Dome of the Rock
Photograph by Reza/Getty Images
Muslim men pray beneath the massive stone enshrined at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Israel. Despite its appearance, the dome, called Qubbat as-Sakhrah in Arabic, is not a mosque. Rather, it is a shrine built over the rock from which the Prophet Muhammad is said to have ascended into heaven. The site is also sacred in Judaism as the place where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Built on Temple Mount between A.D. 685 and 691, the dome is the oldest extant Islamic structure and one of the first Islamic monumental buildings ever constructed.
Terra-Cotta Warriors, China
Photograph by O. Louis Mazzatenta
Platoons of clay soldiers were buried with China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang Di, to accompany him during his eternal rest. These life-size figures, shown here during excavation at the emperor's burial complex near the city of Xi'an in China's Shaanxi Province, are more than 2,200 years old.
The tomb, which extends over 22 square miles (57 square kilometers) and is said to have required a labor force of 700,000 to build, was discovered by a group of peasants digging a well in 1974.
temples tombs herods tomb
Photograph by HO/AFP/Getty Images
Most scholars had assumed King Herod the Great, who ruled Judea between 37 and 4 B.C., was buried at the Herodium complex in the mountains south of Jerusalem. But his final resting place remained a mystery until 2007, when, after a 35-year search, archaeologists with the Hebrew University uncovered Herod's grave, elaborate sarcophagus, and mausoleum (shown here).
Much of the site, including the sarcophagus, had been badly damaged, possibly by Jewish rebels who loathed the Roman-appointed Herod and led a revolt against the Roman Empire between A.D. 66 and 72. No human remains were found at the site.
Valley of the Kings, Egypt
Photograph by Kenneth Garrett
The Pyramids of Giza and the Nile Delta were the tombs of choice for pharaohs of Egypt's Old Kingdom. But New Kingdom pharaohs, seeking to foil tomb raiders and be closer to the source of their dynastic roots in southern Egypt, created what's known now as the Valley of the Kings.
Deep inside the hills of this otherwise barren valley west of Luxor (seen here from above) sit the tombs of nearly all the pharaohs who ruled between 1539 and 1078 B.C. Their strategy in the end did not confound thieves, though, and almost all of the tombs had been ransacked by the time archaeologists began excavating the site in the early 1800s.
temples tombs peru mummy
Photograph by Ira Block
This well-preserved mummy was removed from an ancient Inca cemetery located just outside Peru's capital, Lima. The site, adjacent to Puruchuco-Huaquerones, the largest Inca cemetery ever found, yielded dozens of human remains and artifacts dating back more than 500 years. The mummies were bundled in textile cocoons containing one or more adults or children.
temples tombs rome catacombs
Photograph by Roger Viollet/Getty Images
Catacombs such as these were carved over hundreds of years beginning in the second century A.D. from soft rock beneath the outskirts of Rome. The labyrinthine corridors of these underground cemeteries cover hundreds of acres and house the remains of hundreds of thousands of mainly Christians but also Jews.
At the time, burials were not permitted within Rome, and land outside the city was expensive. Several Christian landowners, however, allowed access to their property for the underground burials, and thus the catacombs came into being. Christians have also used the sites for worship and to celebrate the anniversaries of their martyrs.
Photograph by Martin Gray
The Pyramid of the Sun (top) is the largest structure in the ancient city of Teotihuacan, Mexico, and one of the largest buildings of its kind on the Western Hemisphere. It stands 216 feet (66 meters) tall and measures 720 feet (220 meters) in width at its base.
Originally built as a smaller structure around A.D. 200, the pyramid was added to several times before it reached its current dimensions. It stands over a network of caves and tunnels, which archaeologists think were spiritually significant to the mysterious builders of Teotihuacan.
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