#2. Pumapunku Is Made of Bizarrely Complex Interlocking Stones
Pumapunku is a city built by the Tiwanaku people of ancient Bolivia. What sets it apart from just any old ancient city is the almost weird precision of the stonework that would make modern builders envious. Look at this shit:
Using crude technology, they pioneered a kind of construction that used hundreds of large, identical building blocks to make buildings like you and I would make a house out of LEGO. To make cuts as straight and precise today, we'd reach for some kind of laser cutter. They used chisels and rulers.
No word on whether they had interchangeable snap-on hair.
To keep the buildings structurally sound, they even used a form of metal I-cramps similar to what we would use today to keep the giant blocks in place in case of an earthquake.
Or really rough sex.
These aren't just little cinder blocks, either. The largest of the stones is 25 feet long and 17 feet wide, and has been estimated to weigh around 130 tons (for comparison, that's only around 20 or so standard semi trailers). Yet somehow, with no technologies like wheels, cranes, or even a writing system, the Tiwanaku people moved these giant rocks to the Pumapunku site and shaped them into perfect, complex forms.
Like all good mystery civilizations, the Tiwanaku eventually vanished, but their work was so impressive that the next empire to come along, the Inca, thought they were gods and that Pumapunku was the center of the world. It's a shame we can't ask them what they think of America.
#1. Gobekli Tepe Was Built Before Humans Knew How to Grow Food
Berthold Steinhilber/Smithsonian Magazine
Back in the 1960s, surveyors in Turkey found an ancient buried complex composed of huge stone pillars arranged in a circle like Stonehenge, some of them 30 feet tall. What really knocked the monocles out of their eyes, however, was that this was much older than Stonehenge ... 6,000 years older.
The hieroglyphics translate to "First!"
So those massive, ornate limestone pillars were carefully carved from a nearby quarry using hunks of flint rock and their bare hands.
Having been dated to around 9000 B.C., Gobekli Tepe is thought to be the oldest human construction. That's further back than any of the ancient sites you learned about in history class. In fact, it's in the Stone Age, where the only things we knew how to build were likely to fall over in a stiff breeze.
It was truly the golden age for Big Bad Wolves.
In fact, the site even predates agriculture, which means that the people who built it were still chasing mammoths rather than planting crops. Discovering that this complex of massive stone pillars was actually built by Encino Man, as National Geographic puts it, "was like finding that someone had built a 747 in a basement with an X-Acto knife."
While riding a unicycle.
And this doesn't make much sense, because conventional knowledge has always been that humans didn't start building things until after we learned how to farm. You know, because we were finally able to settle down in one place and suddenly had a hell of a lot of free time.
Given that excavations turned up a whole lot of bones at the site, probably from animal sacrifices, archaeologists are pretty sure that it was a religious site, which seems to indicate that it was religion, not agriculture, that first inspired people to build giant shit. And given that they did all this before they even had metal tools, they must have been pretty scared of those gods. We just hope none of the archaeologists are dumb enough to go reading aloud any ancient inscriptions about awakening the Great Old Ones.