Underground Archeology Rock Cut Architecture in the Depths of the Earth

The ritual of rock-cut architecture goes back all the way to the Great Temple of Ramses located along the Nile in Nubia.

Rock-cut architecture occupies a predominantly significant place in the history of Architecture, but "the ritual goes back all the way to the Great Temple of Ramses, known as Abu Simbel," located along the Nile in Nubia. Dated back to 1280 BCE, it is comprised of a mammoth scaled portico carved out of the cliff with interior chambers that form its asylum.

Much of people's observation of these intricately structured monuments is that they are highly involved with religious aspects, sculptures depicting the culture of that time period, and tombs representing burial rituals.

The initial structures were typically carved out by starting at the top to construct a crown and then working downward, for the apparent reason that stones would not be falling on one's head.

The Buddhist "Carpenter's Cave"

Located at Ellora in Maharashtra, India, this structure represents the essence of Indian rock-cut architecture. The caves are comprised of Hindu, Jain, and Buddhists temples and monasteries that were originally constructed between the 5th and 10th century. There is a sense of synchronization in accordance with these caves concerning religion during this period of history.


Petra is an archaeological site in Arabah, Jordan, lying on the gradient of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern border of Arabah, the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. This World Heritage Site was discovered in 1812 by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig BurcKhardt. This rock-cut architecture was adopted by the Nabataeans who extended this tradition by "carving their temples and tombs into the yellowish-orange rock that defines the canyons and gullies of the region." One of the more interesting aspects of Petra is that there was an actual theater with rock carved seats found inside.

Lycian Tombs

The Lycian tombs, circa 400 AC, were developed by the Lycian people who had perfected this type of architecture that relied on the abundance of soft limestone within the region. These monumental tombs are most noteworthy for their quality of stone masonry and of course the quantity that most recently was revealed at a count of 1085 still intact.

Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

At the base of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem rests the tombs of Absalom and Zechariah the Prophet. The Shrine of Absalom is said to have been built by the disobedient son of King David before his death. The monument of the Prophet Zechariah is an amazing feat of construction, considering it was carved entirely out of the mountain side, including the intricate detail. Both are a short walk to the east of the Old City of Jerusalem. It's not a paved area and there is low-lighting and plenty of graves from centuries ago, hence it is recommended to visit the area only in the daytime.

Longmen Grottoes

These caves are the most impressive collection of Chinese art dating from 316 to 907 CE, representing the pinnacle of stone carving in China. The Longmen Grottoes, the Mogao Caves and the Yungang Grottoes consist of hundreds of caves, several with statues of Buddha. The majority of the rock-architecture was built during 460-525 AD.


Lalibela is one of Ethiopia's holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and is "a center of pilgrimage for much of the country."This pastoral city is known around the globe for its monolithic churches which play an imperative part in the history of rock-cut architecture. Most of these structures are thought to have been constructed around the 12th and 13th centuries.

Elephanta Caves

The Elephant caves date back to 600 AD and are located on Gharapuri Island, which was renamed Elephanta Island by the Portuguese. It is located in the Mumbai harbor off the coast. The Shiva cult that inspired this temple demanded silence and somberness therefore; the caves were a place of reverence in the middle of the vast ocean. Today, this site is a principal tourist attraction associated with small businesses.


Aksaray, Turkey contains several underground cities, largely used by early Christians as hiding places before they became a justifiable religion. "These rock-cut buildings and churches were built over a span of hundreds of years prior to the 5th century CE." The emphasis of the structures was largely put on the interiors rather than the exteriors.

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