Answering which settlements are the oldest cities in the world is fraught with debate, and guesswork. For example, how does one define city? If city is defined by population, must it be continuously inhabited in order to qualify as one of the oldest cities in the world? Must the cityin the still exist today?
One way of answering the question about which are the oldest cities in the world is to define city as a largely populous area, and further define that only cities that have been continuously populated count. However, listings are still subject to debate even when these two areas are defined.
In spite of controversy, all of these cities are extremely old:
- Byblos in present-day Lebanon may date back as far as 5000 BCE and is considered by many to be the oldest continuously populated city.
- Damascus in Syria has existed at least since 3000 BCE.
- Varansi in India also dates back further than 3000 BCE.
- Medinat Al-Fayoum in Egypt is possibly dated at 4000 BCE.
- Gaziantep in Turkey dates back to 3650 BCE.
- Delhi, in India, dates to about 3500 BCE.
- Hebron in the West Bank is dated at 3500 BCE.
- Athens in Greece dates to about 3000 BCE.
- Luoyang, in China, dates to about 2070 BCE.
- Arbil and Kirkuk in Iraq have dates of 2300 and earlier than 3000 BCE respectively.
- Adana in Turkey and Jerusalem in Israel were established around 2000 BCE.
- Hama in Syria was established before 2000 BCE.
- Luxor/Thebes in Egypt also dates to 2000 BCE.
- Jaffa, Israel, and Aleppo, Syria are both about 3800 years old.
Some dispute exists about excluding Jericho from the list. In its present day location, it is about 3400 years old. However, Jericho is often indicated as one of the oldest civilizations, with settlements dating back as far as 11,000 BCE. So many call Jericho one of the oldest cities in the world because some settlement has been established in or around Jericho since the shift to domestication of plants and animals.
Another possible candidate for the oldest city in the world is Catal Huyuk, a site in Turkey. It also dates approximately to the time when Jericho would have been founded, or 3000 years later, depending upon different accounts. It is near the current city of Konya, so it has not been continuously inhabited.