Updated: Fri, 20 Aug 2010 11:11:24 GMT | By Owen Adams, contributor, MSN Travel
The 11,000-year-old British house and 12 more of the oldest things on Earth

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Dating from? 7000BC
Found where? Byblos, Lebanon

The historian Philo of Byblos (AD64-141) always insisted his Mediterranean hometown (now also known by its Arab name Jbeil) was the world's oldest city - built by Cronos (son of Uranus and father of Zeus) while he was ruler of the universe. Carbon dating proves it dates back to 7000BC. The Greeks named it Byblos when it was in the hands of the Phoenicians, and it prospered as a major port for Egyptian papyrus imports. The oldest part of this "modern city with an ancient heart" is near the harbour, below the Crusader castle and medieval area.

Byblos has challengers though: excavators have discovered people lived on the outskirts of Damascus in Syria from 10,000BC (though it may not have become a city until 1400BC), while Jericho on Palestine's West Bank has fortifications dating back to 6800BC, thus claiming the crown of oldest walled city.

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The 11,000-year-old British house and 12 more of the oldest things on EarthAs a decidedly, er, character-filled dwelling - the country's most ancient - is unearthed in North Yorkshire, we look at some more fascinating and very venerable human artefactsOwen Adamscontributor, MSN Travel2009-10-30T10:58:532010-08-20T11:11:24An archaeologist from the University of York works on ancient cloth at the Star Carr siteAn estate agent would no doubt call it "character-filled". He or she would probably also describe the 11,000-year-old house that archaeologists have unearthed in North Yorkshire, which they believe to be the country's oldest, as "compact": the dwelling measures only three-and-a-half metres across, after all. At the same time, our house-seller would probably be tempted to label the venerable residence "open plan" - living, sleeping and pretty much everything else all appear to have been done in one space.Britain is full of extraordinary old things, of course, but it isn't home to the oldest human artefacts of all. Conventional wisdom has it that the cradle of our civilisation was China or Mesopotamia (now Iraq). As a rather faded bijou property that would challenge the descriptive powers of the most creative estate agent is dug from the mud of northern England, we present our guide to where travellers can see more of the most ancient manmade things on Earth.Owen Adams is a freelance writertrueIn pictures: world's greatest feats of engineeringIn pictures: amazing lost cities30 natural marvels you probably don't know aboutThe world's 50 most beautiful thingsFor quirky travel stories galore, follow MSN Travel on twitterOldest manmade objectDating from? 2,600,000BCFound where? EthiopiaAnyone who's seen the start of 2001: A Space Odyssey will know the first "intelligent" thing the apemen did was to bash each other's heads in with rocks. According to Italian archaeologists working in the Hadar region of Ethiopia, however, our homo habilis ancestors smashed and scraped together volcanic rocks and quartz pebbles to make sharp edges, not to kill or maim, but so they could slice scavenged horse and antelope meat. The tools can be viewed alongside other early lower paleolithic artefacts at the Melka Kunture archaeological park, in Awash, 50km south of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.topThis field has been disabled for Gallery V2Paleolithic quartz tool(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton)Paleolithic quartz tool(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton).(©Getty, Steve Gorton)Oldest mineDating from? 40,000BCFound where? SwazilandWay before the dawn of the iron age (c1200BC) miners were digging into a mountain of iron ore. But smelting wasn't the object - it was all down to vanity. The South African archaeologists who made and dated the find believe the earth-diggers were seeking specularite, a shiny, sparkly form of ore that bushmen rubbed into their hair to make their heads shimmer.At the Malolotja nature reserve, you can spot remnants of the most ancient mine - known as the Lion Cavern - from the Bomvu ridge on the Ngwenya mountains.topThis field has been disabled for Gallery V2Bushmen sitting in a cave(©Lonely Planet, Ariadne Van Zandbergen).(©Lonely Planet, Ariadne Van Zandbergen).(©Lonely Planet, Ariadne Van Zandbergen).(©Lonely Planet, Ariadne Van Zandbergen).(©Lonely Planet, Ariadne Van Zandbergen).(©Lonely Planet, Ariadne Van Zandbergen).(©Lonely Planet, Ariadne Van Zandbergen).(©Lonely Planet, Ariadne Van Zandbergen).(©Lonely Planet, Ariadne Van Zandbergen)Oldest paintingDating from? 30,000BCFound where? FranceAfter removing rubble blocking the entrance, three cavers discovered a 400-metre-long, multichambered gallery of wall paintings in a cave in France's Ardèche valley in 1994. They were amazed to find, after sending tiny charcoal samples to a French lab, that some of the well-preserved animal paintings were twice as old as the famed Altamira (in Spain) and Lascaux (France) cave galleries. Some scientists and art experts dispute the accuracy of the carbon dating, arguing that such sophisticated artistic techniques, including edge-etching to create a 3D effect, wouldn't have been known then. But even so, most sceptics begrudgingly concede the paintings at Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc cave are the world's oldest known.Chauvet cave is now state-owned and anyone permitted entry is required to wear a protective suit to avoid a repeat of Altamira and Lascaux, where the paintings are fast eroding due to recent human disturbance. According to the cave's website, work is under way to give the public more access.topThis field has been disabled for Gallery V2A cave painting at Chauvet(©Getty, AFP).(©Getty, AFP).(©Getty, AFP).(©Getty, AFP).(©Getty, AFP).(©Getty, AFP).(©Getty, AFP).(©Getty, AFP).(©Getty, AFP)Oldest houseDating from? c15,000 years agoFound where? UkraineShelter, along with food, is a human necessity, but what did prehistoric folk do when there were no caves or trees around? The discovery of a mammoth-bone housing estate at Mezhyrich in central Ukraine began in 1965 when a farmer dug up a mammoth's jawbone while expanding his cellar. Four oval-shaped huts were excavated, between them constructed from 149 interlocking bones from an estimated 95 beasts. A map of the area inscribed on a tusk and an ochre-decorated drum made from a mammoth skull were also dug up.The reconstructed bone village can be visited more or less in situ, and there's also a display at the Kiev Museum of Paleontology (15 Bogdan Khmel'nitsky Street).topThis field has been disabled for Gallery V2A replica mammoth(©Steve Parsons, PA).(©Steve Parsons, PA).(©Steve Parsons, PA).(©Steve Parsons, PA).(©Steve Parsons, PA).(©Steve Parsons, PA).(©Steve Parsons, PA).(©Steve Parsons, PA).(©Steve Parsons, PA)Oldest human-made religious siteDating from? 11,000BCFound where? TurkeyThe discovery of Gobekli Tepe in Turkish Kurdistan, by German archaeologists in 1994, has prompted a reappraisal of ancient history. Construction of such a large-scale and intricate temple complex, with stone columns decorated with animal figures and pictograms, was not previously thought possible for hunter-gatherers - early humans who lived before the advent of the wheel, writing, metallurgy, and pottery. However, it has even been speculated that this is where farming began.Experts have deduced that the dead were ritually decapitated at the temple and their bodies left for vultures in an early form of sky burial, the head preserved for ancestor worship. Only 5% of the site has been dug up so far; archaeologists predict the dig will last 50 years. The whole site was deliberately buried under up to 500 cubic metres of soil some time after 8000BC, preserving it rather than letting it be destroyed by the elements.topThis field has been disabled for Gallery V2An archaeologist holds up an artefact(©Rick Bowmer/AP).(©Rick Bowmer/AP).(©Rick Bowmer/AP).(©Rick Bowmer/AP).(©Rick Bowmer/AP).(©Rick Bowmer/AP).(©Rick Bowmer/AP).(©Rick Bowmer/AP).(©Rick Bowmer/AP)Oldest surviving cityDating from? 7000BCFound where? Byblos, LebanonThe historian Philo of Byblos (AD64-141) always insisted his Mediterranean hometown (now also known by its Arab name Jbeil) was the world's oldest city - built by Cronos (son of Uranus and father of Zeus) while he was ruler of the universe. Carbon dating proves it dates back to 7000BC. The Greeks named it Byblos when it was in the hands of the Phoenicians, and it prospered as a major port for Egyptian papyrus imports. The oldest part of this "modern city with an ancient heart" is near the harbour, below the Crusader castle and medieval area.Byblos has challengers though: excavators have discovered people lived on the outskirts of Damascus in Syria from 10,000BC (though it may not have become a city until 1400BC), while Jericho on Palestine's West Bank has fortifications dating back to 6800BC, thus claiming the crown of oldest walled city.topThis field has been disabled for Gallery V2Ancient ruins at Byblos(©Lonely Planet, Jane Sweeney).(©Lonely Planet, Jane Sweeney).(©Lonely Planet, Jane Sweeney).(©Lonely Planet, Jane Sweeney).(©Lonely Planet, Jane Sweeney).(©Lonely Planet, Jane Sweeney).(©Lonely Planet, Jane Sweeney).(©Lonely Planet, Jane Sweeney).(©Lonely Planet, Jane Sweeney)Oldest sit-down toiletDating from? 2800BCFound where? PakistanAlthough loo roll wasn't invented until AD100, by the Chinese, you could complete your ablutions hygienically in the bronze age without having to squat. At Mohenjo-Daro, now a Unesco World Heritage site in Pakistan's Sindh province, sophisticated urban planning included the world's first sanitation systems, with covered drains and waste-water pipes. Lavatories were built into outer walls of the most affluent homes - burnt bricks with a wooden seat over a chute leading to a drain.The oldest functioning sit-down toilet dates from between 1700BC and 1400BC within the colossal 1,300-room Palace of Knossos in Crete. Visitors aren't allowed to use it, though.topThis field has been disabled for Gallery V2Mohenjo-Daro(©Getty).(©Getty).(©Getty).(©Getty).(©Getty).(©Getty).(©Getty).(©Getty).(©Getty)Oldest ball courtDating from? 1400BCFound where? MexicoRubber didn't arrive in Europe until the 18th century, but the Olmeca people of South America had been making balls out of natural latex for 3,000 years to use in games and rituals. An 80-by-eight-metre court at Paso de la Amada in the Chiapas region of Mexico is the earliest-known games court, bounded by two mounds with benches for spectators.Spanish conquistadors viewed the games as purely sport, but they had religious significance for Mayans; most courts were aligned north-south with the ball representing the sun, or games were used to settle boundary disputes - woe betide the losing team, as human sacrifice wasn't unknown. The Mesoamerican ballgame - which was played from Arizona to Paraguay - involved a leather yoke worn at the waist to hit the ball in a hip-swivelling action, and no touching was allowed with the hands or feet.topThis field has been disabled for Gallery V2Reenactment of a Mayan ball game(©Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP).(©Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP).(©Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP).(©Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP).(©Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP).(©Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP).(©Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP).(©Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP).(©Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)Oldest carDating from? 1770Found where? ParisSome years before Richard Trevithick trialled the first steam locomotive (in 1804), inventor Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot knocked down part of the Paris Arsenal wall in the world's first self-propelled mechanical automobile crash, despite his four-seat steam-propelled three-wheeler fardier à vapeur only travelling at 2.25mph.Cugnot's 2.5-tonne prototype was designed to transport heavy artillery. The front wheel supported a steam boiler and driving mechanism, steered with two handles. Due to poor weight distribution, it was liable to topple and the fire needed relighting every few minutes.Cugnot ran a few trials to and from Paris but the project was soon abandoned by his patrons, the French army, and the fardier (heavy goods cart) continued to be horse-drawn. King Louis XV did, however, store the invention, initially at the Arsenal, for safekeeping. The world's first car can now be seen at the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris.topThis field has been disabled for Gallery V2Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot's early car(©Rex).(©Rex).(©Rex).(©Rex).(©Rex).(©Rex).(©Rex).(©Rex).(©Rex)Oldest skyscraperDating from? 1792Found where? Shrewsbury, EnglandAny casual visitor to Ditherington, a suburb of Shrewsbury, might be surprised to learn that a derelict mill is known as the "grandfather of skyscrapers". The building, now maintained by English Heritage after sitting empty since 1987, is only five stories high but its pioneering iron-frame construction is what earned Ditherington Flax Mill (now known as the Maltings) its title in retrospect.The fireproof structure, designed by the city's one-time mayor Charles Bage, led to the development of the modern steel-framed skyscraper. Chicago's 1884 Home Insurance Building, the first steel skyscraper - 10 stories - was demolished in 1931.topThis field has been disabled for Gallery V2Ditherington Flax Mill(©PA).(©PA).(©PA).(©PA).(©PA).(©PA).(©PA).(©PA).(©PA)Oldest artificial ice rinkDating from? 1909Found where? ViennaIce-skating goes back at least 5,000 years, but confined to the frozen wastes. In 1876, there was great excitement in London when the Glaciarium opened on the Kings Road, in Chelsea. The rink had a concrete base, with layers of earth, cow hair and timber planks, over which were placed oval copper pipes carrying a compound of glycerine, ether and nitrogen peroxide, which froze a layer of water. The pumps were powered by a steam engine. Despite the painted Alpine scenery, orchestral ice-dances and high-class clientele, skaters complained of constant mists, and within two years the first wave of mechanically frozen ice rinks had melted away.The oldest surviving artificial rink opened in 1909 - it was where the Olympic figure skating champion Karl Schäfer took his first steps on ice. The Engelmann rink is on the roof of what is now a shopping centre in Vienna's 17th district. Its designer, Eduard Engelmann Jr, was himself a champion skater and cyclist.topThis field has been disabled for Gallery V2An ice rink(©Michael Paulsen AP, PA).(©Michael Paulsen AP, PA).(©Michael Paulsen AP, PA).(©Michael Paulsen AP, PA).(©Michael Paulsen AP, PA).(©Michael Paulsen AP, PA).(©Michael Paulsen AP, PA).(©Michael Paulsen AP, PA).(©Michael Paulsen AP, PA)Oldest digital computerDating from? 1936Found where? Berlin, GermanyWhile an engineering student, Konrad Zuse (1910-95) began dreaming up a way of producing a calculating machine - he found sums tedious. He quit his job as an aircraft designer to build the world's first programmable digital computer, the Z1, in his parents' apartment. The room-sized calculator read instructions from punched tape. Zuse refined and improved on this model, and most of the range from Z1 to Z31 - painstakingly reconstructed (the Z1 had 30,000 components) - are on permanent exhibition at the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, along with the polymath Zuse's abstract paintings.Computer history geeks might also note that Zuse's 1941 Z3 was the earliest to pass all the gold-standard Turing computability tests, and his 1958 Z22 made the leap to magnetic storage.topThis field has been disabled for Gallery V2A modern laptop(©Martin Keene PA).(©Martin Keene PA).(©Martin Keene PA).(©Martin Keene PA).(©Martin Keene PA).(©Martin Keene PA).(©Martin Keene PA).(©Martin Keene PA).(©Martin Keene PA)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)An archaeologist from the University of York at Star Carr(Rex)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)Cave painting at Chauvet(AFP, Getty)

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