Here Are 20 of The Oldest Cities Ever Built on Earth

"Older than history..."

Some of these ancient cities date to a time when history was still not written.


According to professor M. E. Smith of Arizona State University, in his work, The Sage Encyclopedia of Urban Studies, “The demographic definition, based on the concepts of Louis Wirth, identifies cities as large, dense settlements with social heterogeneity.”

This gives us a lot of room to search for and investigate, some of the oldest cities on the surface of the planet.

Textbooks tell us that a city is usually described as an urban center where we find commerce and administrative levels, which is ruled by a certain system of laws.

But others factor play a role when defining a city such as the population of the urban settlement as well as the number of buildings it has, the level of government present and its walls or fortifications.

So, what is the oldest city on Earth then?

The answer is confusing when thinking about the oldest of them all.

Walkerssk / Pixabay

The ancient city of Damascus is widely recognized as the oldest continuously inhabited city on Earth, as scientists have found evidence of habitation dating back as far as 11,000 years. Excavations at Tell Ramad on the outskirts of the city have revealed that the general area was inhabited as early as 9000 BC.

The Temple of the Obelisks. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
The Temple of the Obelisks. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Byblos. This ancient city had a reputation as the “oldest city in the world” in Antiquity, according to Philo of Byblos.” Settled from the Neolithic (carbon-dating tests have set the age of earliest settlement around 7000 BC), Byblos exists as a city since the 3rd millennium BC.

14th century map of Jericho in Farchi Bible. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
14th-century map of Jericho in Farchi Bible. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Jericho, on the other hand, is also recognized by a variety of scholars as the oldest cities of them all. Located in modern-day Palestine, we find traces of habitation from 9000 BC. Fortifications date to 6800 BC (or earlier), which means Jericho is also the earliest known walled city on Earth.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the city was destroyed and abandoned several times (sometimes remaining uninhabited for hundreds of years at a time).

Pillars of the Great Hypostyle Hall. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Pillars of the Great Hypostyle Hall (Luxor). Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Luxor (Thebes) in ancient Egypt rightfully takes part in the list of the oldest cities on Earth. First established as the capital of Upper Egypt, Thebes later became the religious capital of the nation until its decline in the Roman period. Thebes was inhabited from around 3200 BC.

Frontal view on the Citadel of Aleppo. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Frontal view on the Citadel of Aleppo. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Another ancient city we must mention in this list is Aleppo, modern-day Siria. Evidence of habitation at Aleppo dates back about 8,000 years, but excavations at a site 15 miles north of the city show the area was inhabited about 13,000 years ago. It is worth mentioning that Aleppo appears in historical records as an important city much earlier than Damascus. The first record of Aleppo may from the third millennium BC if the identification of Aleppo as Armi.

A re-creation of the port at Eridu. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
A re-creation of the port at Eridu. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Eridu, which the Sumerian King List states as the oldest cities on Earth is one we can’t avoid mentioning. As noted by the Sumerian King List: “In Eridu, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28800 years. Alalngar ruled for 36000 years. 2 kings; they ruled for 64800 years. Then Eridu fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira.”

Furthermore, according to the Sumerian King List Eridu was the first city in the world. The opening line reads:

“[nam]-lugal an-ta èd-dè-a-ba
[eri]duki nam-lugal-la”

When kingship from heaven was lowered,
the kingship was in Eridu

Shri Vishwanath Mandir has the tallest temple tower in the world. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Shri Vishwanath Mandir has the tallest temple tower in the world. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Varanasi is an ancient city said to have been founded by an ancient Hindu deity. According to Hindu mythology, Varanasi was founded by Shiva. Excavations in 2014 led to the discovery of artifacts dating back to 800 BCE. Further excavations at Aktha and Ramnagar, two sites in the vicinity of the city, unearthed artifacts dating back to 1800 BCE, supporting the view that the area was inhabited by this time.

Relief on the front of the Inanna temple of Karaindash from Uruk. Pergamon Museum. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Relief on the front of the Inanna temple of Karaindash from Uruk. Pergamon Museum. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Uruk competes in the list as the oldest cities in the world. It was founded in ancient times by a ruler named Enmekar. The city is also mentioned in the Sumerian King List.

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh builds the city wall around Uruk and is king of the city.


Archeologists have discovered multiple cities of Uruk built atop each other in chronological order.

Uruk XVIII Eridu period (c 5000BC); the founding of Uruk

Uruk XVIII-XVI Late Ubaid period (4800–4200 BC)

Uruk XVI-X Early Uruk period (4000–3800 BC)

Uruk I-XVI Middle Uruk period (3800–3400 BC)

Uruk V-IV Late Uruk period (3400–3100 BC); The earliest monumental temples of Eanna District are built

Uruk III Jemdet Nasr period (3100–2900 BC); The 9 km city wall is built

Uruk II

Uruk I


Stone temple of Soknobkonneus, Umm el-Athl (Bacchias), el-Fayyum, Egypt. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Stone temple of Soknobkonneus, Umm el-Athl (Bacchias), el-Fayyum, Egypt. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Faiyum, also known as Crocodilopolis is a city worth mentioning in this list. The ancient city, home to the worship of the Crocodile God was established southwest of Memphis. It was founded around 4,000BC.

The Peutinger Map showing Tyre and Sidon in the 4th century. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
The Peutinger Map showing Tyre and Sidon in the 4th century. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Sidon. Located in modern-day Lebanon, Sidon has been an urban center spanning back more than 6,000 years. It was considered the most important Phoenician city due to its location and acted as a crucial port in the Mediterranean.

Rey, also known as Rhages, is an ancient city located in modern-day Iran.

A settlement at the site was traced back to around 6,000 BCE as part of the Central Plateau Culture. The ancient city of Rey is mentioned in the Avesta (an important text of prayers in Zoroastrianism) as a sacred place, and it is also featured in the book of Tobit.

Beirut, located in modern-day Lebanon was found to have been inhabited for more than 5,000 years.

The area around the city was found to have been inhabited for far longer. Several prehistoric archaeological sites have been discovered within the urban area of Beirut, revealing flint tools of sequential periods dating from the Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic through the Neolithic to the Bronze Age.

Plovdiv. Located in modern-day Bulgaria, the history of Plovdiv spans more than eight millennia. Numerous nations have left their traces on the twelve-meter-thick cultural layers of the city. The earliest signs of habitation in the territory of Plovdiv date as far back as the 6th millennium BCE.

kirkandmimi / Pixabay

Athens. The home of Philosophy, and the birthplace of western civilization.

According to scholars, the ancient city was inhabited for more than 7,000 years. It existed before the days of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Historical evidence has found evidence of human presence in Athens between the 11th and 7th millennium B.C.

Illustration of Argos by Vincenzo Coronelli, 1688. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Illustration of Argos by Vincenzo Coronelli, 1688. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Argos. Just like Athens, evidence has been found that this ancient city existed as an urban center for more than 7,000 years. In fact, Argos competes together with Athens as the oldest city in Europe.

Southern aerial view of the Temple Mount, Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Southern aerial view of the Temple Mount, Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Jerusalem (Old City). The birthplace of three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jerusalem is one of the many cities that came into existence between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago in the thriving Levant region.

Longmen Grottoes at Luoyang. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Longmen Grottoes at Luoyang. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Luoyang, located in modern-day Chinna was erected more than 4,000 years ago, making it the oldest continuously inhabited city in Asia. The ancient city of Luoyang was one of the Seven Great Ancient Capitals of ancient China.

Ancient city of Hippo Regius, today Annaba. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
The ancient city of Hippo Regius, today Annaba. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Annaba. This is perhaps one ancient city you’ve most likely never heard about. However, it has great historical importance. The area of Annaba has yielded evidence of very early human occupation at Ain el Hanech, near Saïda (circa 200,000 BC), including artifacts that show remarkable toolmaking craftsmanship.

According to some sources, prehistoric Algeria was the site of the most advanced development of flake-tool techniques in the Middle Early Stone Age (Middle Paleolithic). The ancient City dates back to the 12th century BC when it was inhabited by the Phoenicians.

Another model of the pyramid. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Model of the pyramid of Cholula. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Ancient city of Cholula, home to the largest pyramid on Earth, the Great Pyramid of Cholula is one of the oldest ancient cities in the American Continent. Traces of inhabitation can be found going back as far as the second century BC. It is the oldest still-inhabited city in the Americas.

Aerial view of the Erbil citadel. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Aerial view of the Erbil Citadel. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Erbil. The Citadel of Arbil is a fortified settlement in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. The city corresponds to ancient Arbela. The settlement at Erbil can be dated back to possibly 5000 BC, but some scholars argue that urban life can be traced back to around 2300 BC.

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