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15 Gorgeous Old Photos of Archaeological Sites

Luxor Temple, Egypt, circa 1858
Francis Frith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I remember the first time I saw the Pyramids of Giza. Looming out from the desert on the outskirts of Cairo, they felt like a monumental buffer against the spreading cacophony of the Egyptian capital. It was equally mind-blowing, though in a different way, to see pictures of how they looked before the encroachment of the modern world.

And that’s what I find so romantic and humbling about these old archaeological sites: They stand in mute testament to an older time, while anchoring the present and (if I’m feeling particularly gushy) pointing towards the future. Which is another way of saying that they afford us some much-needed perspective on the nature of change and continuity.

In that spirit, we’ve dug up some old photos (and other pictures) of archaeological sites around the world, so you can see how they used to look. Enjoy!


Karnak Temple
Temple Complex at Karnak, Egypt, 1914
Cornell University Library – originally posted to Flickr as Temple Complex at Karnak. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons


Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu, Peru, 1912
Hiram Bingham III [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons


 The Petra Siq, Jordan, 1947
Michael Quentin Morton [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Pyramids of Giza
The Great Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza, Egypt, 1871
M. Delie & E. Bechard [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons


The Parthenon, Greece, 1839
Gaspard-Pierre-Gustave Joly de Lotbinière [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Philae Temple, Egypt, 1908
William Henry Goodyear [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons