The ancient Greeks were the first to chronicle the most magnificent of constructions with the ‘Seven Wonders of the Ancient World’. From the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the Colossus of Rhodes, these marvels of engineering and craftsmanship had an awe-inspiring effect on those that viewed them. Recently, there have been many attempts to update this list of wonders for the modern age. A wide variety of initiatives have been launched, including ‘wonders’ such as the CN Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Internet (kind of cheating if you ask us), and even natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon or the Amazon rainforest. Arguably the most well known when it comes to man-made constructions is the New7Wonders list, which was made public after extensive polling in 2007. We’ll take a look at the Seven Wonders of the World they chose, along with the one honorary member.
1. Chichen Itza
Location: Yucatán, Mexico | Year: AD 600 | Civilization: Maya civilization
Located on the Yucatán Peninsula, this Maya city is one of the finest examples of civilization in the Americas before Europeans arrived. Developed over the course of hundreds of years starting in the 7th century, Chichen Itza grew into one of the largest Maya cities. Though there are many other Maya sites on the Yucatán alone, none of them have captured the imagination quite like this one.
The most famous structure within the complex is El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kukulcan. This pyramid is usually the image used to represent Chichen Itza as a whole with the rest of the city suspiciously absent. Still, the 30m high structure is iconic for a reason, so we used it too (sorry rest of the city).
2. Machu Picchu
Location: Cusco, Peru | Year: AD 1438 | Civilization: Inca
The second ‘wonder’ on this list created by pre-Columbian civilization – Machu Picchu is a remote, high altitude (2430m) Inca ruin. Though it is sometimes referred to as a lost city, it was more likely built as an estate for Inca emperor Pachacuti in the mid 15th century. After it was abandoned about 100 years later during the Spanish conquest, Machu Picchu wasn’t brought back into the public eye until 1911 thanks to American history Hiram Bingham.
The remnants of the old walls and sharp peaks that supply the backdrop make Machu Picchu a breathtaking locale. Its reputation as Peru’s and perhaps South America’s most iconic tourist destination has caused concern amongst preservationists. The large influx of people and the risk of natural disasters could do lasting harm to the landscape. In addition, much to the chagrin of authorities, many tourists enjoy exploring the lost civilization in the nude, because why not?
3. Christ the Redeemer
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | Year: AD 1931 | Civilization: Republic of Brazil
By far the newest construction on this list, Rio de Janeiro’s famous statue dates back less than one hundred years. This art deco statue of Jesus Christ – constructed between 1922 and 1931 – was created by French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by the Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, in collaboration with the French engineer Albert Caquot. From its prime location on the top of Corcovado mountain, Christ the Redeemer omnisciently looms over the city below.
The statue is a lasting symbol of the strong Christian faith in Brazil and has become the most famous landmark in the country. The statue has been vandalized and restored multiple times but it remains as dominant as ever in the Rio de Janeiro landscape.
Location: Rome, Italy | Year: AD 70 | Civilization: Roman Empire
With all the magnificent creations that ancient Rome is responsible for, it’d be criminal not to at least include one. Arguably the most well known is the Colosseum in Rome. As the largest and most famous amphitheatre in the world, the Colosseum is well known as the place of gladiators, public performances, and Russell Crowe. While its use as an entertainment venue ceased during the early Middle Ages, it remains an iconic feature in Rome’s skyline.
A surprising amount of the Colosseum is intact today, especially given how much of it was cannibalized for other purposes following the fall of the Empire. Earthquakes and stone-robbers have steadily chipped away at what was once an even more impressive structure. Still, it speaks to the sheer scale of the Colosseum that what remains today still draws an audible gasp from tourists as they venture inside.
Location: Ma’an Governorate, Jordan | Year: 312 BC | Civilization: Nabataeans
One of the oldest wonders on this list, Petra was founded around 300 BC as the capital of the Nabataeans (who were an ancient Arab people). Located on the slope of Jebel al-Madhbah in a basin amongst the mountains, Petra was discovered by the West in 1812 by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. Because of the colour of the stone used to build it, Petra is sometimes known as the Rose City. Like Chichen Itza, Petra is commonly characterized by a single landmark – in this case, Al Khazneh (one of the more elaborate temples in the city).
As one of the most unique and iconic landmarks in the Arab World, Petra has become especially well know through various films, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. However, while we are certainly not questioning that Petra merits a place on this list, it should be mentioned that the New7Wonders Foundation allegedly received over 14 million votes from Jordan for its inclusion. Suspiciously, Jordan has a population of less than 7 million. Still, this speaks just as much to the passion Jordanian’s have for their national treasure as it does the unscientific nature of the poll. Nevertheless Petra remains a stunning historical treasure worthy of inclusion on our list.
6. Taj Mahal
Location: Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India | Year: AD 1632 | Civilization: Mughal Empire
A relatively recent construction as far as this list is concerned; the Taj Mahal has become the most famous landmark in India and one of the most well known examples of Islamic architecture in the world. Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his favourite wife, the structure has an extremely elegant design despite its relatively morbid purpose.
During World War II, the Taj Mahal was disguised with large amounts of scaffolding to protect it from the attention of bombers. As such, the Taj Mahal remains largely intact today as it was in centuries past. Its heritage stands as a great example of the diversity in Indian cultures and past civilizations. Today, it is helping India by bringing in around 3 million visitors a year (plus foreign tourists have to pay higher fees than domestic sightseers).
7. Great Wall of China
Location: China | Year: 700 BC | Civilization: Ancient Chinese states
Where to begin? The Great Wall of China has been constructed, rebuilt, joined together, and presided over by different powers and regimes for centuries. In total, it goes on for longer than 21000km. So no, you are not going to be able to see it all. There are many different sections that cater to visitors and wall-walkers, many of them close to Beijing.
Built to protect China against nomadic invaders from the north, the Great Wall is the most impressive military fortification on Earth. While it might not be of much use today if Genghis Khan’s ancestors (of which there are many apparently) decide to invade, its sheer size and scale continues to wow visitors from all over the world.
Honorary: Giza Necropolis
Location: Giza, Egypt | Year: 2589 BC | Civilization: Ancient Egypt
The Giza Necropolis, usually just referred to as the Pyramid(s) of Giza, is the only remaining member of the original Seven Wonders of the World from ancient times. Because of this, Egyptians were not overly thrilled that it would competing against much newer creations such as the Sydney Opera House or Statue of Liberty. After much complaint and some less than flattering words about the New7Wonders founder, the Giza Necropolis was removed from the voting and given an honorary eighth spot on the list.
It’s certainly easy to see how this landmark has captured the minds of those who see it for millennia. From the three pyramid complexes known as the Great Pyramids to the Great Sphinx, you can truly say that the ‘Great’ isn’t hyperbole but is, if anything, an understatement. Today, it serves as an enduring memory of the Pharaohs that once ruled the land.
There were plenty of other landmarks (13 losing finalists in fact) that weren’t chosen. These include the Eiffel Tower, Hagia Sophia, the Acropolis, and Stonehenge to name a few. Of course, these were decided by popular vote so all results have to be taken with a grain of salt. But what do you think? What’s your eighth wonder of the world?
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