For millennia, people have collected and created cities to secure safety, access to food and water, and even merely to meet our social requirements.
Archaeologists regularly unearthing new artifacts, temples, and historical sites in some of the world’s oldest towns.
While we may not wholly know these towns’ authentic antiquity, the evidence uncovered may offer insight into when humans originally arrived in some of these places. Regardless, these areas are culturally significant and crucial in comprehending human history.
Here are the 10 oldest consistently inhabited cities in the world.
1. Jericho, Palestine – 5000 BCE
The city of Jericho is located on the West Bank in the Middle East. While its precise origin is unclear, Jericho is regarded as the oldest continually inhabited city in the world.
Jericho started as a camping spot for Natufian hunter-gatherers about 10,000 BCE, but ongoing excavations have proven that humans originally inhabited the site as early as 12,000 BCE.
People did not begin to permanently dwell in the region until approximately 9600 BCE, with the end of the last Ice Age and the end of cold and drought.
Archaeologists have revealed that by 8,000BC, the region developed to 430,000 square feet and was marked by a stone wall with a tower, the first known defensive wall in existence. Experts think the wall was designed to guard against floods, with the building having both observational and ceremonial functions.
Archaeologists have unearthed 20 different levels of habitation in Jericho, and the city was destroyed and rebuilt more than once. It was entirely abandoned at least once, from 6000 to 5000 BCE, and from then until roughly 1,000 years later population here remained scarce.
Urban settlements were increasingly frequent in the remainder of modern-day Syria during the fourth millennium BCE, which was the case with Jericho.
The city was referenced in the Bible multiple times, most notably as the first location, the Israelites assaulted after crossing the Jordan River.
The Arabs and the Ottomans administered the city, and it became a winter resort for the British once that nation was awarded a mandate over Palestine. Today, Jericho is in the West Bank Palestinian territory.
2. Argos, Greece – 5000 BCE
Argos is named one of the great oldest cities and has been continually resided since roughly 5000 BCE. It stands between two hills on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula, the same area where Sparta may be located.
The name Argos stems from Argus, the son of Zeus and Niobe, who was noted for either being covered with eyes or all-seeing. According to Greek mythology, he served as the city’s monarch. It was also recognized as the birthplace of many troops who participated in the Trojan War under Diomedes.
Argos was an important Mycenaean colony in the Late Bronze Age, from 1700 to 1100 BCE, and the dominating force on this peninsula until Sparta’s advent.
Historical reports portray the city as a center for culture in the Greek empire, being one of the first towns and Sparta and Paros to host musical contests.
After the Greeks and during the Roman Empire, it remained a significant city until the Visigoths left it in ruins in 396 CE. Today, visitors to this Greek town will discover numerous intriguing remains to explore, particularly the Greek theatre and Roman baths.
3. Byblos, Lebanon – 5000 BCE
Byblos, also known as modern-day Jbail, is a port city in Lebanon that has been a constant force for more than 7,000 years. It is located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Beirut.
Archaeological studies have indicated that humans had populated the city since the Neolithic Period, between 8800 and 7000 BCE. By the 4th millennium BCE, a substantial community had been established, and 1,000 years later, it had expanded to a flourishing metropolis.
The Greek tradition of its beginnings (Byblos is its Greek name) claims that the city was founded by Cronus, the god of time, as the first city in Phoenicia, now known as Lebanon. Its Greek name originates from the fact that it was a commercial hub for papyrus.
Therefore, the Greeks called it after their term for books. Byblos’ commercial ties with Egypt and its position along the Mediterranean coast rapidly made it a significant trading hub, mainly for cedar and other precious timber.
The city became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, and it was an important place in the creation of the Phoenician alphabet, a progenitor of contemporary Hebrew.
4. Athens, Greece – 4000 BCE
Athens is Greece’s capital and its biggest city. It is recognized as the cradle of Western culture and democracy. People have lived in Athens for at least 7,000 years, although the oldest-known human presence goes back to between the 11th and 7th millennia BCE.
Ancient Athens’ golden period was home to history’s finest intellectuals, such as Socrates, Aristotle, and Hippocrates. According to the mythology, it was called after the Goddess Athena when she presented the city with an olive tree, a sign of peace and wealth in Ancient Greece.
Present-day Athens boasts more than 3 million residents, and tourists may take in remains from the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods.
5. Susa/Shush, Iran – 4200 BCE
Susa developed as a tiny village circa 7000 BCE and became an urban hub around 4200 BCE. It was a significant town owing to its location along trade routes. Susa, situated at the foot of the Mountain Ranges and east of the Tigris River, was the Elamite Empire’s capital until the Assyrians seized it.
It was also occupied by the Persian and Parthian empires. Alexander the Great conducted the Susa nuptials here in 324 BCE, a significant celebration featuring the arranged marriages of 10,000 Macedonians and Persians to reconcile the two civilizations.
Susa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its storied history and cultural value; it has layers of overlaid towns one on top of each other, most of it yet not been explored by archaeologists. Today, the Iranian city of Shush occupies part of the old city.
6. Gaziantep, Turkey – 3650 BCE
Gaziantep, commonly known as Antep, is situated near the Syrian border in southern Turkey. The city is one of the world’s oldest settlements, with its initial people established in the region about 3650 BCE.
With such a rich history extending as far back as the Hittites, an empire that governed modern-day Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon from roughly 1600 to 1179 BCE, Gaziantep provides numerous historical places to view.
Visitors may visit the Gaziantep Fortress and Ravanda Citadel, both of which the Byzantines renovated in the 6th century. Roman mosaics have also been uncovered in this city, and it is also home to the biggest mosaic museum in the world.
7. Luxor, Egypt – 3200 BCE
Luxor has been inhabited since around 3200 BCE and rests atop the old city of Thebes, which the Egyptians named Waset. To add to the confusion, two towns were called Thebes: this one and one in Greece. This city in Egypt started as a small trade center and evolved into one of the Egyptian Empire’s wealthiest cities.
It was controlled by a few famous characters in history, including Tutankhamen, Ramses II, and Ramses III. Many historical buildings and ruins are still intact today, and some monuments date back to 2000 BCE.
Burial chambers in the Valley of the Kings, King Tut’s tomb, the Colossi of Memnon, and the Theban Necropolis are among the ancient landmarks still standing. The ancient remains of Thebes were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
8. Rayy, Iran – 3000 BCE
Ray is situated within the Greater Tehran metropolitan region in Iran. The city, also known as Rey, contains traces of residents that date back to 8,000 years and may have been continually populated for 5,000 or 6,000 years.
Ray is home to various ancient structures, and tourists may explore the 5,000-year-old Cheshmeh-Ali Hill and the 3,000-year-old Gebri Castle.
The city has a lengthy history of persevering through destruction: it was seized by the Muslim Arabs in 641 CE and nearly destroyed by the Mongols in 1220. The Zoroastrians revered the city.
9. Beirut, Lebanon – 3000 BCE
Beirut is the cultural, administrative, and economic center of Lebanon. The city’s initial residents settled approximately 3000 BCE, indicating its history stretches back roughly 5,000 years.
Beirut has had a rich history, with excavations discovering Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Ottoman, and Arab ruins. It was even referenced in letters to the Egyptian king as 1400 BCE. Beirut was also the seat of the most renowned law school in the Roman Empire, but an earthquake destroyed it in 551 AD.
10. Damascus, Syria – 3000 BCE
Some sources describe Damascus as the world’s oldest inhabited city, with inhabitants existing in the region as early as 10,000 BCE; however, this fact is highly challenged. However, scientists have concluded via excavations that humanity initially occupied the part between 10,000 and 8000 BCE.
After the introduction of the Aramaeans in Damascus in the first century BCE, the city became an important town.
The Aramaeans developed a network of canals that today form the core of the city’s contemporary water networks. It was captured by Alexander the Great and the Romans, Arabs, and Ottomans.
Its position off of the Mediterranean Sea at the junction of three separate continents meant it was an important city for various civilizations that have come and gone.
The Umayyad Mosque is one of the biggest and oldest mosques internationally, erected between 705 and 715 CE. In 2008, it was proclaimed the Arab Capital of Culture.
Every city has a history, and there is always new information waiting to be unearthed. In the case of the world’s oldest cities, historic buildings and structures provide us a look into the past and enable us to walk on territory that has been occupied for millennia.
As you stroll through streets created decades before your birth, can you sense it? Can you feel life, death, and history?