What is the oldest building?

My son asked me this last night.

What is the oldest building?

My immediate guess was to say caves are the oldest human shelters…but he wanted a man made building.

I guess the pyramids?..

What is the oldest building still standing?

I’m drawing a blank on the name, but I’ll do a search - IIRC there is a stone structure in Egypt that is the oldest standing structure. Of course, there were probably earlier building that didn’t survive.


This site says some hut in Japan built 400,000 years ago.
Oldest building still standing and still in use?

I would guess (and this is just a guess) the Pantheon in Rome built 118. It is certainly the oldest building I have ever walked around in.


I’m going to throw a WAG out there but the oldest I remember have all been tombs.

While I don’t have a cite handy (and I’m sorry for that), I’ve read that opinion is divided as to whether it is the ruins of the complex at Saqarra in Egypt, which includes a pyramid with a rectangular base, or the ruins of the temple at Newgrange, in Ireland, a circular chamber with a window which is oriented to admit the dawn light on a soltice day.

The parthenon was built in the 5th century BC (completed around 430-ish I think). It is not exactly “in use”, unless you count tourists - of course, in its day it was probably visited by tourists too.

On a more current note: The first skyscraper (ever) was built in 1885, in Chicago: The Home insurance Building. That was destroyed in the 30s though, which left the Rookery, designed by Burnham and Root (who else?) in 1885 - 88, to hold the current title of oldest skyscraper.

– I threw that in just because your child might simply have ment “building” to mean skyscraper, I work with kids and this question (with this understanding) is often asked of me as well, if not - well now you know this too.

What about the Ziggurat in Ur.? It was built c. 2100 B.C.

I’d go with slipster:

The Stepped Pyramid of Zoser dates to circa 2667-2648 B.C.

Newgrange dates to around 3000 B.C.

And there are some menhirs (standing stones) in Brittany that go back as far as 4000 B.C.

In terms of buildings that are still used in some sense… well, opera performances are sometimes staged at the Temple of Hatshepsut (c. 1473-1458 B.C.). In terms of actual daily usage, the Pantheon (as In Conceivable cited) is used as a Catholic Church to this day, though it was originally a Roman temple. It is certainly the best preserved classical structure.

If the question is what’s the oldest building that people still live in (i.e., domestic architecture), then I have no idea.

There’s a picture here, I don’t think I’d qualify that as a building. Anyway, there has been some sort of scandal since the discovery, and it seems likely that forgery or fabrication was involved.

Some Greek theaters predate the Pantheon by quite a bit and are still used as theaters. Although I have to admit the Pantheon sure looks good for something that’s been standing for almost 1900 years.

Not the oldest, by far, but the oldest still-standing, still in use wooden structures are the buildings of Horyuji temple in Japan, dating from around 680 CE.

From my ever-more-creaky 1988 Guinness Book, p242:

"The earliest known human structure is a rough circle of loosely piled lava blocks found in 1960 on the lowest cultural level at the Lower Paleolithic site at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, revealed by Dr. Mary Leakey in Jan 1960. The structure was associated with artifacts and bones on a work-floor, dating c. 1,700,000 BC.

The earliest evidence of buildings yet discovered is that of 21 huts with hearths or pebble-lined pits and delimited by stake-holes, found in Oct 1965 at the Terra Amata site in Nice, France, though to belong to the Acheulian culture of 120,000 years ago.

The oldest free-standing structures, described in 1647, are now believed to be the megalithic temples at Mgarr and Skorba in Malta and Ggantija in Gozo, dating from c. 3250 BC.

The remains of a stone tower 20 feet high built into the walls of Jericho have been excavated, and dated to 5000 BC, the foundation of walls to as early as 8350 BC."

That gives us a range for free-standing buildings of 3000-5000 BC, in line with some other such buildings mentioned in the other posts. However there is (or at least was, if anyone knows what’s been happening in the field of “ancient architecture” in the last 15 years please enlighten us) evidence of huts going back 120,000 years.

I’ve been to Terra Amata and Ggantia…
fantastic, thought provoking sites.

there is some benefit in being married to an archaeology graduate!

SF worldbuilding at

How 'bout in the U.S. of A? Those cliff dwellings are pretty old, eh?

Actually, they’re not that old (relatively). The Mesa Verde dwellings date from the 13th century CE. Definitely no contender for the world title.