Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu is an Incan citadel set high in the Andes Mountains in Peru, above the Urubamba River valley. Built in the 15th century and later abandoned, it’s renowned for its sophisticated dry-stone walls that fuse huge blocks without the use of mortar, intriguing buildings that play on astronomical alignments and panoramic views. Its exact former use remains a mystery.

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Pompeii, Italy
The ruins of Pompeii lie five miles from the foot of Mount Vesuvius in the western region of Campania. This ruined ancient roman city was destroyed on August 24th 79AD when the volcano erupted and brought destruction to the city, killing 3,000 citizens in the process. Today the site offers a throwback of yesteryear and serves as an excavation site encompassing numerous museums and relics and remains one of the most fascinating landmarks in all of Europe. Frozen in time, this ancient city which was reduced to rubble plays host to numerous individual sights including The Basilica, the Temple of Apollo and The Amphitheater.
Teotihuacan, Mexico
Located northeast of Mexico City, Teotihuacan is the site of the most remarkable pre-Columbian pyramids in Mesoamerica. The city is pre-Aztec, but the Aztecs—who believed that the gods created the world there—named it “City of the Gods.” The city is believed to have been constructed between 100 B.C. and 250 A.D., and at the height of its power, it had a population of perhaps as many as 200,000 people. It even had multi-family residential compounds—a precursor to the modern-day apartment building. The Avenue of the Dead cuts through the site, connecting the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. You can still admire the vibrant murals, which are astonishingly well-preserved.
Ani, Turkey

The magnificent capital of a tenth-century Armenian kingdom, Ani was known as ‘The City of 1001 Churches’. Many of them remain in place today, bewitchingly out of place in the green fields that surround them. It’s hard to imagine that these evocative ruins once formed part of a city-state that rivalled Damascus or Constantinople.
The Underground City of Derinkuyu, Turkey

Not as old as Catalhoyuk, perhaps, but equally unusual is the underground city of Derinkuyu. Derinkuyu is also located in what is now Turkey. Though it is not the only underground city in the region, it is one of the most extensive, reaching its greatest size sometime between the years 500 and 1000 CE. The underground city consisted of tunnels and rooms cut into the soft rock of the region, extending down for as much as 5 stories and housing 20,000 people as well as livestock at its peak. The subterranean city once offered respite from nearby enemies, even after it was used as a residence. It was fully abandoned in 1923, not to be reopened to the public until 1969.
Cahokia Mounds - St. Louis, Missouri

Preserving the remains of an ancient Native American city near Collinsville, Illinois, the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri. Covering more than 2,000 acres, Cahokia is the most sophisticated prehistoric Native civilization north of Mexico.

Best known for large, man-made earthen structures, the city of Cahokia was inhabited from about A.D. 700 to 1400. Built by ancient peoples known as the Mound Builders, Cahokia’s original population was thought to have been only about 1,000 until about the 11th century when it expanded to tens of thousands.

At its peak from 1,100 to 1,200 A.D., the city covered nearly six square miles and boasted a population of as many as 100,000 people.

Houses were arranged in rows around open plazas. Agricultural fields and a number of smaller villages surrounded and supplied the city. The Cahokians were known to have traded with other tribes as far away as Minnesota. The original name of the city is unknown and the inhabitants apparently never utilized writing skills. The name Cahokia is that of a unrelated tribe that was living in the area when the first French explorers arrived in the late 17th century.

These ancient Indians built more than 120 earthen mounds in the city, 109 of which have been recorded and 68 of which are preserved within the site. Many others are thought to have been altered or destroyed by farming and construction. While some are no more than a gentle rise on the land, others reach 100 feet into the sky. Made entirely of earth these ancient people transported the soil on their backs in baskets to the construction sites, most of which show evidence of several construction stages. More than 50 million cubic feet of earth was moved for the construction of the mounds, leaving large depressions called borrow pits, which can still be seen in the area.
At the center of the historical site is the largest earthwork called Monks Mound. At one hundred feet, it is the largest prehistoric earthen mound in North America. The mound is 1,000 feet long, 800 feet wide and comprised of four terraces, each one probably added at different times. An estimated 22 million cubic feet of earth was used to build the mound between the years of 900 and 1,200 A.D. The mound was named for French monks who lived nearby in the early 1,800’s as was most likely the site where the principal ruler lived, conducted ceremonies, and governed the city. Over the years, the mound has significantly eroded or been damaged by man, so that the original size is now uncertain.
Surrounding Monks Mound and the center of the city was a 2-mile-long stockade with guard towers placed every 70 feet. Thought to have been constructed four different times, each building took nearly 20,000 logs. In addition to defense purposes, the wall acted as a social barrier, separating the elite from the common people. Today, several sections of the stockade have been reconstructed.

Archaeologists have also excavated four, and possibly five, circular sun calendars referred to as Woodhenge. These evenly spaced log posts were utilized to determine the changing seasons, displaying an impressive example of scientific and engineering practices.

On of the most interesting discoveries made during excavations was that of a small ridge top mound referred to as Mound 72. Here, archeologists found the bodies of nearly 300 people, mostly young women believed to have been sacrificial victims. Nearby was another grave, that of what appears to have been a male ruler about 45 years of age. Laid upon a bed of 20,000 marine shell disc beads, archeologists believe that many of the other bodies buried near him are the remains of those who were sacrificed to serve him in the next life.


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