Numerous ancient megalithic sites exist that predate even the oldest pyramids on Earth. Many of these ancient sites were built with blocks of stone even bigger than those used in the construction of the pyramids, and some date as far back as the last Ice Age.
Even though we’ve explored countless archaeological sites throughout history, it still is challenging to say for sure when civilization as we know it came into existence. Yes, there is a global consensus that tells us that Mesopotamia is the cradle of civilization and that we can trace all great civilizations from there outward.
Despite the fact that we have what scholars call a cradle of civilization—which denotes a location where civilization began—various ancient civilizations developed independently, on nearly all continents on Earth. This fat has led many experts to argue that there is no single cradle, evidence of which are the civilizations of Mesopotamia, ancient India, Ancient China, and Mesoamerica. In South America, for example, we have the city-state of Caral. This ancient culture developed more than 5,000 years ago and became one of the most sophisticated cultures in the Andean region.
But let us not forget that our understanding of history and the knowledge of the origin of civilization derive from surviving objects and monuments we’ve found and explored. In recent years, we have come to understand that history and the origins of developed societies on Earth is a subject far more complicated than initially thought.
It is maintained that round 3,200 BC, civilizations arose in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Present-day Iraq saw the rise of the Sumerians, which settled between the mouths of the Euphrates and Tigris river, while the ancient Egyptians settled along the narrow stripe of the Nile.
But even before the predynastic times of Egypt, the Indus Valley region saw the birth of an advanced culture. The Indus Valley Civilization was located in present-day Pakistan and northwest India. There, on the fertile flood plain of the Indus River and its vicinity, a great civilization came into existence. Archeological evidence suggests that already around 5,500 BC, various societies practice early forms of religion. It is believed that around 4,000 BC, the first settlements emerged together with farming and agriculture. By 3,000 BC, around 5000 years ago, the first signs of urbanization and development appeared, and various ancient cities were established in the wider region. By approximately 2,000 BC, the Indus Valley civilization reached its peak.
The Indus Civilization developed a wiring system that even today remains a historical mystery, and numerous attempts to decipher it have failed.
A mark in history
The cultures that developed in Mesopotamia, Asia, and Africa left a mark in history in many forms. In Egypt, for example, we have the magnificent pyramids. These ancient structure are thought to have developed around 4,700 years ago, during the Third Dynasty reign of King Djoser. It is believed that the first ancient Egyptian Pyramid was that of Djoser. The Step Pyramid at Saqqara is Egypt’s earliest large-scale cut stone construction and is believed to have changed Egyptian architecture in more ways than one.
The Egyptian pyramids—precisely that of Djoser—are among the oldest on Earth, although not necessarily the oldest. According to archeologists, the pyramids that were constructed in present-day Brazil, and possibly even those constructed in present-day Peru (Caral) are the oldest. Archeologists estimate that the Brazilian pyramids are around 5,000 years old, which makes them around 300 years older than the oldest Egyptian Pyramid.
According to archeologists, there were around one thousand pyramids in Brazil, many of which were erected as far back as 3,000 BC. Today, around 10 % remain standing. Many of these ancient monuments were mistaken as rubble and trash during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and used as a construction material for settlements in southern Brazil.
Nonetheless, some of the oldest and largest pyramids remain. According to reports, one structure located near the town of Jaguaruna covers a total area of 25 acres. The Pyramid is once believed to have stood more than 167ft high.
But unlike the Egyptian pyramids, the Brazilian monuments were built mostly out of seashells, with temples on their summit.
The Egyptian pyramids feature some of the heaviest stones used in pyramid construction. The Great Pyramid of Giza is a perfect example. According to estimates, the Pyramid was built with around 2.3 million blocks of stone. Although many of these stones weigh less than a ton, there are many blocks that weight dozens of tons, and some books, like those inside the king’s Chamber, are found to weight more than 20 tons. These blocks of stone were quarried as far away as Aswan, some 800 kilometers from Giza. The transportation of such massive stones must have been a logistical nightmare in ancient times, but nonetheless, the ancients managed to move the stones with ease. How exactly this was achieved remains an archeological enigma.
Megalithic sites before the pyramids
History is a beautiful thing, and archeology complements it. The more we dig and explore, the more fascinating things we uncover.
Although it certainly is mind-boggling to know that around 4,500 years ago, ancient civilizations moved multi-ton stones across vast distances, and raised them to incredible heights, it is even more fascinating to learn that around 7,300 years before the pyramids of Egypt were even envisioned, a mysterious society quarried, transported and raise books of stone weighing 10, 20 and even 50 tons.
One of the most sophisticated, yet mysterious places on Earth is located in present-day Turkey. Called Göbekli Tepe, which translates into Potbelly Hill, the ancient site is thought to have been constructed around 13,000 years ago.
Geological surveys of the site have revealed that no more than 5% of Göbekli Tepe has been explored and excavated. There are 15 known stone circles inside which a mysterious society—believed to have been hunter-gatherers—placed massive stone pillars weighing around ten tons. According to archaeologists, there are around 200 pillars at Göbekli Tepe, most of which have a height of 6 meters and weight—at least—ten tons. Even larger stones have been found weighing 20 tons, and there is one pillar, half quarried, with an estimated weight of 50 tons.
It is completely mind-boggling to even think that such developed societies existed as far back as the last Ice age. These people were not ordinary hunter-gatherers, and evidence of their workmanship and talent are sites such as Göbekli Tepe.
Half-way around the world, in present-day Ireland, we find another sensational ancient site. Called Newgrange, this prehistoric monument was built around 5,200 years ago. This means that Newgrange is not only older than the oldest Egyptian Pyramid but Stonehenge as well, which means it predates them by at least 500 years.
Radiocarbon dating of artifacts and bones shows the site was probably erected between 3,200 and 2,100 BC. The construction of this ancient monument is fascinating, and geological surveys of the site have revealed that the cairn’s flat top weighs around 200,000 tons. Believed to be composed of water-rolled stones from the River Boyne, it measuring nearly half a hectare of area, which means that it’s quite an architectural feat for its time. Although its exact purpose remains debated, two leading theories suggest it either had a religious or astronomical purpose.
From Ireland, we travel to Spain, where we find the Dolmen of Menga, an ancient megalithic site that dates back to around 3,750 BC, located near Antequera, Malaga. This site is known for one of the largest ancient megalithic structures in Europe. Measuring 27.5 meters in length, 6 meters in width, and 3.5 meters in height, the structure was built with as many as thirty-two megaliths, the largest of which has an estimated weight of 200 tons.
The chamber inside is unique as it features a deep and narrow well at the bottom. The site also has a series of anthropomorphic engravings in the form of a cross as well as a star, which may suggest the site was somehow connected to astronomy or the stars. The dolmen’s structure is covered by a tumulus 50 meters in diameter.
It remains a profound enigma as to how ancient cultures managed to quarry and move such massive stones in antiquity. We need not invoke aliens into the matter; just understand that ancient societies were far more advanced than what we are willing to accept.