Ancient Architecture – The foundation step for mankind

The architecture of ancient times is the first experiment of mankind that happened on earth due to which humans live in comfortable shelters today. Ancient architecture had a significant impact on the lifestyle of humans where in various parts of the earth the human settlement evolved and revolutionized a prominent growth.

Due to the variety of cultures on the earth, architecture was also shaped accordingly. For example, Temple architecture in India, Islamic architecture of the mosques, Classical times, Neoclassical, Romanesque, Art Deco, Rock cut Renaissance, and much more. Here is a glimpse of a few ancient architectural examples which are celebrated to date.

1. The Pyramids of Egypt:

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet1
The pyramids of Egypt_ ©Maria Barillaro

The pyramids are one of those mysterious constructions to date where humans couldn’t actually figure out the exact method of building it and its connection with cosmic energy. The well-known Pyramids in Egypt must be included on any list of the greatest structures from antiquity. The earliest of the Pyramids, the Pyramid of Djoser, is said to have been constructed about the year 2630 B.C. Experts are still at a loss as to how the ancient Egyptians managed to construct these precisely aligned structures with nothing more than their brute power. These enormous, enigmatic tombs, which are today regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, are said to have been constructed over centuries by as many as 100,000 slaves.

2. The Roman Aqueducts- Italy

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet2
_The Roman Aqueducts of Italy_©Maria Barillaro

The Roman Aqueducts of Italy were meant for carrying the freshwater source to a city. The aqueducts, built by the ancient Romans circa 145 B.C. to deliver water into the Roman Empire, must be included on any list of architectural wonders of the ancient world. What is most intriguing about it? Since the aqueducts are gravity-only systems, the siphoning of the water was made possible by the design. Given the limited resources at the time, this is among the first examples of engineering and a rather amazing one at that. The aqueducts are still in good condition today. However, some still exist today in the same shape as they did thousands of years ago, having been long lost and forgotten and taken over by bushes and vines.

3. Al-Kazneh- Petra, Jordan

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet3
The Al- Kazneh at Petra Jordan© Maria Barillaro

The Al-Kazeh temple at Petra is one of the most elaborate temples in Jordan serving now as a tourist spot.  

One of the most intricate architectural feats ever created is the Treasury at Petra, which was carved into rose-colored stone. The sandstone sculpture, which was formerly constructed as a crypt in the first century A.D., is evocative of Greek architecture from that era. Because so much of the meticulous detail work has, for the most part, held up, it is still really remarkable even now. Its construction is the subject of various urban legends, ranging from ideas that it served as the Egyptian Pharaoh’s treasury during the time of Moses to stories that it was used as a hideout by pirates and criminals to store their looted goods. Whatever the motivation for its development, there is no denying the magnificence of its architecture.

4. The Megalithic Temples of Malta

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet4
The Megalithic temples of Malta© Maria Barillaro

The Megalithic temples of Malta are considered one of the oldest structures alive on Earth and this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 11 Megalithic Temples of Malta are ancient wonders and monuments that date back to between 3000 and 700 B.C. Temple construction was a top priority during this time, and each of these buildings represents an upgrade over the one before it. Given the dearth of suitable building equipment at the time, some archaeologists believe the temples, which have been called the earliest freestanding structures in the world, were constructed to worship certain gods, and many are still fascinated by the intricate details each carries.

5. Leshan Giant Buddha- China 

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet5
The Leshan Giant Buddha Statue at China © ThinkStock

The Leshan Buddha Statue is one of the man-made marvels which automatically makes one humble after gazing at it due to its gigantic form and the surroundings it has. Construction of the Leshan Giant Buddha in Sichuan, China, started about the year 713 A.D. Due to financial constraints, the spectacular monument—the biggest statue of the premodern era—was put on hold for approximately 70 years. By the year 803 A.D., the project had been picked back up and finished. A Chinese monk requested the statue’s construction because ships couldn’t sail across the then-raging rivers, which now quietly lie at the statue’s feet. He believed that the statue honoring Buddha would soothe the river.

The monument ultimately required so much stone to chisel out of the mountain that when it was dropped into the ocean and remained there, it truly did calm the choppy waves and made it easier for ships to travel through. This enormous statue, which was created entirely by hand, is still the biggest Buddha statue ever made.

6. Structure of the Inca Empire: Sacsaywaman – Peru

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet6
The structure of Sacsaywaman © Maria Barillaro

The structure of Sacsaywaman is an amazing engineering construction that showcases an interlocking bond of stones without the use of cement mortar. Sacsaywaman is a magnificent stone castle that was formerly the Inca Empire’s capital and is now in Cusco, Peru. It is astounding to imagine that this castle was constructed before the Inca Empire, between 900 and 1200 A.D., given that some of the stones used to build it weigh as much as 200 tons. The fact that the stones were expertly carved to tightly fit into one another, maintaining the walls for millennia without the use of cement or grout of any kind, is even more amazing. The stones for Sacsaywaman are said to have been transported by individuals from a quarry many kilometers distant.

According to legend, each stone was hauled to its location while being attached to a rope. When the Spanish conquered and gained control of Cusco in the middle of the 1500s, they believed it must have been constructed by demons and ordered it to be destroyed because of the remarkable brickwork. But because many of the stones were just too big for the Spaniards to lift, the majority of it is still standing today.

7. The Parthenon- Greece

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet7
The Parthenon at Greece ©ThinkStock

The structure of the Parthenon is cleverly designed with the help of the Golden Ratio or Divine Proportions as it is also a great example of one of the best engineering marvels worldwide. The Parthenon, one of the most incredible structures ever built, was created in 438 B.C. Although it was initially constructed as a castle and later turned into a Christian church, it served as a temple at various stages throughout history. 

When you consider that all of the stones used to construct this enormous structure, more often referred to as the Temple of Athena, were transported and put in position by hand, the construction of it is really amazing. The Parthenon’s architecture is also magnificent. The Parthenon’s designers created a cunning illusion that continues to trick many people’s eyes today by using many tapering columns to create the idea that the entire temple is straighter than it actually is.

8. Borobudur – Indonesia

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet8
The Borobudur at Indonesia ©ThinkStock

The world’s largest Buddhist temple in Indonesia serves as a tourist spot and helps people to be on a high spiritual level with all the scenic surroundings around it. The greatest Buddhist temple in the world is located in this magnificent building from the ninth century. Over 500 Buddha sculptures, as well as some extremely intricate and stunning designs, can be seen at this amazing site, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Borobudur, which was finished in the year 825 A.D., is still a well-liked place of worship. Prior to being uncovered and excavated in the early 1800s, the enormous temple had really been buried in volcanic ash.

9. The Athens

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet9
The city of Athena-432 B.C.©The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

Persians demolished the initial structures built on the Acropolis of Athens‘ rocky outcrop about 480 B.C., but that didn’t stop a second 15-year effort from accomplishing a full restoration, which was completed around 432 B.C. There was much to see at the Acropolis, including the limestone foundation and columns made of Pentelic marble, early usage of the material, as well as the Parthenon with its gold and ivory figure of Athena.

10. The Tumulus of Bougon

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet10
The Borobudur at Indonesia ©Tim Newcomb

The Tumulus of Bougon is a set of 5 Neolithic barrows located in Bougon in France. The Tumulus of Bougon, a stepped mound with a rectangular chamber, is located on a limestone plateau next to the river Bougon. The ancient mound’s interior is lined with a network of corridors and chamber walls made of orthostats, often known as “upright stones” or “human-shaped stones.” The main chamber is covered in a 90-ton capstone, and monolithic pillars divide it into smaller pieces. Archaeologists were able to determine the period of construction and determine exactly how ancient and remarkable this edifice is because of the presence of several vertical layers of bones and a large amount of pottery at the site when it was first found.

11. The Stonehenge

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet11
The Stonehenge ©Tim Newcomb

Stonehenge is a free-standing structure with 30 tons of stone weight on the ground with an unresolved mystery of how such gigantic stone was placed there. A combination of big sarsen stones, a form of sandstone naturally occurring in the south of England, and smaller bluestones were used to construct the well-known Stonehenge. The biggest sarsen stone, which weighs around 30 tons and is thought to be from Marlborough Downs, is located about 20 miles away from the site. The blue stones from Wales weigh between two and five tons each and were probably transported more than 150 kilometers to their ultimate resting place.

12. Knap of Howar

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet12
The Knap of Howar ©Tim Newcomb

The structures like Knap of Howar are proof that the evolution of houses started from here and has been evolving to date. The Knap of Howar in Scotland is the oldest stone house still standing in northern Europe, despite the fact that it may merely appear to be a simple stone building. The two buildings that make up the farmhouse were constructed with split stone to a height of a little over five feet and have entrances that face the ocean. They are joined by a hallway. A hole in the roof suggests the house was probably heated by fire, and stone furniture discovered on the property is further proof that this was once a very old house.

13. Newgrange

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet13
The Newgrange ©Tim Newcomb

The structure of Newgrange proves that the intelligence of the ancient engineers who built this was remarkable. The winter solstice sun shines through the top of this Stone Age structure and onto the floor of the internal chamber on around four days each year, illuminating the ancient temple for about 17 minutes. Newgrange, which was constructed before Stonehenge, was probably used to chart the passage of time with an accuracy that was well ahead of its time. The interior of Newgrange features a stone structure that forms chambers and tunnels, suggesting that in addition to being a finely built clock, the site probably served as a ritual place and a passage tomb.

14. Sechin Bajo – Peru 1300 BC

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet14
The Sechin Bajo ©Tim Newcomb

The archaeological site Sechin Bajo is one of the oldest sites found in America with various surprising discoveries found to date. Although the majority of the most impressive ancient buildings in the world are in the Eastern Hemisphere, Peru’s Sechin Bajo should not be disregarded. The remarkable construction of the valley-based civilization, one of the earliest archaeological sites in the Americas, was made public in 2008 following the discovery of a circular plaza made of adobe brick and rock that measured more than 30 feet in diameter. 

That provided archaeologists with their initial impression of the location, coupled with a neighboring frieze that was almost six feet tall. Eventually, more structures were discovered, many of which were made of pre-ceramic materials. These structures included platforms, circular plazas, sunken features, friezes, graveyards, and walls with sculptures.

15. Roman Colosseum

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet15
The Colosseum Rome ©Tim Newcomb

The Colosseum Rome was the megastructure built to accommodate many people for any event wherein it acted like a stadium. When it was at its greatest, the Colosseum in Rome measured 620 feet long and 513 feet wide. However, unlike many other enormous constructions of the period, it wasn’t carved into a hillside for stability. Instead, it was a completely free-standing stadium with a stone and concrete base that could accommodate 50,000 spectators in a variety of seating arrangements and levels. In addition, the Colosseum’s 80 awning-covered arches welcome guests into an arena that was so expertly designed that it could even be inundated with water to accommodate aquatic activities.

16. Van Fortress

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet16
The Van Fortress©Tim Newcomb

The Van Fortress is one of those architectural marvels where the stones used for construction are without any cement but with  interlocking joinery.  Construction of the Van Fortress, which was begun around 900 B.C. and completed more than a century later, began on a high cliff overlooking Tushpa, the former Urartian capital located close to the present Turkish city of Van. Van Fortress is more of a representation of regional authority than one of hegemonic military might since the lowest sections of the walls are built of unmortared basalt and the remaining are composed of mud bricks. Whatever the case, it has been transferred at least a dozen times.

17. Sanchi Stupa

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet17
The Sanchi Stupa ©Tim Newcomb

The Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh is one of the oldest stone structures in India to date with very intricate stone carvings on it. Buddhist architecture frequently features the hemispherical stupa shape, and Sanchi Stupa is probably the most well-known of the early examples. The stupa covering, one of the first stone buildings in India, was constructed to house a Buddha’s remains. Since the memorial’s initial construction in 300 B.C., carved entrances, doors with narrative carvings, new stairs, and a top-level platform have all been added.

18. Konark Sun Temple

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet18
The Konark Sun Temple © Rajiv Bajaj

The Sun Temple Konark is a temple in Odisha which showcases many Hindu Mythological stories through carvings on it.   No text of architecture in India is complete without the mention of the Sun Temple at Konark, the namesake of the city itself is an elegy to the Sun God, Kona (Corner), and Arka (Sun). On the sparkling coasts of the Bay of Bengal rests this edifice that commemorates the work of the masters of ancient times. The temple has an elaborate and intricate mammoth structure that depicts the chariot of the Sun God replete with 24 carved wheels, each of them 3 m in diameter, pulled by seven horses and guarded by two lions at the entrance that bravely crush elephants.

An example of a beautiful melee of science, architecture, and devotion, the sundials on the temple can calculate time to the exact minute even to this day! There are also three statues of the sun god that catch the rays of the sun precisely at dawn, noon, and sunset! Rabindranath Tagore has famously said about the temple “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man.” The temple beckons to question the monotonous styles of architecture that India has regressed itself to!

19. Ellora Caves

20 best examples of Ancient Architecture - Sheet19
The Ellora Caves © Discover Activities

The Ellora caves are one of those rock-cut monolithic caves that showcase the beautiful carvings of different religions. The twelve caves of the Buddhist group speak about the benevolence of this calm religion, Buddhism. The ‘Cavern of the Ten Avatars’ is a majestic art piece constructed under the reign of Krishna I. The ethnicity of the Jain group is well reflected by the sanctuaries carved by the Digambar sect of this pure religion. These gems of art are the immortal legends of the vast rock-cut architecture in India. The elegance of Dravidian Shikhara, which is a flat-roofed mandapa positioned over sixteen pillars, the gigantic Ravana figure reflecting the strength of this villainous legend as the sculpture here shows him lifting Mount Kailash is an epitome of the ancient Indian art.

20. Rani ki Vav 

TheTemple turned upside downside to worship water_© Amruta Ghate

The Rani ki Vav is a temple in Patan in a step well form built to celebrate water as the source of life.  Rani Ki Vav is a historic step-well that was constructed by Rani Udaymati in the 11th century AD to worship the sacred waters of the Saraswati River. It is located in Patan, Gujarat. Rani ki Vav is a stunning example of underground construction that is 64 meters long, 20 meters broad, and 27 meters deep, running down to a height of seven floors. More than 500 sculptures in total, representing people, nymphs, gods, and monarchs in all degrees of dexterity, majesty, and complexity, are carved into all of these floors, with the ten manifestations of Lord Vishnu serving as the main subject. If you go to each one in person, you can even see their mudras (gestures) and facial expressions.

The step well was further enhanced and maintained when the Saraswati River shifted its channel as a result of tectonic activity. The sculpture of Sheshnayi Vishnu, which depicts the enigmatic and perplexing illusion that the well was constructed of brick, is located in the center of the well. These step-wells served as gathering places for people in the past, and the temple implies that the royal family may have even used them as a sanctuary during the oppressive summers when the water served as a natural cooler. According to legend, the monarch used a tunnel that goes through the step-well and extends 30 kilometers to connect to the nearby town of Siddur.


1) Barillaro, M. (2019). The pyramids of Egypt. [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

‌2) Barillaro, M. (2019).The Roman Aqueducts of Italy©. [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

3) Barillaro, M. (2019).The Al- Kazneh at Petra Jordan ©. [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

4) Barillaro, M. (2019). The Megalithic temples of Malta ©. [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

5) ThinkStock. (2019). The Leshan Giant Buddha Statue at China ©. [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

6) Barillaro, M. (2019). The structure of Sacsaywaman ©. [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

7) ThinkStock. (2019). The Parthenon at Greece ©. [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

8) ThinkStock. (2019).The Borobudur at Indonesia ©. [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

9) The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (2022). The city of Athina-432 B.C. [Online image] Encyclopædia Britannica. Available at: [Accessed 16 Oct. 2022].

10) Newcomb, T. (2022).The Borobudur at Indonesia [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

11) Newcomb, T. (2022).The Stonehenge [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

12) Newcomb, T. (2022).The Knap of Howar [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

13) Newcomb, T. (2022).The Newgrange [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

14) Newcomb, T. (2022).The Sechin Bajo [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

15) Newcomb, T. (2022).The Colosseum Rome [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

16) Newcomb, T. (2022).The Van Fortress [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

17) Newcomb, T. (2022).The Sanchi Stupa [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

18) Bajaj, R. (2012). The Konark Sun Temple. [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

19) Activities, D. (n.d.). The Ellora Caves. [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].

20) Ghate, A. (2015). The Rani ki Vav Temple turned upside downside to worship water. [Photograph] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].


Aniket is an ardent and passionate Young Architect who likes to explore the diversities in the Architectural field. He is a Nature loving person and tries to learn from it. His curiosity and passion for architecture enhance the philosophical aspect of his personality. His love for our field comes from the books he reads, the people he meets, and most importantly his observations of minute details.