Love Ancient Ruins? Play ArchaeoMadness

Masada, by Andrew Shiva, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Masada, by Andrew Shiva, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 / Masada, by Andrew Shiva, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

What's more amazing, the majestic pyramids at Giza or the stupendous Jetavanaramaya stupa in Sri Lanka? The incredible hieroglyphic staircase at the Maya city of Copan, or the 20,000-year-old footprints of children at Mungo Lake in Australia? How about clifftop Masada, the last Jewish stronghold against the Roman invasion, or the HMS Erebus, the shipwreck remnants of the doomed Franklin Expedition? 

These fantastic archaeological sites—and 26 more—are in hot competition to win this year's ArchaeoMadness, a brackets game developed by the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) to mark International Archaeology Day on October 17.

Here's how the AIA* describes the tournament, which is like March Madness for archaeology nerds (check!):

In ArchaeoMadness, 32 archaeological sites enter the tournament in a single elimination bracket. Each day, participants can vote for their favorite archaeological site in a head-to-head competition between two sites. The winning sites from each matchup move on to the next round. This will be repeated in each round until the championship.

You get points for every successful prediction, with more points awarded the farther you get in the tournament. The winner receives a pretty useful prize for visiting ruins: a GoPro HERO Starter Bundle, which includes a camera, memory card, and head strap mount. There are also daily prizes ranging from International Archaeology Day stickers in the round of 32 to an AIA Society membership in the final four.

You can play in two ways: by either submitting a full bracket by September 15, or by voting for your favorite site every day. (The full schedule is below.)

The sites are a mix of the famous (Lascaux) and the lesser known (Laas Geel), but they'll all spark your curiosity. A popup window provides a photo and background about each one, so you don't have to choose blindly (and will likely have several whoa, cool, I want to go there moments). Other head-to-head battles include the key-shaped Tomb of Emperor Nintoku v. the Minoan palace at Knossos; the Bam adobe citadel v. the sacred site of Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau; and the 100,000 statues carved into Longmen Grottoes v. the 1200-foot-long Serpent Mound.

Last year's winning site was the sprawling, spectacular Khmer temple complex Angkor Wat.

*Full disclosure: Years ago I was a staff writer/editor at Archaeology, an AIA publication written for a popular audience. It's a wonderful magazine. You should read it.