, the caves were expanded and decorated. They are full of beautiful paintings and create a serene atmosphere for the visitor. Many of the paintings and sculptures depict the life of Buddha, as well as his previous incarnations, known as Jatakas.

However, an interesting feature is that the number of female depictions is as abundant as the males. To the common viewer, images of semi-naked women in caves used as monk retreats are unusual. Paintings with half men, half animal depictions are also present, bearing resemblance to the mythology of many other ancient cultures.

The Ancient Caves of Uplistsikhe, Fortress of the Lord

Uplistsikhe, whose name translates to ‘Fortress of the Lord’, is an ancient rock-hewn town which played a significant role in Georgian history over a period of approximately 3,000 years. Archaeological excavations have revealed extraordinary artifacts dating from the late Bronze Age all the way up to the late Middle Ages.

Beginning its history in the 2nd millennium BC, Uplistsike has been identified as one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia.

Back then, the complex was a very important cultural center for pagan worship in the Kartli (Iberia) region. Archaeologists have unearthed numerous temples and findings relating to a sun goddess, worshipped prior to the arrival of Christianity.

The ancient cave city was built on a rocky bank of the Mtkvari River, approximately 15 kilometers east of the town of Gori.

The rock-cut structures include dwellings, a large hall, called Tamaris Darbazi, pagan places of sacrifice, and functional buildings, such as a bakery, a prison, cellars, and even an amphitheater, all connected by footways and tunnels.

Between the 6th century BC and 11th century AD, Uplistsikhe was one of the most important political, religious, and cultural centers of pre-Christian Kartli, one of the predecessors of the Georgian state, and flourished until it was ravaged by the Mongols in the 13th century.

Beit Guvrin, The Land of 1,000 Caves

The Beit Guvrin-Maresha caves in Israel have been used for thousands of years as quarries, burial sites, storerooms, stables, hideouts, dovecotes, cisterns, baths, and places of worship.

They are comprised of chambers and networks with various functions, and are situated below Maresha, one of the important towns during the time of the First Temple, and Beit Guvrin, a significant town in the Roman era, when it was known as Eleutheropolis.

The great “bell caves” of Beit Guvrin, of which there are around 800, date from the Late Roman, Byzantine, and even Early Arab periods (2nd–7th century AD), when the locals created a quarry to mine stone for mortar and plaster, and to extract lime for cement. The quarry was opened from a one-meter hole in the hard Nari surface above.

When the ancient diggers reached the soft chalk below, they began reaming out their quarry in the structurally secure bell shape, each bell eventually cutting into the one adjacent to it. Although not built to be inhabited, the caves may have been used as refuges by Early Christians.

In the North Cave, a cross high on the wall, at the same level as an Arabic inscription, suggests a degree of coexistence even after the Arab conquest of the area in AD 636. Many of the caves are linked via an underground network of passageways that connect groups of 40–50 caves together.

One of the large caves in Beit Guvrin contains nearly 2,000 small niches carved into the rock. The most commonly accepted theory is that the cave was a columbarium – a place to raise doves. These were valued in the ancient world, both for the excellent fertilizer they produce and as a good source of protein.

Enigmatic symbols and carvings in Royston cave in England confound experts

The Royston Cave is an artificial cave in Hertfordshire, England. It is not known who created the cave or what it was used for, but there has been much speculation. The cave was discovered in August 1742 in Royston. A worker was digging holes to build footing for a new bench at a market.

He discovered a millstone while he was digging, and when he dug around to remove it, he found the shaft leading to the cave. When the cave was discovered, it was half-filled with dirt and rock. Once the earth was removed, workers discovered numerous sculptures and carvings, dating back as early as 1200 AD.

The images are mostly religious, depicting St. Catherine, the Holy Family, the Crucifixion, St. Lawrence holding the gridiron on which he was martyred, and a figure holding a sword who could either be St. George, or St. Michael.

Some believe that Royston cave was used by the Knights Templar. Others believe it may have been an Augustinian store mine. Another theory is that it was a Neolithic flint mine. None of these theories have been substantiated, and the origin of the Royston Cave remains a mystery.

The Enduring Mysteries of the Longyou caves

Located near the village of Shiyan Beicun in Zhejiang province, China, lies the Longyou caves – an extensive, magnificent and rare ancient underground world considered in China as ‘the ninth wonder of the ancient world’.

The Longyou grottoes, which are thought to date back at least 2,000 years, represent one of the largest underground excavations of ancient times and are an enduring mystery that have perplexed experts from every discipline that has examined them.

First discovered in 1992 by a local villager, 36 grottoes have now been discovered covering a massive 30,000 square meters. Carved into solid siltstone, each grotto descends around 30 meters underground and contains stone rooms, bridges, gutters and pools.

There are pillars evenly distributed throughout the caves which are supporting the ceiling, and the walls, ceiling and stone columns are uniformly decorated with chisel marks in a series of parallel lines. Only one of the caves has been opened for tourism, chosen because of the stone carvings found inside which depict a horse, fish and bird.

Scientists from around the world in the fields of archaeology, architecture, engineering, and geology have absolutely no idea how they were built, by whom, and why.


France
Bison, horses, and mammoths are among the animals painted into the rough limestone walls of this cave in the Dordogne. Created at least 15,000 years ago, the paintings still have vivid colors and a sense of vitality. Their purpose may have been to do with hunting or with an attempt to represent a lunar calendar. [Related: Discover 3 incredible cave art sites in Europe]

Ethiopia
It is said that Allah revealed the opening to this limestone cave system to Sheikh Sof Omar in the 12th century. The sheikh and his followers used the caves as a mosque, a purpose to which the caves were well suited as they had been eroded into columns, buttresses, domes, vaults, and pillars—a natural architectural marvel still used as a gathering place by local Muslims.


6 Ancient India Ruled At Religious Tolerance

Flicking back through the pages of history, it can feel depressingly like we humans are capable of nothing but fighting and killing each other&mdashespecially where religion is involved. Yet not every ancient state was waging jihad or fighting a crusade. Some, like ancient India, were mastering tolerance.

Under tyrant-turned-pacifist Emperor Ahsoka in the third century B.C., religions were encouraged to mix peacefully and develop a shared cultural heritage. The result was sites like the Ellora Caves. Containing sanctuaries dedicated to Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism side by side, the Caves were like the spiritual multiplex of their day, offering up three simultaneous visions of salvation.

Sixteenth-century Emperor Akbar went even further. Worried about possible sectarian tensions, he gathered together Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Parsees, Jews, and atheists and tried to get them to create a whole new spiritual system encompassing all their varied beliefs. Although Din-I Ilahli unsurprisingly failed to catch on, it contributed to a flourishing cultural exchange that encouraged interaction between different communities. At the same time, civic laws forbade any form of religious discrimination, resulting in a society easily as varied and open as modern-day London.


6 Baghdad


Baghdad did not become a major city until AD 762 , when the &lsquoAbbasid caliph al-Mansur made it his capital. The &lsquoAbbasids controlled a vast empire that stretched from modern-day Morocco in the west to Afghanistan in the east, and Baghdad quickly became the richest city in the world.

Baghdad was also a hub of culture and science. Ancient Greek texts were translated into Arabic, ensuring the preservation of works by Aristotle, Galen, and many others. Scholars such as Razi and al-Kindi made significant leaps in medicine, philosophy, and astronomy. An observatory established by the caliph Ma&rsquomun was &ldquoprobably the world&rsquos first state-funded large-scale science project.&rdquo

Had it not been for Baghdad, it&rsquos possible that the link between the ancient world and the present day would be much more tenuous.


Top 9 Most Amazing Cave Paintings

8 Saksaywaman, Cusco, Northern Peru

Saksaywaman is a walled Inca fortress located in Cusco city in Northern Peru. The complex is one of the most important archaeological site in the country. The large monumental complex is located at an attitude of 3701 meter and covers thousands of hectares of land. It is three level complex made of large stones. The size and shape of stones used for the construction also varies at different sections of the site and biggest stones weighs more than 200 tons.

The large complex was built by Inca empire (between 1438 and 1533). The Inca architects rough-cut the large stones and fit together perfectly without using the mortar.The large rocks were imported fro mile away places using only man power The method used by Incas for match the stones are still a mystery. They also used stones of variety of shapes for the construction of the complex. It helped many parts of Saksaywaman to remain intact.

7 Borobudur, Central Java, Indonesia

Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple and a world heritage site situated in Central Java in Indonesia. The impressive archaeological marvel was built 400 years before the construction of great Angkor Wat (largest religious monument in the world ) in Cambodia. Borobudur is a three-tier temple that covers an area of 1900 square meters. The monument has a pyramidal base, a cone structure at the center and a stupa at the top level. The temple also houses 504 Buddha statues and 72 open work stupas. In 1991 UNESCO recognized Borobudur asa world heritage site.

According to the inscriptions Borobudur temple was built between 8the and 9th centuries. But until now there is no data about the builders of the great architectural wonder. The temple remain hidden from the outer world for centuries and rediscovered back in 1814.

Archaeologists estimated that 55000 cubic meters of andesite rocks for the construction of the temple. Knobs and woodworking joinery were used by the builders for joint together the massive stones. The three levels of the temple represent three main areas of Buddhist cosmology called kamadhatu, rupadhatu and arupadhatu.

The Buddha statues found on different sections of temple also express six different types of mudras. There is also a giant puzzle made of two million volcanic stones. Another important architectural attraction of Borobudur temple is it’s water gutters. In fact the temple has 100 water gutters in total, made in the shape of elephant headed fish known as ‘makara’.

6 Petra, Southern Jordan

Petra in Southern Jordan is one of the most famous archaeological site in the world. The rock-cut city was the capital city of ancient Nabataeans (between C.E 37-c.100). Petra is also known as ‘Rose city’ because of red-rose sandstone of mountain out of which the city was carved. The world ‘Petra’ means rock in Greek language. Petra is also a unique example of rock-cut architecture and it attract tourists from all over the world.

Nabataeans built houses, temples, tombs and altars on sandstone cliffs of Petras 2000 years ago. The city served as a caravan for ancient traders who travelled between Mediterranean and Africa. Petra remained hidden from outer world until 1812 and rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.

There are 800 monument in Petra and most of them represent the fusion of Nabataeans rock-cut and Hellenistic architectural styles. The ‘king’ wall’ is one of focal section at Petra city. It contain three large royal tombs on the mountain face. All the tombs are highly decorated and have inscriptions.

Khazneh el Faroun is another finest construction on the rock of the mountain. It is also known as ‘Treasury of Pharaoh’ which is adorned with great architectural elements such as sculptures and columns. There are also important relics from the Roman rule in the city.

5 Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh, India

Taj Mahal is the most important historical monument and outstanding example of Mughal architecture in India. Taj Mahal means ‘Crown of palaces’ in Arabic language and it is also considered as most iconic symbol of love. The marvelous marble mausoleum was commissioned by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The monument represent the combination of Mughal,Ottoman Turkish, Persian, Islamic and Indian architectural styles. In 1983 UNESCO recognized Taj Mahal as a world heritage site under the criteria of masterpiece of human designs.

The construction of Taj Mahal was started in 1632. It was designed by a group of three skilled architectures named Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, Makramat Khan and Abd ul-Karim Ma’mur Khan. Thousands of craftsmen, artists and painters employed for the construction. The domed mausoleum along with it’s huge garden was completed in 1953.

Sandstones, white marbles, jasper and jades were mainly used for the construction of monument. The white marble for Taj Mahal was imported from Makrana of Rajasthan. There are also 28 different types of precious and semi-precious stones were used for the decoration of the mausoleum. Many parts of the Taj Mahal were also inscribed with important verses from holy Quran. The paintings on the monument also represent different geometrical patterns.

The 35 meter tall dome is the most attractive feature of Taj Mahal, built using traditional Persian and Hindustani architectural styles. There are also four impressive minarets at each corners topped by small domes and equally divided by balconies. The large garden of Taj Mahal symbolize the concept of ‘paradise garden’ describe in mystic Islamic texts. The garden is filled with many beautiful flowering plants, trees and birds. It is also divided in to four main parts by marble canals.

4 Colosseum of Rome, Italy

Colosseum is the most impressive monument of Roman empire and finest example of Roman architecture. It is also the largest amphitheatre in the world. It was commissioned by emperor Vespasian in A.D 70 and completed in A.D 80 by his son Titus. The building has an elliptical structure and standing at 159 feet. Once it was used for staging fight between gladiators and wild animals. The colosseum remained in active for four centuries and abandoned in 5th century. The monument was also heavily damaged by earthquakes of 847 AD and 1231 AD.

Colosseum is originally built as a four storey building with 80 entrances and had capacity to hold 50000-80000 spectators. It was decorated with marbles and contain hundreds of life size statues. Each floor of the amphitheatre was dedicated for people of different classes, top floor for lower classes and lowest floor for important citizens.There are also an underground cage section for keeping the wild animals for the gladiatorial fights.

Most of interior section of colosseum was made of wood. The builders were used tired arrangements for seating in the colosseum. They also built box type seats for Roman empires and other members of royal family. Today the surviving parts of colosseum contain wall at the Northern side of the monument. The underground passageways that once used for transporting wild animals also opened for public.

3 Stonehenge, Salisbury, England

Stonehenge is a massive prehistoric stone monument located in Salisbury city of England. It is a circle of standing stones of different size. Archaeologists estimated that the monument was built before 4000-5000 years ago. Stonehenge also represent architectural brilliance of ancestor lived in the area at that time. There is no written record about people behind the construction of stonehenge and exact purpose of it.

Ancestors mainly used two types of stones for the construction of stonehenge known as bluestones and sarsen stones. The bluestones weighs more than 25 tons and sarsen stones weighs up to 4 tons. All the massive stones for the construction of monuments imported from faraway places. But the method used by stonehenge builders for importing and placing the enormous stones still unclear. It took more than 1500 years for the construction of monument like stonehenge at that time.

Stonehenge is also aligned with midwinter Sunset and midsummer Sunset. There are many speculation on the reason behind the construction of Stonehenge, ranges from burial site to religious site to astronomical observatory.

2 Great Pyramid Of Giza, EI Giza, Egypt

Great pyramid of Giza is one of seven wonders of ancient world and also the largest pyramid in the world. It was built as a final resting place for Egyptian pharaoh Khufu. It is also considered as one of greatest achievement of ancient Egypt. Still there are only a few records about methods used by ancestors for quarrying, shaping, transporting and placing massive stone blocks for the constructions of great pyramid of Giza.

The pyramid of Khufu was constructed between 2560 B.C and 2540 B.C. At initial height of 146.5 metres it remained as tallest building in the world for next 3800 years. Great pyramid of Giza is the only Egyptian pyramid to have both ascending and descending passageways. Archaeologists believed that ancient Egyptian architects were used the knowledge about alignment of stars for planning and designing of great pyramid of Giza.

It is estimated that around 2.3 million stone blocks were used for it’s constructions. The stone blocks were transported from nearby quarries via Nile river. It is believed to be the builders used to cut the enormous stone blocks by hammering with wooden wedges. They also used 500000 tonnes of mortar for the construction of pyramid. It is impossible to reproduce such strong mortar today.

The original entrance to the pyramid stands at metres high and the passageway from the door leads to lower level of the monument. Pyramid of Khufu has three burial chambers located at three different level of the pyramid. The pharaoh’s chamber is located at the center of the pyramid and it can be accessed by passageway called grand gallery. The chamber of queen and rock cut chamber can be found at lower level of the pyramid. The great monument also contain wooden statues, stone carvings and luxury items.


Legend and bits and pieces of historical fact -indicates that Tenochtitlan was once the world's biggest and most beautiful city. The capital of the great Aztec empire, which eventually morphed into today's Mexico City, had about 300,000 inhabitants when Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1521. Despite being built atop a lake according to the wishes of an important Aztec deity, ancient engineers made Tenochtitlan as efficient as any city in Europe with a complex system of causeways and canals.

Most people think of Cairo and the Great Pyramids when they think of ancient Egypt, but the heartbeat of the magical pharaonic dynasties actually beat much further up the Nile at Thebes. Thebes was the ruling capital of ancient Egypt during its most dominant eras, beginning with the Old Kingdom 4500 years ago, and is home to two of its most revered temples at Karnak and Luxor. Most of Egypt's holy rulers are also buried nearby in the famous Valley of the Kings.


10. Astronomical ceiling of the tomb of Senenmut (15th century BC)

Senenmut was the architect of the prestigious Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s tomb complex. His own tomb, however, is equally as impressive as it includes a galactic map on the ceiling which is the first-known depiction of its kind. The map comprises of two segments – the northern and southern hemispheres. The northern hemisphere shows the Egyptian lunar cycles and well-known constellations, while the southern segment records the stars and planets which are visible to the naked eye. Interestingly, Mars is missing.

Spanning 5,000 years, ancient Egyptian art shows a style and craftsmanship which remained relatively unchanged with little cultural influence outside the Nile valley. From depictions of ancient wars to the symbolic portrayal of old religions, ceremonies, and divinities, the antiquities of ancient Egypt have stood the test of time and many have survived into the present day, allowing us an insight into one of the oldest civilizations ever known.


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