NEW WORLD WONDERS
GREAT WALL OF CHINA (CHINA)
Built between the 5th century B.C. and the 16th century, the Great Wall of China is a stone-and-earth fortification created to protect the borders of the Chinese Empire from invading Mongols. The Great Wall is actually a succession of multiple walls spanning approximately 4,000 miles, making it the world's longest manmade structure.
CHRIST THE REDEEMER STATUE (RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL)
The Art Deco-style Christ the Redeemer statue has been looming over the Brazilians from upon Corcovado mountain in an awe-inspiring state of eternal blessing since 1931. The 130-foot reinforced concrete-and-soapstone statue was designed by Heitor da Silva Costa and cost approximately $250,000 to build - much of the money was raised through donations. The statue has become an easily recognised icon for Rio and Brazil.
MACHU PICCHU (CUSCO, PERU)
Machu Picchu, an Incan city of sparkling granite precariously perched between 2 towering Andean peaks, is thought by scholars to have been a sacred archaeological center for the nearby Incan capital of Cusco. Built at the peak of the Incan Empire in the mid-1400s, this mountain citadel was later abandoned by the Incas. The site remained unknown except to locals until 1911, when it was rediscovered by archaeologist Hiram Bingham. The site can only be reached by foot, train or helicopter; most visitors visit by train from nearby Cusco.
CHICHEN ITZA (YUCATAN PENINSULA, MEXICO)
The genius and adaptability of Mayan culture can be seen in the splendid ruins of Chichen Itza. This powerful city, a trading centre for cloth, slaves, honey and salt, flourished from approximately 800 to 1200, and acted as the political and economic hub of the Mayan civilization. The most familiar ruin at the site is El Caracol, a sophisticated astronomical observatory.
THE ROMAN COLOSSEUM (ROME, ITALY)
Rome's, if not Italy's, most enduring icon is undoubtedly its Colosseum. Built between A.D. 70 and 80 A.D., it was in use for some 500 years. The elliptical structure sat nearly 50,000 spectators, who gathered to watch the gladiatorial events as well as other public spectacles, including battle reenactments, animal hunts and executions. Earthquakes and stone-robbers have left the Colosseum in a state of ruin, but portions of the structure remain open to tourists, and its design still influences the construction of modern-day amphitheaters, some 2,000 years later.
TAJ MAJAL (AGRA, INDIA)
A mausoleum commissioned for the wife of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the Taj Majal was built between 1632 and 1648. Considered the most perfect specimen of Muslim art in India, the white-marble Taj Majal actually represents a number of architectural styles, including Persian, Islamic, Turkish and Indian. The Taj Majal also encompasses formal gardens of raised pathways, sunken flower beds and a linear reflecting pool.
PETRA (JEBEL AL-MADHBAH, JORDAN)
Declared a World Heritage Site in 1985, Petra was the capital of the Nabataean empire of King Aretas IV, and likely existed in its prime from 9 B.C. to A.D. 40. The members of this civilization proved to be early experts in manipulating water technology, constructing intricate tunnels and water chambers, which helped create an pseudo-oasis. A number of incredible structures carved into stone, a 4,000-seat amphitheater and the El-Deir monastery have also helped the site earn its fame.
ANCIENT WORLD WONDERS
GREAT PYRAMID AT GIZA
Unfortunately of the original seven, only the Great Pyramid exists today. The Great Pyramid at Giza was constructed around 2584 1 BCE for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu and was the tallest man made structure in the world for almost 4,000 years. Excavations of the interior of the pyramid were only initiated in earnest in the late 18th and early 19th centuries CE and so the intricacies of the interior which so intrigue modern people were unknown to the ancient writers. It was the structure itself with its perfect symmetry and imposing height which impressed ancient visitors.
STATUE OF ZEUS AT OLYMPIA
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was created by the great Greek sculptor Phidias. The statue depicted the god Zeus seated on his throne, his skin of ivory and robes of hammered gold, and was 40 feet (12 m) tall, designed to inspire awe in the worshippers who came to the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. The Temple fell into ruin after the rise of Christianity and the ban on the Olympic Games as `pagan rites’. The statue was carried off to Constantinople where it was later destroyed, sometime in either the 5th or 6th centuries CE, by an earthquake.
HANGING GARDENS OF BABYLON
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, if they existed as described, were built by Nebuchadnezzar II between 605-562 BCE as a gift to his wife. They are described by the ancient writer Diodorus Siculus as being self-watering planes of exotic flora and fauna reaching a height of over 75 feet (23 metres) through a series of climbing terraces. Diodorus wrote that Nebuchadnezzar's wife, Amtis of Media, missed the mountains and flowers of her homeland and so the king commanded that a mountain be created for her in Babylon. They were destroyed by an earthquake sometime after the 1st century CE.
TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS AT EPHESOS
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, a Greek colony in Asia Minor, took over 120 years to build and only one night to destroy. Completed in 550 BCE, the temple was 425 feet (about 129 m) high, 225 feet (almost 69 m) wide, and supported by 60 foot (about 18 m) high columns. Sponsored by the wealthy King Croesus of Lydia, who spared no expense in anything he did, the temple was so magnificent that every account of it is written with the same tone of awe and each agrees with the other that this was among the most amazing structures ever raised by humans.
MAUSOLEUM OF HALICARNASSUS
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was the tomb of the Persian Satrap Mauslos, built in 351 BCE. Mauslos chose Halicarnassus as his capital city, and he and his beloved wife Artemisia went to great lengths to create a city whose beauty would be unmatched in the world. Mauslos died in 353 BCE and Artemisia wished to create a final resting place worthy of such a great king. The tomb was 135 feet (41 m) tall and ornately decorated with fine sculpture. It was destroyed by a series of earthquakes and lay in ruin for hundreds of years until, in 1494 CE, it was completely dismantled and used by the Knights of St. John of Malta in the building of their castle at Bodrum (where the ancient stones can still be seen today). It is from the tomb of Mauslos that the English word `mausoleum’ is derived.
COLOSSUS OF RHODES
The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the god Helios (the patron god of the island of Rhodes) constructed between 292 and 280 BCE. It stood over 110 feet (just over 33 m) high overlooking the harbor of Rhodes and, despite fanciful depictions to the contrary, stood with its legs together on a base (much like the Statue of Liberty in the harbor off New York City in the United States of America) and did not straddle the harbour. The statue was commissioned after the defeat of the invading army of Demetrius in 304 BCE. Demetrius left behind much of his siege equipment and weaponry and this was sold by the Rhodians for 300 talents (approximately 360 million U.S. dollars) which money they used to build the Colossus. The statue stood for only 56 years before it was destroyed by an earthquake in 226 BCE. It lay in impressive ruin for over 800 years, according to Strabo, and was still a tourist attraction.
LIGHTHOUSE OF ALEXANDRIA
The Lighthouse at Alexandria, built on the island of Pharos, stood close to 440 feet (134m) in height and was commissioned by Ptolemy I Soter. Construction was completed sometime around 280 BCE. The lighthouse was the third tallest human-made structure in the world (after the pyramids) and its light (a mirror which reflected the sun’s rays by day and a fire by night) could be seen as far as 35 miles out to sea. The lighthouse was badly damaged in an earthquake in 956 CE, again in 1303 CE and 1323 CE and, by the year 1480 CE, it was gone. The Egyptian fort Quaitbey now stands on the site of the Pharos, built with some of the stones from the ruins of the lighthouse.