Sathmahal Prasada, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. This seven storied pyramid shaped building is thought to be an unusually shaped stupa.
After the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993 Polonnaruwa became the second capital city of Sri Lanka. The archaeological site consists of Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, as well as the stunning monumental ruins of Parakramabahu I’s garden-city.
Photo taken by Hafiz Issadeen.

Sathmahal Prasada, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. This seven storied pyramid shaped building is thought to be an unusually shaped stupa.

After the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993 Polonnaruwa became the second capital city of Sri Lanka. The archaeological site consists of Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, as well as the stunning monumental ruins of Parakramabahu I’s garden-city.

Photo taken by Hafiz Issadeen.

Malta’s first human habitation & the Skorba Temples.

This archaeological site, as well as other similar Maltese temples, provide us with crucial insight into the earliest periods of Malta’s human habitation. No ‘archaic’ Homo sapiens or Neanderthals have been found in Malta, despite at one time being widely dispersed elsewhere in the Mediterranean. The first people to inhabit Malta seem to have arrived around 4200 BCE, possibly from Sicily. These people had a Neolithic type of culture:

They brought with them crops like barley, two primitive forms of wheat, emmer and club wheat, and lentils. Remains of all these have been found at Skorba. Their boats were large and seaworthy enough for the transport of domestic animals, large cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs, doubtless securely trussed to prevent accidents (Trump, 1972:20).

These people built stone and mud-brick structures, as shown by a small oval-roomed ‘shrine’ at Skorba (the front and back of which are visible to the left of both photos). Within this shrine structure, a number of goat skulls and female figurines have been found by archaeologists. The Skorba Temples (located on the edge of Żebbiegħ, Malta) are of a group of 24 architecturally similar ritual buildings on Malta and Gozo built c.3500-2500 BCE, and represent some of the earliest sophisticated stone architecture in the world.

When writing up this post, Ian Shaw & Robert Jameson’s A Dictionary of Archaeology (2008) and Stefan Goodwin’s Malta, Mediterranean Bridge (2002) where used. Photos courtesy & taken by Ronny Siegel.

A quick look at: Gezer, one of the main Canaanite cities of pre-Israelite Palestine.

First of all, a little historical context:

During the Middle Bronze Age, ca. 2000-1500 B.C.E., Gezer grew into one of the most massively fortified Canaanite sites in Palestine. […] This period was brought to an end ca. 1482 B.C.E. in a violent destruction, no doubt to be attributed to Pharaoh Thutmosis III. […] A decline in the 13th century B.C.E. was followed by a localized destruction, probably the work of Pharaoh Merneptah […] According to both archaeology and the Biblical tradition (cf. Josh 10:31-33) Gezer was not destroyed in the Israelite conquest. There are at least five levels on the summit that reflects continued Canaanite occupation, plus incursions of Philistines, in the 12th and 11th centuries B.C.E.

W. Mills, R. Bullard, Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, Mercer University Press, 1990.

The Standing Stones at Gezer are shown in the first image. The meaning and function of these stones are debated; popular explanations include the suggestions that they represented other cities who owed tribute to Gezer or represented Canaanite deities. In the third photo is the six-chambered gate at Tel Gezer -the fortification of Gezer has been attributed to Solomon in biblical texts.

Shown in the second photo is a reproduction of the Gezer calendar. Discovered in 1908, this calendar is one of the oldest surviving Hebrew texts, and provides us with key information about the ancient Israel agricultural cycle. Scholars have suggested that this calendar could have been a schoolboy’s memory exercise, or the text of a popular children’s/ folk song. The calendar reads the following (via: Michael D. Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, Oxford University Press, 2009):

  • Two months gathering (September, October)
  • Two months planting (November, December)
  • Two months late sowing (January, February)
  • One month cutting flax (March)
  • One month reaping barley (April)
  • One month reaping and measuring grain (May)
  • Two months pruning (June, July)
  • One month summer fruit (August)

The original tablet is currently displayed at the Museum of the Ancient Orient, Turkey.

Photos courtesy & taken by Ian Scott.

The Maya archaeological site of San Andrés, El Salvador. 

Shown in the first photo is structure 1, and in the third, structure 5. Neither of these pyramids have been fully excavated, with particularly little work done on structure 5. The main plaza is visible in both the second and fourth photos.

Human occupation of the site can be dated back to 900 BC, when it served as a small agricultural town. The ruins shown, and the peak period of San Andrés, however dates to its Maya occupation between 600-900 AD.

San Andrés lies in the broad valley of the Sucio River, which has many mounds and apparently was thickly occupied in pre-Columbian times. San Andrés is the most interesting in the group in the area and the only one that has been systematically excavated. 

[…] The major pyramid [see photo 1] rises in several tiers and has a stair on the north side. Construction is of adobe brick covered with lime plaster -similar to that used at Tazumal and Kaminaljuyu. 

[…] The architectural and ceramic remains indicate the San Andrés was occupied during the Classic period and into the post-Classic. There is evidence of influence from the Guatemala highlands, as well as from Copán, where the plaza-acropolis arrangement of the structures is similar. Ceramics of Copán type are also found at San Andrés

-Joyce Kelly, An Archaeological Guide to Northern Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
After the Spanish Conquest, San Andrés became part of a colonial estate for cattle and indigo production. The site was later buried due to the Playón volcano eruption of 1658 AD.

Photos courtesy & taken by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz.

The Workers’ Village, Deir el-Medina, Egypt.

In 1929, the Czech archaeologist Jaroslav Cerny identified a small site at Deir el-Medina in Western Thebes as the village inhabited by the labourers, scribes and craftsmen who created the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. The houses, chapels and tombs of these workers provide an unusually detailed and intimate picture of a small community of government employees from the time of Thutmose I (ca. 1493-1482 BCE) to the end of the Twentieth Dynasty (ca. 1075 BCE).
At its peak, in the Twentieth Dynasty, the village - known as the “Place of Truth” - consisted of seventy mudbrick houses arranged in rows within an enclosure wall. Another forty houses, scattered about the immediate vicinity, were probably the homes of less skilled workers such as donkey-drivers and fruit-pickers. Each of the houses at Deir el-Medina had on average four to six rooms, plus small cellars for storage. The function of each room is uncertain, and they would not necessarily have conformed to modern ideas of single-purpose chambers such as “the kitchen” or “the bedroom”. Animals may well have been kept in some rooms.
-Ancient Egypt, David P. Silverman.

Photo courtesy & taken by Henry Patton.

The Workers’ Village, Deir el-Medina, Egypt.

In 1929, the Czech archaeologist Jaroslav Cerny identified a small site at Deir el-Medina in Western Thebes as the village inhabited by the labourers, scribes and craftsmen who created the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. The houses, chapels and tombs of these workers provide an unusually detailed and intimate picture of a small community of government employees from the time of Thutmose I (ca. 1493-1482 BCE) to the end of the Twentieth Dynasty (ca. 1075 BCE).

At its peak, in the Twentieth Dynasty, the village - known as the “Place of Truth” - consisted of seventy mudbrick houses arranged in rows within an enclosure wall. Another forty houses, scattered about the immediate vicinity, were probably the homes of less skilled workers such as donkey-drivers and fruit-pickers. Each of the houses at Deir el-Medina had on average four to six rooms, plus small cellars for storage. The function of each room is uncertain, and they would not necessarily have conformed to modern ideas of single-purpose chambers such as “the kitchen” or “the bedroom”. Animals may well have been kept in some rooms.

-Ancient Egypt, David P. Silverman.

Photo courtesy & taken by Henry Patton.

'Structure VIII' from the Maya archaeological site of Becan, Campeche, Mexico.
Rediscovered in 1934 by archaeologists John Denison and Karl Ruppert, ‘Becan’ was named after the distinctive ditch surrounding the center of the city -its original ancient name is not known.
Becan was occupied in the middle Pre-Classic period (ca. 550 BCE), and reached its peak in population and as a ceremonial center during the late Pre-Classic, declining in the early Classic period (ca. 250 CE).

Photo courtesy & taken by Luca Penati.

'Structure VIII' from the Maya archaeological site of Becan, Campeche, Mexico.

Rediscovered in 1934 by archaeologists John Denison and Karl Ruppert, ‘Becan’ was named after the distinctive ditch surrounding the center of the city -its original ancient name is not known.

Becan was occupied in the middle Pre-Classic period (ca. 550 BCE), and reached its peak in population and as a ceremonial center during the late Pre-Classic, declining in the early Classic period (ca. 250 CE).

Photo courtesy & taken by Luca Penati.

Caguana ceremonial ball courts site, located in the rainy west central mountains on the east side of the Tanama River, in Barrio Caguana, Puerto Rico, northeastern Caribbean.

This archaeological site is considered to be one of the most important in the Caribbean, was built by the Taíno, and dates from Puerto Rico’s late prehistoric and early contact era. This is the most complex and largest ball court ceremonial site in Puerto Rico and the West Indies, where about 30 courts (bateyes) have been identified. It is believed that this game of batey first originated in Mesoamerica, and was played in the Bahamas, Hispaniola, Cuba, the Virgin Islands, and Jamaica. This was more than just a sport, the game had huge ceremonial significance, as the game’s outcome influenced important Taino decisions.

[The Taíno site of Caguana is] set near the Tanama River in a limestone landscape whose many caves and rock shelters may have had spiritual and mythological significance for the Taíno. […] Caguana appears to have been a ceremonial center, with little evidence of habitation other than perhaps some chief’s houses and temple remains. […] Caguana is dominated by specialised architecture in the form of plazas and courts where ceremonial dances, processions, and the ball-game took place.

-The Peoples of the Caribbean: An Encyclopedia of Archeology and Traditional Culture.

Photos courtesy & taken by Jbermudez Alessandro Cai. When writing up this post, the National Park Service website was of great use.

Albumen prints dating to about 1860 taken in Rome, the first photo is of the Temple of Concord, and the second, the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine. These photos are taken by the Bisson brothers, Auguste-Rosalie (1826-1900) and Louis-Auguste (1814-1876), renowned French photographers of their time.

Courtesy the National Media Museum, West Yorkshire, England.

The Sanctuary of Tophet, Carthage, modern day Tunisia.

The chilling Sanctuary of Tophet, just east of Carthage Salammbo TGM station, was first excavated in 1921. French archaeologists uncovered a sacrificial site and burial ground, where it’s believed Carthaginian children were sacrificed to the deities Baal Hammon and Tanit -a stele now in the Bardo Museum shows a priest carrying a child, perhaps to sacrifice. 

The name Tophet is Hebrew for ‘place of burning’ and comes from Bible references to child sacrifice, such as in Jeremiah: ‘[people of Judah] have built the altar called Tophet…and there they burn to death their little sons and daughters’.

More than 20,000 urns have been discovered here, each containing the ashes of a child (mostly newborn, but also older children up to the age of four) and marked with a stelae. Many also contained the burned bones of lambs or goat kids. The majority have been dated to the period between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC when Carthage was embroiled in numerous wars and rebellions, and the need to appease the gods was at its greatest. However, there is some controversy about interpretations of the site. The Romans later built workshops, warehouses and a temple over the site.

-Tunisia. Ediz. Inglese, A. Hole, M. Grosberg & D. Robinson.

Photos courtesy & taken by Dennis Jarvis.

Muniyara Dolmens, Idukki district, Kerala, India.

Dolmens are also known as portal tombs or portal graves, and are a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb. Most dolmens date to the early Neolithic period (4,000-3,000 BCE), and typically consist of three or more upright stones supporting a horizontal capstone.

Photos courtesy & taken by indianature s9.

Din Lligwy, near the east coast of Anglesey, North Wales.

1905-1907 excavations uncovered hundreds of Roman period pottery sherds dating to the 3rd and 4th centuries CE. Animal bones have also been found at the site. Iron working and smithing appear to have been of Din Lligwy’s most important economic activities.

Despite the finds at the site being mostly Roman, the origins of the settlement may date back to the Iron age, when it was probably a small farming community.

The sign next to the ruins reads:

This is a well-preserved example of the type of defended settlement built by the native population of Anglesey during the latter part of the Roman occupation of Wales.

It consists of round and rectangular huts, probably not all put up at the same time, enclosed within a polygonal defensive wall. The principal period of occupation was during the 4th century AD.

Photos courtesy & taken by Richard Carter.

Walpi, a Hopi village in northern Arizona, USA.

Walpi was established about 900 AD, has been continuously inhabited for over 1100 years, and is an excellent example of traditional Hopi stone architecture.

Situated on the south tip of First Mesa at an altitude of 6,200 feet, Walpi was relocated from the valley plain to its present site shortly after the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. Still inhabited today, the pueblo extends for some 640 feet along the narrow mesa top, which is at most 150 feet wide. The community is contained almost entirely in a single highly irregular building mass.

William N. Morgan, Ancient Architecture of the Southwest.

Photos courtesy the National Archives and Records Administration, via the wiki commons.

Mamshit, the Nabataean city of Mampsis, Israel. The city covers 10 acres, and was built in the 1st century BCE as a trade post. 

Mamshit is located 40km southeast of Be’er Sheva, at the junction of the Jersualem-Hebron-Aila road and the road to the Arabah and Edom. During the late Roman period, the town was surrounded by a fortification wall, and during the Byzantine period two churches, the Eastern Church and the Western Church, were constructed. According to Negev, since the latest coins found do not postdate the mid-sixth century, the town was destroyed, probably by “Arab tribesmen,” before the Muslim conquest. He added that is was likely “temporarily occupied” by Arabs following the conquest.

Jodi Magness, The Archaeology of the Early Islamic Settlement in Palestine.

Photos courtesy & taken by Phil Long.

edit: for those interested, the first photo is of a baptismal.