Older than even the Pyramids of Giza? Yes, that's right, a very ancient megalithic structure is being studied in Indonesia, and according to research so far, it can rival the oldest megalithic structures built by our ancestors.

Located on the lush green island of West Java, Indonesia, Gunung Padang is a majestic mountain often referred to as the "Mountain of Enlightenment". This landmark is famous for its ancient stone formations known as the Step Pyramid that adorn its slopes. Revered as a sacred site by local people for centuries, it is the site of regular rituals that embody deep spiritual meaning. In recognition of its deep cultural and historical value, Gunung Padang was designated a national cultural heritage site in 1998, cementing its status as a cherished landmark.

Gunung Padang West Jawa Indonesia

Built on top of an extinct volcano, Gunung Padang is said to be a multi-layered prehistoric pyramid, and possibly the oldest pyramid-type structure in the world, built even before humans began to replace the hunter-gatherer lifestyle with sedentary and agricultural life. Of course, if the authors of the work interpreted the findings correctly.

A partially uncovered pyramid on the island of West Java will keep archaeologists busy for years. However, it is worth noting that archaeologists not related to this study have already criticized the authors of the work for unfounded claims, and there are ongoing disputes about whether this place is related to human-made constructions, or whether it is the result of a force of nature.

Research with modern methods - radars that allow you to "look" deep under the ground, deep wells for obtaining samples, and other techniques - started in this place already in 2011.

And despite the critics, the results of these studies strongly indicate that Gunung Padang is not a natural mountain, but a pyramid-like structure. The core of the pyramid consists of a carefully formed mass of andesitic lava surrounded by layers of rock structures.

Simple reconstruction of Gunung Padang
Simple reconstruction of Gunung Padang with all four units and their various burial levels. (CREDIT: Natawidjaja et al., Archaeological Prospection, 2023)

Carbon dating analysis further supports the long history of the multi-layered structure spanning successive periods.

So far, it has been discovered that the construction work of this multi-layered structure took place intermittently and with different architectural styles. The first construction works here could have started as early as when the ice age ruled most of the world - about 25,000 to 14,000 years BC. Work then resumed in the period between 7900 and 6100 BC, and minor improvements were made in the following centuries as well. Finally, the last "architects" of the pyramid transformed the site between 2000 and 1100 BC, creating the pyramid's characteristic stone terraces. It is these parts of the stone terraces that are best seen today.

Gunung Padang megalithic stones
Arranged rock layers that make up the latest constructions of Gunung Padang

Based on this data, neither the Pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge, nor Göbekli Tepe, a Neolithic archaeological site in Turkey that is considered one of the oldest megalithic structures in the world, can compete as the oldest man-made structures in the world.

The research team points out that these builders possessed skills that are not characteristic of hunter-gatherer cultures. "Taking into account how long periods of the time this place was inhabited, we can speculate that this place meant a lot to people and attracted them to return again and again," the authors of the work concluded.

Megalithic stones Gunung Padang Indonesia West Jawa

Archaeologists have uncovered only a small part. According to research so far, a real archaeological gold mine may be waiting inside the structure – chambers full of things to learn, writes "Science Alert".

The next step – the researchers want to drill down to the underground chambers that appear in the data collected by the radar. Some of these chambers are said to be even 15 meters long and 10 meters high. If the boreholes are successful, video cameras and other research equipment will be able to be lowered down the holes. It will be fascinating to look into the depths of a pyramid built on the top of an extinct volcano!

Regardless of whether it is true and Gunung Padang will be recognized as the world's oldest pyramid or not, if you want to go deeper, the entire study can be read for free in the "Archaeological Prospection" publication.