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7 of the Oldest Structures in Africa

You have actually probably heard Africa referred to as the “cradle of humankind.” As you might anticipate provided its essential function in human advancement, there are some stupendously ancient structures still basing on the continent. While much of them are hardly recognizable as buildings (appearing more like incomplete mounds), others are extremely well maintained, dating back as far as 2667– 2648 BC.

You will see that nearly everything in this list is a pyramid. This is merely since almost all of the most ancient structures in Africa which are total enough to categorize as “buildings” were constructed as tombs in ancient Egypt.The one exception included in this list is the Yeha Temple (listed below) in Ethiopia. It is not really the seventh most ancient building in Africa (it is quickly vanquish by numerous pyramids), but it was consisted of in this post for the sake of range.

The 7 Oldest Buildings in Africa

7. Yeha Temple, Ethiopia (500 BC)

Referred to as the “Terrific Temple of the Sun and Moon,” Yeha Temple is situated in the town Yeha in the northern Tigray Area of Ethiopia. It is the most ancient Ethiopian structure still standing today. Constructed in the Sabaean style of architecture, it is believed that the structure has actually stood the test of time because it was developed on a firm structure, and likewise because it was converted in the sixth century ADinto a Christian church. Find more examples of ancient churches in Africa.

Yeha Temple– image credit to: Jialiang Gao– CC BY-SA 3.0

6. Pyramid of Khafre, Egypt (c. 2500 BC)

Also called the “Pyramid of Chephren,” this ancient structure is the 2nd largest in addition to the 2nd tallest of the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids of Giza. It functions as a burial place for Khafre (also referred to as Chefren), a Fourth-Dynasty pharaoh who ruled in between c. 2558 and 2532 BC.

Pyramid of Khafre– image credit to: Mgiganteus– CC BY-SA 3.0

Surrounding the pyramid are a variety of temples, a few of which are reasonably well protected. At one time, there were likewise more than 50 statues of the pharaoh, however they were gotten rid of during ancient times and probably recycled. Some historians believe that Ramses II was responsible for this. There was also at one point a satellite pyramid located to the south of the main pyramid, but only the describes of its foundation and a few blocks still stay.

5. Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt (c. 2560 BC)

The most popular of all Egyptian pyramids is naturally the Great Pyramid of Giza, arguably likewise the most famous structure in all of Africa, brand-new or old. It is also described as the Pyramid of Cheops or the Pyramid of Khufu. As the biggest of the 3 Ancient Egyptian Pyramids of Giza, it has actually been declared among the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.

Great Pyramid of Giza– image credit to: Wknight94 CC BY-SA 3.0

It is believed that it took around 10-20 years to build the pyramid around 2560 BC. For more than 3,800 years, it was the tallest manufactured structure anywhere on the world. During ancient times, its surface area would have been smooth, covered over with casing stones. Inside are at least 3 chambers: the Queen’s Chamber, the King’s Chamber and one lower chamber. As is common with Egyptian pyramids, the Great Pyramid of Giza is surrounded by a complex which includes smaller satellite pyramids and temples and structures.

4. Red Pyramid, Egypt (c. 2580 BC)

A little older than the Great Pyramid of Giza is the Red Pyramid, also referred to as the North Pyramid. This is the largest of three pyramids to be found in the Dahshur necropolis in Cairo. It takes its name from the color of the limestone from which it is constructed, which has a minor reddish hue.

Red Pyramid– image credit to: lienyuan lee– CC BY 3.0

Like the Great Pyramid of Giza, it was as soon as most likely smooth-sided, and is the 3rd biggest pyramid in all of Egypt. Curiously enough, the Tura limestone which would have when enclosed it was white, not red– so the Red Pyramid wasn’t red at all in ancient times.

3. Bent Pyramid, Egypt (c. 2580 BC)

About a kilometre north of the famous Red Pyramid is another known as the Bent Pyramid, constructed by the same Pharaoh Sneferu. When you see the pyramid, the origin of the name will be obvious to you. The sides of the pyramids rise steeply from the desert sand, but near the top, the incline abruptly becomes shallow. This creates a bend in the sides.


Bent Pyramid – image credit to: lienyuan lee – CC BY 3.0
So why is the bent pyramid bent? It is thought that, initially, the sides were meant to rise at a smooth, steep incline all the way up to the top. But during construction, builders realized that the pyramid was going to collapse if they continued the walls at the same angle, and so they switched abruptly to a shallower incline to save it. The Red Pyramid, built shortly thereafter, was constructed at a shallower angle from the start, which seems to point toward lessons learned from the Bent Pyramid mishap.

2. Pyramid of Meidum, Egypt (c. 2580 BC)

Also spelled “Maidum” or “Maydum,” the Pyramid of Meidum is located in Lower Egypt south of Cairo, and is the second oldest building in Africa. Originally, it was likely constructed for the Third Dynasty pharaoh Huni, but it seems that Pharaoh Sneferu continued work on the structure.

Meidum – image credit to: Kurohito – CC BY-SA 3.0
The architect who designed the Pyramid of Meidum was the successor of Imhotep, the renowned ancient Egyptian engineer who invented the concept of the stone pyramid (see the Pyramid of Djoser below). Sadly, the structure collapsed, probably because Imhotep’s successor experimented with modifications to the original design. This accounts for its uncanny appearance today.

1. Pyramid of Djoser, Egypt (2667–2648 BC)

Finally, the oldest building still standing in Africa is the original Egyptian pyramid, the Pyramid of Djoser. Its design was conceived by the engineer Imhotep, who was also a physician and architect (and amazingly enough, a commoner, later considered a god after he was deified two thousand years after his death).

Pyramid of Djoser – image credit to: Dennis Jarvis – CC BY-SA 2.0
The Pyramid of Djoser is a step pyramid, which can be contrasted with the smooth-sided pyramids developed later. Each step is referred to as a “mastaba,” which translates to “house of eternity.” A single mastaba can function as a tomb on its own. Stacking successively smaller mastabas one on top of the other resulted in a dramatic structure, fit for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser. This pyramid was of course a starting blueprint for all those that followed after.
You now know more about the oldest structures in Africa, the vast majority of which were constructed as ancient Egyptian tombs. The strides in engineering and architecture which were made by the ancient Egyptians were quite astonishing. Be sure to plan a trip to Africa one day to marvel at these ancient structures in person!

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