The 21 oldest cities in the world and what remains of them

The development of agriculture and livestock allowed humans to settle and live permanently in fixed land. Goodbye to nomadism, hello, sedentary lifestyle. Since then, cities have been an essential part of our world, but not always the most important. Its existence throughout history is also a test of stubbornness and resistance of the human being: sometimes, when we choose a place to live, we will never abandon. In addition, we spent thousands of years in it.

This is what happens to some of the oldest towns, which have no record. Cities whose existence, in the same place where you are today, dates back to thousands of years ago, witnessing the evolution of humans over centuries and centuries. Living museums and relics of the past that, unlike other (Babylon or Angkor in memoriam), they have survived the passage of time, and remain today important social and economic nodes. We have chosen 21 of the oldest cities in the world and we compared how they were and how they are today.

Note: All dates are estimates and archaeological interpretations, and refer to the origins of the settlement, not to its definition as “city”. In general, there is no consensus on which is the oldest permanently inhabited city. By default, the Fertile Crescent is the most outstanding. From here were obtained many of the dates.


oldest cities
Image Source: Google Image

Beijing, China (1000 BC)

There are several theories about the origin of Beijing, as an urban settlement. It is known that 10,000 years BC there were settlements of some sort, but insufficient entity to give them the definition of city. The Chinese government considers officially the year 1045 BC as the official birth of the current eastern capital. It is, in all probability, the oldest city in East Asia.

Cadiz, Spain (1100 BC)

Founded by the Phoenicians around 1100 BC, Cadiz is of course the oldest urban settlement on record in Spain, perhaps the whole Iberian Peninsula and one of the most hoary in Western Europe. Gadir in its infancy, named for its founders Phoenicians, Gades later, finally Cdiz, the city has been a permanent crossroads of cultures on a small islet at the gates of the Atlantic. Cdiz serve as a commercial port of entry to diverse Phoenician and Greek colonies.

Lisbon, Portugal, (1200 BC)

Settlements in Lisbon have registered prior to 1200 BC, but there was no urban development worthy of the name until the arrival of the Phoenicians and the creation of a commercial port. It has many similarities to the development of Cadiz, and competes with it for being the Western European city with more historical projection. Lisbon, despite the destruction to which it was subjected in the eighteenth century because of a devastating earthquake, is a crossroads of cultures and has many notable architectural remains.

Chania, Greece (1700 BC)

The origins of Chania as an urban settlement dating back to one of the first Greek civilizations, Mycenaean, long before the classic and the end of the Bronze Age splendor. However, not acquire the rank of city (despite its abstract and debatable character) precisely to the end thereof and the arrival of the Doric invasion that ultimately lead to the collapse of Mycenaean culture. It is mentioned in the Homer’s Odyssey.

Varanasi, India (1800 BC)

Mark Twain, in his usual imaginative waste, came to baptize Varanasi as the oldest city in the world, older even than the things that had already constancy. Its not exactly true: the city, stunning banks of the Ganges can certainly claim the title of the oldest in India, but it is somewhat far from the first and most enduring urban settlements on our planet.

Kutaisi, Georgia (2000 BC)

Surprising appearance on the list. The Caucasus, however, saw the flowering of some of the earliest civilizations far more important Middle East of antiquity, perhaps precisely because of its proximity to the Fertile Crescent. Kutaisi is considered the first capital of the early Georgian Kingdom, before Colchis, and consistent urban settlements are known at the same point of the current city for thousands of years.

Damascus, Syria (2000 BC)

Damascus sometimes arrogates the pompous title of “world’s oldest city.” The temptation is great and logical: there are archaeological records of settlements in the area dating from 9000 BC, which, in effect, would make it an ancient and unique city record. However, the historical reality is more stubborn: no consensus to limit the range of “city” to the Syrian capital to 2000 BC, approximately, when the Arameans come to the area and make the villages in town.

Kirkuk, Iraq (2200 BC)

Today a city that has little photographic record on the network, halfway between the Arab and Kurdish Iraq, Kirkuk, as the old Arrapha, has existed in the Middle East more than four thousand years. Arrapha was Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian. After inexorable end buried under the weight of history, but instead arise Kirkuk.

Erbil, Iraq (2300 BC)

There is evidence of settlements in today’s Erbil since 5000 BC, but usually not the existence of a city is accepted as such until about 2300 BC. Ancient city of Arbela, Erbil is now the main city of Kurdistan. According to UNESCO, the Citadel has more than 8,000 years of continuous human habitation.

Jaffa, Israel (2000 BC)

A case similar to the above. We do not know exactly when the settlements around Jaffa, today included within the giant metropolitan Tel Aviv, became a full- fledged urban structure, but it is believed that around 2000 BC. The archaeological traces speak of human beings inhabiting the area continuously about five thousand years ago. You can explore all the information on the excavations in Jaffa The Jaffa Cultural Heritage in Project.

You may also like to read another article on Tiffany-Hines: What cities in the world most at risk of disappearing because of a volcano?

Polvdiv, Bulgaria (2000 BC)

Another strange case within Europe, as Georgian: according to some sources, Polvdiv can be considered the oldest city in the world. It is true that there isevidence of settlements at such an early date from 6000 BC, but the most accurate sources tend to place its foundation around 4000 BC. It is Thracian foundation, incidentally, an Indo – European tribe that inhabited the lands of present Bulgaria (and as many from Eastern Europe) before losing their language and culture at the hands of Greeks and Romans.

Rey, Iran (3000 BC)

Formerly known as Arsacia, King is perhaps the oldest city in Iran, although today has been swallowed up by the spectacular growth of Tehran, the capital. Excavations throughout the twentieth century have revealed that the city of great architectural richness, reveal the urban room from as early as 3000 BC. It would be one of the most important cities of the Parthian empire.

Jericho, Palestine (3000 BC)

Another of the cities that tend to take over the title of the oldest in the world. The truth is that the existence of Jericho as a city can trace it back to 3000 BC or before, but not until 9000 BC that, as in the case of Damascus, is argued to grant the title. Jericho area has been inhabited since the dawn of humanity, and has the oldest military fortifications in the world (pre-6000 BC), but in no case is considered “city” to several millennia later.

Beirut, Lebanon (3000 BC)

The city that refuses to die, as defined Guardian, already has more than five thousand years of existence behind them, and the count continues. Excavations inside have revealed traces of urban life started around 3000 BC.

Luxor, Egypt (3200 BC)

From ancient Egyptian Thebes, now Luxor, it is known that was one of the most important capitals of the Egyptian empires, on the banks of the Nile, and can be considered city from about 3200 BC. Today its antiquity is inexhaustible source of tourists to the city, thanks to great still very well – preserved ruins of so great civilization.

Jerusalem, Israel (3000 BC)

City between cities, few are so mystical and relevant in the history of many diverse cultures as Jerusalem. Its origins fall halfway between mythology and reality, but are known to have been (bright and magnificent) urban settlements as early as 3000 BC. It was destroyed by the Babylonians and little remains today of its wonders (like Solomon’s temple). For millennia, it has been an object of desire of many powers, which is reflected in its archaeological and architectural wealth.

Athens, Greece (4000 BC)

The human presence in today’s Athens, Greek capital, dates back several millennia BC, but its foundation as a city is more modest. Several sources indicate that was established in urban settlement around 4000 BC making it the current capital of the continent oldest on record. Like other Greek cities, as meritorious deed corresponds to the Mycenaeans.

Aleppo, Syria (4000 BC)

Not Damascus the oldest city in the Middle East. Not even Syria. Such honor belongs to the highly degraded and very destroyed Aleppo, a victim of the incessant bombing derivatives bloody Civil War plaguing the country in 2011. The black chapter today its long history, which finds its urban origins in 4000 BC.

Argos, Greece (5000 BC)

For Europe, the oldest known urban settlement on record is that of Argos, in the Peloponnese peninsula. Halfway between the (not so) old continent and the Middle East, Argos there are traces of human life for more than nine thousand years, and perhaps the first city worthy of the name . A remarkable fact, although today only serve him to the primitive city to feature in this ranking: Argos is a small town, and irrelevant, even within Greece.

Byblos, Lebanon (5000 BC)

At this point, we remember: all dates included in this article are estimates. And few estimates seem as consistent as that of Byblos, in Lebanon, which put the city beyond 5000 BC, making it possibly the oldest in the world still inhabited today. Essential to understanding the origins and development of the Phoenician culture, Byblos is a World Heritage Site.

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