Travel tips for fans of archaeology
Archaeological excavations and sites are among the most visited attractions in the world. Here is a selection of some of the best:
Sometimes the earth reveals them voluntarily, sometimes they are found by chance and often they are searched for - archaeological riches. Excavation sites around the world offer fascinating insights into the origins of our cultures.
Farmers came across a clay figure while working near Xi'an in 1974. Their discovery was a sensation. They had stumbled upon the mausoleum of the first emperor of China: Qin Shihuangdi, who died in 210 BC. Since then, thousands of life-size terracotta soldiers have guarded the tomb of the ruler. With about 100 square kilometers, the imperial tomb is the largest excavation site in the world.
240 kilometers (149 miles) northwest of the capital Phnom Penh, in the middle of the jungle, lies the enchanted temple complex of Angkor Wat - part of a medieval city of millions, ornately built from sandstone. 150 years ago the French colonial rulers discovered the sunken empire of the Khmer, who once lived here. The stone reliefs on the temple walls tell their story.
The old Inca town of Machu Picchu was once only accessible on foot via a steep path. It is situated 2,360 meters (7743 ft.) up in the Andes. Not even the Spanish conquerors advanced to this point. The terraced city was only discovered about one hundred years ago. Built in the 15th century, it is regarded as an impressive example of the high culture of the Incas.
3000 years ago the Maya founded settlements all over Central America. Especially on the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. Uxmal is considered one of the best preserved Mayan sites. In the center of the city: the Pyramid of the Magician, 38 meters (125 ft.) high. This Mayan sanctuary took 300 years to build. As tempting as it is, you are not however allowed to climb up it.
The eruption of Vesuvius in the Gulf of Naples in 79 AD was devastating. The ash rain buried the city of Pompeii and its inhabitants. After their corpses had decomposed, cavities remained, which were later filled with plaster by conservationists. The plastic plaster casts of people in mortal fear leave no visitor to the excavation site untouched.
German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann was obsessed with Troy. At the end of the 19th century he began digging in the Turkish province of Çanakkale. His guide was the Iliad, the account of the Trojan War by the Greek philosopher Homer. Schliemann actually found a settlement. An important center of the Bronze Age, but whether it is actually Troy remains unclear to this day.
When you hear Delphi, you immediately think of the oracle of Delphi. The city was founded in the 7th century B.C. and was the center of the world for the people of antiquity. A place of pilgrimage for kings and all who sought advice. It was given to them in the temple of Apollo, by the priestess Pythia - the oracle of Delphi.
Researchers suspect that almost 2000 ancient cities are located on the territory of the former Roman Empire. Every Roman settlement had a center with temples, administrative buildings, shops and public squares - the so-called Forum. The Forum Romanum was more than that, it was the center of the entire Roman Empire. It is still one of the most important excavation sites of ancient Rome.
They are located near Cairo and are over 4,500 years old. Built as tombs for the Pharaohs Menkaure, Khafre (Chephren) and Khufu (Cheops) (from left to right), after whom they are also named. Although researchers have examined the inside of the pyramids with the most modern technology, the hidden chambers and galleries still keep their thousand-year-old secrets to this day.
First you pass through a narrow gorge, then you can see monumental temples carved into the rock. Many caravan routes led through the capital of the Nabataeans, which had its heyday as a trading center from the 5th to the 3rd century BC. T.E. Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia raved about Petra as "the most wonderful place in the world". To this day, the desert city enchants its visitors.
Deer, aurochs and horses - these are the best preserved prehistoric paintings in Europe, discovered in 1940 in a cave near Montignac. They are said to have originated 17,000 years BC. The cave is now closed for conservation reasons. However, visitors can admire the works of art by their ancestors in a perfect reproduction of the cave.
The megaliths near Salisbury date from the Neolithic Age and are probably the most famous stone circle in the world. Their purpose remains a mystery: cult site, temple complex, observatory? Some stones are aligned with the summer solstice. At the equinox of the day and night, thousands of people still celebrate the sunrise in this mythical place.
Author Anne Termèche
Keywords travel pyramids Mexico Stonehenge UNESCO World Heritage China terracotta army Rome Petra Jordan France Machu Picchu