10 of the Best Stone Age Sites to Explore

10 of the Best Stone Age Sites to Explore

1. Stonehenge

Stonehenge in Wiltshire is a world renowned, magnificent site consisting of standing and lying stones, some transported from South Wales. The construction of Stonehenge took place between 3000 BC and 1600 BC and is considered to be one of the most impressive structures of its time. The purpose of Stonehenge has remained a mystery, despite extensive archaeological investigation.

Stonehenge is managed by English Heritage. During normal operating hours, visitors walk around the circle on a set path and are given free audio guides explaining different aspects of Stonehenge. A brand new visitor centre has also opened at Stonehenge, designed to transform the visitor experience with a new world-class museum housing permanent and temporary exhibitions, plus a spacious café.


10 Ancient Archaeological Sites For Your World Travel Bucket List

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. All hosted affiliate links follow our editorial policies.

Typically, when ancient archaeological sites get some form of development, it’s a benefit.

With development comes better controlled access and funds for excavation, preservation, and restoration. But it also means a lot more visitors.

There’s nothing more satisfying than arriving at an ancient treasure to find few, if any other visitors there. But with more and more people traveling each year, it’s becoming harder and harder to find archaeological sites that aren’t crowded with tourists.

For that sort of exclusive experience, you have to go the extra mile. To that end, check out our guide to 10 off-the-beaten-path archaeological sites every history lover should consider adding to their World Travel Bucket List .

CARAL (Peru)

Around 120 miles north of Lima, in the Supe Valley, lies one of the oldest cities in the Americas.

At the same time Egypt ’s pyramids were built 5000 years ago, the North Chico civilization was building its own pyramids in the coastal deserts of Peru .

Caral, which was “discovered” in 1905, is famous for its large pyramids, sunken amphitheatre, and the mass of flutes (made from condor and pelican bones) and cornets (made from llama bones) that have been uncovered at the 35-square-mile site.

Most interestingly, from an archaeological standpoint, the settlement and architectural patterns at Caral clearly influenced nearly every subsequent civilization birthed along the Pacific coast, including the Inca.

Rarely has an ancient site had such a far-ranging impact.

READ MORE:A Voyage Into the Peruvian Amazon

COBÁ (Mexico)

The Mayan civilization at Cobá reaches back at least 2100 years. Sometime between 100BC and 100AD, the first wooden town was constructed at the site, which is located in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

By 200AD the city dominated the region, controlling ports, trade routes, mines, production facilities and agriculture. Cobá’s influence stretched far into central Mexico, and south into modern-day Guatemala and Honduras.

The city formed military alliances and traded architectural influences with well-known sites such as Tikal, Calakmul and Teotihuacan.

It wasn’t until the dramatic rise of Chichén Itzá that Cobá’s power began to wane. By 1000AD the once-great city had become more of a religious center, with little or no political clout.

Today, its remarkable ruins (which include the 120-step Noloch Mul pyramid) are still being excavated from the jungle, with some experts estimating around 80% are yet to be uncovered.

RAKHIGARHI (India)

In the northwest state of Haryana, about 150 kilometers from Delhi, lies the Harappan settlement of Rakhigarhi. While not as well known as major sites at Harappa and Mohenjadaro, Rakhigarhi is 224 hectares, which makes it one of the largest archaeological sites in India.

Recent excavations have uncovered an important urban center dating back 5,000 years, including paved roads, water collection and drainage systems, and brick, metal-working and statue factories. The people who lived here were also highly skilled with jewelry and precious stones.

A 2015 excavation produced four complete human skeletons (two male adults, one female adult, and one child) from mound RGR-7. Around the skeletons, archaeologists found pottery that contained grains of food and shell bangles.

The Global Heritage Fund has declared Rakhigarhi as one of the most endangered ancient archaeological sites in the world.There have been many suggestions in recent years that Rakhigarhi might get UNESCO World Heritage Status, and the much-needed funds that come with it.

But, with a hotel development also planned for the area, Rakhigarhi might not be off the beaten track for much longer.

LALIBELA (Ethiopia)

The roots connecting Jerusalem and Ethiopia run deep.

Some 2,000 years ago, the Queen of Sheba went in search of Solomon and ended up in Jerusalem. There, the Jewish king known for his wisdom became the father of her son, Menelik (a.k.a. Ethiopia’s first emperor).

Menelik supposedly took the Ark of the Covenant with him when he returned to Ethiopia.

Fast forward a thousand years, and a newer Christian emperor, Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, set out to create a mystical model of both the heavenly and earthly Jerusalem by carving eleven churches into the rock on the side of a mountain 2,500 meters above sea level.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lalibela is also one of the most important sacred sites of the Ethiopian Christian Orthodox religion.

LA BASTIDA (Spain)

Located in Murcia, La Bastida was perhaps the most powerful Bronze Age city in Europe. Archeological excavations turned up a unique, imposing construction and fortification system matched only by the Minoans of ancient Greece .

The ongoing digs are part of a larger project to create one of the most comprehensive archaeological parks in the world.

Beyond the excavations, La Bastida Archaeological Park will feature a museum, research center, library, and visitor facilities. The park will also allow visitors to view the entire research process, including visits to the laboratories.

Set your appointment to visit the park, which is about 10km southwest of the village of Totana, through the Totana Tourism Office on Plaza de la Constitución.

BARRILES (Panama)

Located in the mountains of Panama near the Costa Rica border, Barriles was named for several stone barrels found on the site in the late 1920s.

Based on the limited research done at the site, it’s assumed that the 1000+ people of Barriles were divided into upper class, middle class, and lower class.

Around 600 or 700 AD, Barriles boasted a higher population than any other city in the region. It was possibly a ceremonial center, whose activities drew people from the dozens of sites dotting the Chiriquí valley and the slopes of the Talamanca cordillera.

Barriles can be found on the road to Cazán, about 6 kilometers south of Volcán, and is open daily from 8am to 5pm.

KILWA KISIWANI (Tanzania)

Located on an island off the coast of Tanzania, the trading center of Kilwa Kisiwani was once one of the greatest cities in the world.

Founded around 900AD on an island off the coast of East Africa by Ali bin Al-Hasan, the city grew steadily over 400 years by linking Africa’s southern interior with civilizations in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Rim. Coins from Kilwa have even been found in Australia.

By 1200, Kilwa dominated nearly the entire coast of East Africa. The great Moroccan traveler Ibn Batuta arrived to Kilwa in 1331 and was amazed by the city’s beautiful houses built with coral, its dome-chambered mosque, and its rich sophistication.

The city finally fell to the Portuguese in the late 15 th century. Today, Kilwa is an impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site best accessed from Kilwa Masoko, south of Dar-es-Salaam.

JERASH (Jordan)

Located less than 50 miles from Jordan capitol city, Amman, ancient Gerasa was one of the famous Decapolian cities– the 10 centers where Greco-Roman culture mixed with Semitic and Persian civilization.

The Romans arrived there in 63BC and absorbed the city into the Province of Syria, and later the Province of Arabia. But the Romans also allowed the city considerable self-rule, and it grew quickly in size, significance, and wealth.

It became so important that Emperor Hadrian felt compelled to visit sometime around 130AD, when the triumphal arch was constructed.

Even after the collapse of the Roman empire and a takeover by the Persians in 614AD, the city continued to prosper. It wasn’t until a massive earthquake struck in 749AD that the city was partially abandoned, and quickly lost its regional influence.

Excavation at the site took off in the 1920s. Today, Jerash is perhaps the largest and best-preserved Roman city in the Middle East . Though it’s not nearly as popular a tourist attraction as the City of Petra , it remains a must-see for history buffs.

CHIMNEY ROCK NATIONAL MONUMENT (USA)

Chimney Rock is a dramatic, 1000-year-old site in south-central Colorado, located between the towns of Durango and Pagosa Springs.

An important ancestral Puebloan site, Chimney Rock is located hundreds of feet above the valley floor within the San Juan National Forest Archaeological Area. The views are stunning, and the architecture is clearly aligned with the patterns of the sun and moon.

At its height, several thousand people lived there. The Great House, which is of Chacoan design, is of particular interest: The difference between it and the better known Mesa Verde style of architecture is stark, marking a clear cultural distinction.

As such, Chimney Rock marks the northeastern edge of the enigmatic Chaco Culture… as far as we know. The visitor center is open between May 15 and September 30 th , with guided walking tours conducted daily. There are also cool camping areas nearby. Jim O’Donnell

BIO: Taos-based freelance writer and photographer Jim O’Donnell is a former archaeologist, and a member of our Green Travel Media team. He can be found at his website, Around the World in Eighty Years, and on Facebook and Twitter.

If you enjoyed reading 10 Archaeological Sites for Your World Travel Bucket List, you might also like:

What Is Ecotourism? 10 Simple Steps to More Sustainable Travel


Rwenzori Mountains National Park

Rwenzori Mountains National Park promises one of the most attractive and fulfilling treks the world has to offer. Located in the Rwenzori mountains and nearly 1000 kilometers square (386 square miles) in size, the park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its extraordinary natural beauty. The mystical park is home to the third highest mountain peak in Africa. It boasts breath-taking waterfalls, high glaciers, the valley of nine lakes, a rich variety of flora and fauna, many endangered species and captivating scenery. Be sure to make an appointment to see one of nature’s most beautiful gifts when visiting Uganda.


Summer Solstice Superstitions

According to pagan folklore, evil spirits would appear on the summer solstice. To ward off evil spirits, people would wear protective garlands of herbs and flowers.

One of the most powerful of these plants was known as 𠆌hase devil.’ Today it’s called St. John’s Wort, because of its association with St. John’s Day.

Other summer solstice traditions hold that the ashes from a Midsummer bonfire can protect one from misfortune or that the ashes—when spread across one’s garden—will bring a bountiful harvest.


10 Must-See Jewish Sites to Visit in Israel

As the ultimate destination for Jewish culture and history, Israel offers an abundance of important sites. You could spend months in Israel and still feel like you need more time! This list of the 10 essential Jewish sites to visit will help whittle it down for those who have only a week or two to spend in Israel.

  1. The Western Wall: Perhaps the most sacred place in Judaism, Jerusalem’s Western Wall, also known as the Kotel, attracts thousands of visitors each year. Travelers follow King Solomon’s example and pray at the wall in an effort to strengthen their connection with God.
  1. The Western Wall Tunnels: Excavation beneath the Western Wall revealed structures from the Herodian, Umayyah, Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Hasmonean periods. Today’s visitors to Jerusalem may explore the tunnels to see the various remaining underground structures, including the Western Stone, which is the largest Western Wall stone.
  1. The Tower of David: Located near the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City walls is a citadel known as the Tower of David, representing 2,000 years of history revealed through multiple archaeological excavations. At night, the site takes on a modern twist, enticing visitors with an incredible sound and light show projected onto the citadel walls.
  1. The Jewish Quarter: Located in the southeast section of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Jewish Quarter is where visitors can find sites like the Western Wall and Temple Mount. It’s also home to several noteworthy synagogues, including the Hurva Synagogue and the Four Sephardic Synagogues.
  1. The City of David: Known as the birthplace of Jerusalem, the City of David is where King David established his kingdom. Today, it serves as an archaeological park that gives visitors the opportunity to learn about Jerusalem’s history and visit the underground tunnel known as Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
  1. Yad Vashem: Perhaps the most emotionally powerful museum in Israel, this Holocaust memorial commemorates the victims of the Holocaust and educates visitors about the Nazis’ rise to power and the devastating destruction left in their wake. Displays of the ghettos, concentration camps, and the renowned Hall of Names are just a few of the exhibits at Yad Vashem that memorialize those who suffered through this dark time in history.
  1. Israel Museum: The Israel Museum is famous for its Holy land model and the Shrine of the Book. Beyond these well-known sections of the museum is a remarkable collection of fine art, an assortment of Biblical and archaeological artifacts, about 30 new exhibits each year, as well as beautiful sprawling gardens.
  1. Masada: A UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as one of Israel’s most famous sites, Masada was built in 30 BCE by Herod the Great. The mountain fortress is best known for the bravery and sacrifice shown by the Jewish zealots who defended the fortress against the Romans in 73 BCE. In spite of their valiant defense efforts, the zealots were overtaken rather than surrender, they chose to commit suicide and become martyrs instead.
  1. Safed: Located in Israel’s Northern District, the city of Safed has served as the center of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, for many years. Safed has also played a major role in Israel’s art scene, and its Artist’s Quarter is home to many of Israel’s most well-known artists.
  2. Independence Hall: Tel Aviv’s Independence Hall is the location of the signing of Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. Originally known as the Dizengoff House, the building serves as a museum dedicated to the signing of the Declaration of Independence as well as to Tel Aviv-Jaffa’s history.

Whether you’re visiting Israel for the first time or have toured the country many times before, make sure to check out these top attractions for an unforgettable Holy Land experience.

Noam Matas is the General Manager of America Israel Travel, which offers customized and all-inclusive tour packages to Israel. Noam enjoys writing about Israel based on his personal experience and his knowledge of the tourism industry.


10 of the best Stone Circles in Aberdeenshire

Few other ancient monuments can evoke such a sense of mystery and wonder as the stone circle, and here in Aberdeenshire we are lucky enough to be home to almost 150 stone circles. We can even lay claim to our own unique style of stone circle, the Recumbent Stone Circle – so-called after the massive stone which lies on its side, recumbent, in the southern arc of this type of stone circle.

Dating from between 2700 to 2000 BC, the exact purpose and meaning of stone circles remains unclear. Are they sacred spaces, ceremonial places, sites for marking the passage of time at the summer and winter solstices? Our Recumbent Stone Circles are thought to relate to the rising or setting of the major standstill moon. Whatever their use, the huge effort involved in their construction would seem to suggest they must have been important features of prehistoric life.

Whether you’re looking for your very own Outlander moment, to follow in the footsteps of Brave’s Merida, or (for our older readers) to flashback to the classic (or should that be creepy) 1970s TV show Children of the Stones, in Aberdeenshire we have the right stone circle for you!

1. Clune Hill

Hidden away in woodland, the walk up to Clune Hill certainly feels as if you’re being guided by tree sprites! With superb views across the landscape, it’s also a great site for spotting wildlife.

2. Cullerlie

A short hop from Aberdeen, Cullerlie Stone Circle is quite different from the others on this tour being the only one which is not a recumbent-type. To distinguish it even further, this reconstructed stone circle also has 8 small stone cairns within the circle of standing stones.

3. Strichen

Strichen Stone Circle has appeared and disappeared a few times over the years, most recently it was reconstructed in 1970s following excavation. However, this site not for the faint-hearted, as at certain times of the year access is through a field with livestock (try winter for a better chance of animal-free access).

4. Whitehill

If you have more time, Whitehill is the stone circle for you. A walk of around 1 mile / 1.5km through Pitfichie Forest will take you to this site, where 4 of the upright stones still stand in their original positions.

5. Aikey Brae

One of my favourites, and the most intact recumbent stone circle in northern Aberdeenshire, Aikey Brae is definitely worth the detour. Located on the top of Parkhouse Hill, it features one of the largest of the recumbent stones, weighing in at around 21.5 tons, and the view across the Buchan landscape is spectacular.

6. Nine Stanes of Mulloch

As the name suggests, there are 9 stones (or stanes) remaining at this stone circle, located to the west of Clune Hill Stone Circle. It’s one of the later stone circles on our tour, and its stones are in more of an oval than a true circle.

7. Easter Aquhorthies

If you were to draw a stone circle, Easter Aquhorthies is probably what it would look like! Almost perfectly circular in plan, and enclosed by a later stone wall, it is one of the earliest circles on our tour. With all of its uprights still standing, you can also see how the stones decrease in height as they get further from the recumbent. Another of my favourites!

8. Midmar

Midmar is one of the more striking of the stone circles, with its tall, fang-like, flanker stones towering over the recumbent like a pair of petrified watchmen. It’s also a great example of how sacred or special sites have been reused over time, surrounded as it is by a later church and graveyard.

9. Loanhead of Daviot

If any of our stone circles is going to open up a time portal, Loanhead of Daviot must be the best bet! Its massive recumbent stone is split in two – caused by frost in the long-distant past, or could it have been torn asunder in some battle of the Gods?

10. Tomnaverie

After a short walk uphill from the car park, Tomnaverie Stone Circle majestically appears, crowning the ridgeline in dramatic fashion. Nine stones are standing at this site, and if you look closely you might be able to spot the two “cupmarks” carved into the recumbent stone.

So while I can’t guarantee any kind of portal will open, or that you’ll be transported to another realm, every stone circle will offer a unique time travelling experience you’ll never forget! For more information on how to visits, download the Aberdeenshire Stone Circle Trail.

When visiting Aberdeenshire’s Stone Circles, please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Be sure to share your visits on social media using VisitAberdeenshire’s #visitABDN and #beautifulABDN, and tag me in your posts on Instagram and Twitter. And if you do find that secret portal, let us know!

Claire Herbert is Regional Archaeologist with Aberdeenshire Council and a big fan of Stone Circles!


Stone Tools

So, what kinds of tools did people actually make with flint? The ancient toolkit could be pretty diverse. One of the oldest tools is the biface. A biface is simply a large chunk of stone that has been flaked off of the core, and then sharpened or shaped on both faces. So, it has a sharp edge, generally narrower at one end, and wider at the other where it was held or hafted onto a stick. Basic bifaces like this were used as hand-axes for cutting wood and animal bones, and possibly for digging as well. Examples of flint bifaces date back over 800,000 years to the ancestors of humans.

A flint hand-axe

Hand-axes tended to be large, big enough to hold in your hand. Other flint tools were made from smaller and thinner flakes that were chipped off of the core. Scrapers had a somewhat rounded edge, and were mainly used to scrape animal hides. Stone age people also made flint knives, which looked sort of like small, rectangular saws. They were mostly used for cutting, but serrated knives may have been used like saws for cutting wood specifically.

One of the most important tools in the Stone Age toolkit, however, was the projectile point. Projectile points were bifaces carved to a distinct point, and hafted onto a stick to be used either as a spearhead or arrowhead. This is where the durability of flint really mattered. It took hours to create a single projectile point, so you wanted to end up with a tool that was strong enough to be used multiple times, even when speeding through the air and striking the bone of a large animal like a mammoth.

Flint projectile point from Stone Age Germany

Those are the most common tools you'd find in flint. However, there is evidence that some people may have also used flint to make early needles for sewing, as well as hooks for fishing. There have also been archeological discoveries of flint used to make jewelry like bracelets, and this brings us to one final quality of flint: it's pretty.

Flint can be found in a variety of colors, and is easily polished to a beautiful sheen. This made it great for jewelry. However, we've also found caches of polished flint projectile points which were never used for hunting. They may have been luxury or trade items, meaning their real value was in their beauty, not utility.

We have further evidence of this from the spread of certain flints across the world. For example, one of the most beautiful varieties of flint in the Americas is found in Ohio, called Vanport Flint. Archeologists have found tools made of Vanport Flint as far away as the Rocky Mountains and Gulf of Mexico. This means that either ancient people were travelling hundreds of miles to quarry it, or it was being traded across the continent. Why? The main reason seems to have simply been because of how colorful it was. Resources may have been limited in the Stone Age, but that doesn't mean that people didn't want the best.


Daily Life

That cleanliness does not indicate that citizens of Catal Huyuk had little to do, however. As the town made the transition from a hunter-gatherer site to a true city, various implements were needed in order to complete the tasks associated with both farming and herding. Archaeologists have found numerous articles to this end, especially stone and obsidian tools. Further, granaries for storing food have been found, complete with remains from prehistoric wheat, peas, and nuts. Combined with the pits full of bones from sheep, it is apparent that the citizens of Catal Huyuk had a balanced diet. This is further collaborated by the importance of hunting in paintings, especially for ceremonial purposes.

Restored interior of a house at Catal Huyuk

In fact, archaeologists have been able to learn quite a great deal about the ceremonial lives of those who lived at Catal Huyuk. As evidenced by paintings, it's clear that hunting was of the utmost importance, but also a number of artifacts have been uncovered that allude to the importance of fertility goddesses. Statuettes of goddesses have been found throughout the site, reinforcing findings at other Stone Age sites throughout the Near East. Finally, even in death, the citizens of Catal Huyuk played a role in the ceremonial life of the town. Often buried in their houses, under the hearth, many skeletons have been found with the head displaced, implying that there could have been some sort of ceremonial use for the skull.


4. Chauvet Cave

flickr/Carla216

The Chauvet Cave in southern France contains some of earliest known prehistoric cave paintings in the world. Based on radiocarbon dating the oldest paintings in the cave may be up to 32,000 years old. The cave was discovered in 1994 by Jean-Marie Chauvet and his team of speleologists. These paintings contain images of animals such as the ibex, mammoth, horses, lions, bears, rhinos and lions. Advanced techniques such as the use of perspective is clearly demonstrated in the ‘panel of horses’ which shows several animals on the same plane.


Fourknocks

What is Fourknocks?
A passage tomb with a difference - the inner chamber is far larger than others in relation to the size of the mound.

Where is Fourknocks?
You will have to search for Fourknocks near Clonalvy (County Meath).

Why is Fourknocks important?
Because it is unusual - similar passage tombs are usually only found in Portugal!

What will you see at Fourknocks?
From the outside a steep grassy knoll - fetch the key to the tomb locally to see how different Fourknocks really is.

Why should you visit Fourknocks?
Because it is different, unique, and maybe a hint at ancient overseas contacts.