Its funny, really. It is very hard to discover which ancient city is the oldest and one of the main reasons for this is that so many countries and areas want to claim this fact without regard to scientific findings. There are many ancient cities still occupied today in many lands, especially in the middle east and all seem to claim their city as the oldest. Syria alone has several. Another problem is that is very hard to find records that date back to ancient times or none exist at all. If you find the ruins of an ancient city and they are claimed to be from 6,000 B.C. how do you substantiate this? That is the problem facing archaeologists studying this problem. Lets take a look at some ancient cities that claim to be the oldest cities in the world:
Hamoukar was a huge settlement that was located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the land that was known as Mesopotamia. It is believed to have housed some 25,000 people. The people there seem to have had advanced engineering since it was found that they built double walls on their homes to increase air flow, a sort of Neolithic air conditioning. Materials were found within the city that helped to date it to 6,000 B.C. Scientists are beginning to feel that cities may have appeared even before writing was invented, making it even harder to date them. The name of the city means 'deaf man' but a very similar Sumerian word means 'economic center.' Other ancient cities have been found near this one, such as Tell Brak, but none seem as old. Tell Brak is estimated to be from 4,000 B.C.
An ancient lost city has recently been discovered off the west coast of India. Local archaeologists claim that the city is so old it will push back the accepted dates for construction of cities. This city is still under the water but there is much evidence of human habitation. Carved wood, pottery, beads and other items have been found. Carbon dating of one of the carvings suggested that it came from 7,500 B.C. What is so astounding about this find, is the fact that previously it was thought that the oldest Indian civilization dated back to 2,500 B.C. Again we have the birth of cities being pushed further and further back in time.
The City of Palms is more commonly known as Jericho. Jericho is in Palestine and some say it is 10,000 years old. This is an amazing city. The cities' towers were built 4,000 years before the Egyptian pyramids. Besides maybe being the oldest city, it is also the lowest. It is 260 meters below sea level. This city is one of the most frequently mentioned cities in the bible. Many archaeologists claim that pottery was invented here along with animal domestication. One title that seems to be assured is that Jericho is the world's oldest continuously inhabited city.
Catal Hoyuk is an ancient city that was discovered in Turkey. It is another one of those cities that claims to be the oldest. Indeed it said to date back to 7,500 B.C. The site of the city was first discovered late in the 1950s. Excavation began in 1961. The site is Neolithic and large. Much art was found in the city. The city was found under mounds of dirt. Some of the houses have even older houses under them. It is though that the city was home to several thousand people with hundreds of buildings. Archaeology Magazine called this the world's first city.
A city that some claim is the oldest is Damascus, in Syria. Officially it is only dated to be about 5,000 years old but some say it is much older and in fact is the world's oldest city. It's name comes from the Semitic Dimashka but it is also known as as-Sham in Arabic. This means The Northern because it is north of the Arab homelands. The modern city of Damascus contains an old city area. This area is divided into the Muslim, Christian and Jewish areas. It is almost impossible to accurately date this city farther back than about 3,500 years because of lack of evidence into its ancient past.
There are many other cities in many other places that claim to have the oldest cities but except for Cairo, Egypt and Qufu, China, all the truly most ancient cities seem to be in the middle east and western asia. The prior two cities were not mentioned because I felt that they didn't have a chance of being the oldest cities but some day I certainly could be proven wrong.
So when you hear the claim the world's oldest city, take it with a grain of salt and remember there are many contenders for that title.