10 Oldest Temples in the World

A temple is roughly defined as a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities. Temples have been built throughout the ages and many new ones open their doors every year. The Akshardham Temple in New Delhi built in 2008 and the White Temple in Chiang Rai which is still under construction are just two recent examples. The ancient temples on this list however were built millenniums ago by people who’s religion and believe system are nog longer practiced. These buildings are among the oldest man made structures found on earth. They serve as a testimony to the gods and deities of cultures and civilizations long gone.


10Palace of Knossos

Located some 5 km (3 mi) south of Heraklion, the Palace of Knossos is the most important and best known Minoan palace complex in Crete. The great palace was built gradually between 1700 and 1400 BC, with periodic rebuildings after destruction until it was devastated once and for all by fire. The palace comprised living spaces, reception rooms, workshops, shrines and store rooms all built around a central square. The main function of the palace is still under debate. It could have been used primarily as an administrative center, a religious center—or both, in a theocratic manner. Knossos is also often associated with the legend of the Athenian hero Theseus killing the Minotaur.

Read more: Greece Guide
9Göbekli Tepe

Sometimes referred to as the first temple or oldest temple, Göbekli Tepe is a sanctuary built on a hilltop in southeastern Turkey. The houses or temples are round megalithic buildings while the walls are made of unworked dry stone and include numerous T-shaped monolithic pillars of limestone that are up to 3 meter (10 ft) high. The site, was erected by hunter-gatherers in the 10th millennium BC (!) making it by far the oldest human-made place of worship yet discovered. Göbekli Tepe not only predate pottery, and the invention of writing or the wheel but it was also built before the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry.

Read more: Turkey Guide
8Temple of Amada
Temple of Amadaflickr/Rivertay

The Temple of Amada is the oldest temple in Nubia and was first constructed by Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III in the 15th century BC. The temple was dedicated to Amun and Re-Horakhty. Alterations and decoration were carried out by later pharaohs. Akhenaten had the name Amun destroyed throughout the temple for example while Seti I had this restored again. Although the temple is quite small and has crumbling exterior, its interior features some of the most finely cut reliefs with bright and vibrant colors.

Read more: Egypt Guide
7Ggantija Temples
Ggantija Templesflickr/boris_gass

High on a hill on the island of Gozo, is the Stone Age Ggantija prehistoric temple complex. Constructed from 3,600-3,000 BC, the Ggantija temples are the earliest of a series of megalithic temples in Malta, pre-dating Egypt’s pyramids and Britain’s Stonehenge by over a 1,000 years. This megalithic monument is in fact two temples, built side by side and enclosed within a boundary wall. The numerous figurines and statues indicate that the temples were possibly the site of a Fertility cult. The temples on Malta are the oldest temples in Europe.

Read more: Malta Guide
6Hagar Qim and Mnajdra
Hagar Qim and Mnajdraflickr/zader

The megalithic complex of Hagar Qim is located atop a cliff on the southern edge of the island of Malta. The Mnajdra temples are about 600 meters further down further down the cliff . Hagar Qim consists of a main temple and three additional megalithic structures beside it. The largest megalith at Hagar Qim is some 7 meters (23 ft) high and weights around 20 tons. Mnajdra consists of three conjoined but not connected temples . The oldest temples were built between 3600 and 3200 BC. Many artifacts were recovered from within the temples suggesting that these old temples were used for religious purposes. These structures were not used as tombs since no human remains were found.

Read more: Malta Guide
5Temple of Seti I
Temple of Seti Iflickr/Argenberg

The Temple of Seti I is the mortuary temple of Pharaoh Seti I on the west bank of the Nile in Abydos. The ancient temple was constructed towards the end of the reign of Seti, and may have been completed by his son Ramesses the Great after his death in 1279 BC. The temple was not only dedicated to Seti I but also to a number of deities. The raised reliefs in this old temple are some of the finest and most detailed in all of Egypt. The temple also contains the Abydos King List. It is a chronological list of many dynastic pharaohs of Egypt from Menes, the Egyptian king credited with founding the First dynasty, until Ramesses I, Seti’s father.

Read more: Egypt Guide
4Hypogeum

The Hypogeum in Malta is the only prehistoric underground temple in the world. The temple consists of halls, chambers and passages carved out of rock. Thought to be originally a sanctuary, it became a necropolis in prehistoric times. The complex is grouped in three levels – the upper level (3600-3300 BC), the middle level (3300-3000 BC), and the lower level (3150 -2500 BC). The deepest room in the lower level is 10.6 meters (35 ft) underground. Only a limited number of visitors are allowed entry and there can be a 2-3 weeks wait to get a ticket.

Read more: Malta Guide
3Temple of Hatshepsut

The Mortuary temple of Hatshepsut, who ruled Egypt from around 1479 BC until her death in 1458 BC, is situated beneath the cliffs at Deir el Bahari on the west bank of the Nile. It is a colonnaded structure, which was designed and implemented by Senemut, the royal architect of Hatshepsut, to serve for her posthumous worship and to honor the glory of Amun. The temple is built into a cliff face that rises sharply above it and consists of three layered terraces reaching 30 meters (97 ft ) in height. These terraces are connected by long ramps which were once surrounded by gardens.

Read more: Egypt Guide

2Luxor Temple
Luxor Templeflickr/TrevorLowe

The Luxor Temple is located on the east bank of the River Nile in the ancient city of Thebes and was founded in 1400 BC during the New Kingdom. The temple was dedicated to the three Egyptian gods Amun, Mut, and Chons. This old temple was the center of the festival of Opet, Thebes’ most important festival. During the annual festival the statues of the three Gods were escorted from Karnak to the temple of Luxor along the avenue of sphinxes that connect the 2 temples. The festival lasted 11 days during the 18th Dynasty but had grown to 27 days by the reign of Ramesses III in the 20th Dynasty. No longer an active religious site, holidays to Luxor are extremely popular with tourists nowadays.

Read more: Egypt Guide
1Stonehenge

One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones in south west England. Stonehenge was produced by a culture that left no written records so many aspects of Stonehenge remain subject to debate. Evidence indicate that the iconic stone monument was erected around 2500 BC while the last known construction at Stonehenge was about 1600 BC. The gigantic stones may have come from a quarry, around 40 kilometers (25 mi) north of Stonehenge on the Marlborough Downs. It is not known for certain what purpose Stonehenge served, but many scholars believe the monument was used as a ceremonial or religious center. Today, it is a popular tourist destination in England and Stonehenge tours are available from several English cities.

Read more: Stonehenge Guide

Map of Oldest Temples In The World

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