What are the Seven Wonders of the Modern World
If you were in a pub quiz where they asked "what are the seven wonders of the world?", it would be fair to quibble over what is the 'correct' answer. This is because there are many lists of the seven wonders of the world. The most famous, perhaps, are the seven wonders of the ancient world, their compilation beginning somewhere in the 1st or 2nd century BC. In 2000 AD, a new list of the seven wonders of the modern world was proposed. It asked the world to vote from a shortlist of existing world heritage sites. In 2007, the ballots were in and the decision had been made. oneHOWTO finds out what are the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and shows how these are considered more wonderful than others.
The Great Wall of China, China.
There is little doubt that the Great Wall of China is a wonder of construction. However, it is one which has lots of misinformation and mythology surrounding it. One such misconception is that it is a wall. In fact, the Great Wall of China was actually based on several walls which had been built to protect different regions from attack. These walls were eventually joined together to form the one Great Wall, some claiming their construction began in the 7th Century BC.
It is unlikely any of the original walls would have survived. This is partly due to the materials with which they were built being unable to withstand the centuries. It is also partly due to Qin Shi Huang, known as the First Emperor. He wanted to reset the boundaries, so he destroyed some of the original walls and built new ones. This started in 221 BC after various victories which unified China. This would allow for the wall to be erected to protect the one area. Various dynasties worked on the wall up until 1644 due to the fall of the Ming Dynasty at that time.
This wonder of the modern world still stands today and is an incredibly popular tourist attraction. It is estimated to be 5,500 miles long making it the largest of the list of seven wonders of the modern world. However, this leads to another myth, perhaps one of the biggest myths of our modern world. This is the belief that The Great Wall of China can be seen from space.
The idea that the structure can be seen from space was started in 1754,long before space travel was even possible. It is referenced as being visible from the moon many times after, but this would be a complete impossibility with the naked eye. Even in earth's orbit it is not believed to be visible.
Unlike The Great Wall of China, this next wonder of the modern world was not so much built up as carved out. A stunning example of ancient architectural and engineering acuity, Petra was founded around 300 BC by the Nabataean kingdom. These were an Arabic people who originally named it after the king Raqmu. The Greeks gave it the name Petra, meaning "stone" or "rock". It is still a mystery as to why the original settlers moved to Petra as the early Nabataeans were a desert people. Perhaps it came from their wealth as they were known to have controlled the spice route at the time.
It's almost unique construction was carried out by painstakingly carving the red sandstone to create the dwellings and meeting places. In some ways, this makes it almost like a giant statue. Its survival as an ancient city is all the more impressive when you realize it wads engineered in such a way it was able to sluice water which otherwise would have destroyed the buildings and drowned its inhabitants.
There are many tombs in the ancient city. Despite their efforts, time has eroded much of what would have been originally constructed. This left the tombs open to thieves and the treasures which were once encased therein are now gone. It is a popular tourist destination now, but this does not take away how impressive the city is.
Christ the Redeemer, in Brazil
This statue of Jesus Christ was built in 1931 in Rio de Janeiro. It stands 38 metres tall, weighs more than 600 metric tonnes and is located on top of Corcovado Mountain, 709 metres above sea level. It was designed by the Brazilian sculptor Heitor da Silva Costa and executed by the French sculptor Paul Landowski. However, the face of the Christ was designed by Landowski's accomplice Gheorghe Leonida, a Romanian sculptor.
The statue is made in the art deco style popular in the early 20th century. It is made from reinforced concrete and soapstone, the latter because of its relative durability and luminescence. It was funded largely by appealing to Brazilian Catholics who were concerned about a lack of faith in the country. This reflects the original religious symbolism of many of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World.
Also akin to the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Christ statue is not exempt from inclement weather. Lightning strikes have caused structural damage, even knocking off the tip of a finger in 2014. The concrete also is worn by rain and the soapstone is in such short supply, that you can no longer find the original shade, so darker ones have to be used. This all makes us wonder if this wonder will still be around in 2,000 years.
Machu Picchu, in Peru
Like Petra, this Modern World Wonder was not a monument to be looked at, but a place where people lived. Also similar to Petra was the fact that the religious elements of this society where taken into consideration during its construction. Like Teotihuacan in Mexico, it has a Temple of the Sun dedicated to the perceived sun god which provided for their farming. There were also houses for holy persons and ceremonial practices like sacrificial offerings.
It was home to an Incan civilization who engineered an incredibly intricate ecosystem with about 200 buildings in total. At the top was the temple, but the rest was divided into a an essential class system of social housing. The Popular district is where the "lower-class" people resided, while there was a royalty area for the more well off.
The construction itself is incredible for the time. It was built at an altitude of 2,350 metres, yet no wheels were used to carry the rocks. A technique known as "ashlar" was used to create the walls and building structures. It involved cutting the stones exactly to fit next to each other. Their design is so accurate, you cannot fit a pin into the spaces between the stones, perhaps a reason why it has endured for so long.
The Incas abandoned the city in 1540 with the arrival of Spanish conquistadors. It is thought they died of a disease such as small pox which was introduced by the imperialist invaders. The site was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham, an American professor from Yale university, in 1911, but was only granted historic sanctuary status by Peru in 1981.
The pyramid in Chichen Itza, in Mexico
Another Modern Wonder of the World which incorporates religion and society is the Mayan city of Chichen Itza in modern day Mexico, in the southern Yucatan. The city is believed to have been built beginning from approximately 435 AD, but its greatest importance was to come a few centuries later rising from around 600 AD, but falling from dominance around 1250 AD.
Like Machu Pichu, its design integrity became more elaborate as archaeologists and historians studied the area. The main structure and one of its great draws as a tourist site is El Castillo (Spanish for "the castle"). The Mayans are well known for their influence on how we recognize time as they invented the 365 day calendar. One of the most incredible aspects of El Castillo is its positioning. During the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun shines on the pyramid in such a way that the steps create a shadow against a balustrade. At the bottom of this balustrade is a stone serpent's head. The shadow winds it way down at sunset on these two days and looks like a full snake with the body joining the head. The engineers who created this feat were obviously very knowledgeable about how the sun appears in the sky.
There were also ballcourts where the Mayans would play their own ball game, the rules of which have been lost to time. There is also the "sacred cenote", a large natural well which was used for rituals and worship. It was thought to be used to sacrifice or to test people by throwing them in the pool. It has many myths and legends surrounding it and dredging of the cenote has led to the discovery of some incredible artefacts.
The Colosseum, in Italy
This Modern Wonder of the World is not hidden away as is Machu Pichu or Petra. Instead it is part of one of the most significant historical and cultural centres of the Western World, located as it is in the middle of Rome. It is an amphitheatre, which means it is an outside theatre used for sport and ceremony. It is the largest one ever built and was initially known as the Amphitheatrum Flavium thanks to its creation by a series of emperors known as the Favian Dynasty. However, it likely got its current name thanks to a 30 meter statue of Emperor Nero which stood nearby, but did not have the longevity of its current namesake.
Construction began in the centre of Rome in 72 AD, but it was inaugurated in 80 AD. The Colosseum is 48 metres tall, 188 metres long and 156 metres wide. Each level has 80 arches. Some of the events which took place there included gladiatorial battles (made famous by movies such as Gladiator), but also had artistic ceremonies and religious processions.
Quite fantastically, there is a belief that sea battles were reenacted in the Colosseum, but this has not been proven. Unfortunately many people met gruesome ends, sometimes being fed to predatory animals. Often the animals themselves would be hunted and killed in front of a baying crowd. It is now frequented daily by tourists wanting to see a piece of history still (partially) standing for themselves.
The Taj Mahal, in India
While other Wonders of the World in this list were built to worship gods, to house many people or to host public rituals, the Taj Mahal has the distinction of being built in honor of one person. While it may look like a grand mosque or similar, it is actually a mausoleum. Within lies the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, the chief consort of Shah Jahan (described as "his favorite wife"). She died giving birth to their fourteenth child.
It was erected between 1631 and 1654 in the city of Agra by the Muslim emperor. 20,000 people participated in its construction and it features several completely symmetrical sections. It has a complex system of buildings with the tomb in the middle being the central focus. The marble dome at the top of the tomb is nearly 115 ft high and it is thought to resemble an onion.
While the exterior is well known from television images and postcards, the interior shines just as brightly in terms of decor. There are carved marble flowers, intricate painted ceilings, awe inspiring arch ways and calligraphy inside with various quotations. The outside gardens are beautiful and a famous reflecting pool allows visitors to enjoy their own reflections at this particular wonder.
As we have referenced the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World so much in this article, here is a list of them below:
- The Great Pyramid of Giza
- Hanging Gardens of Babylon
- Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
- Statue of Zeus at Olympia
- Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
- Colossus of Rhodes
- Lighthouse of Alexandria
Out of all these Ancient Wonders, only the Great Pyramid of Giza remains extant. The rest have been lost to nature or revolution.
The Seven Wonders of the Modern World were chosen by a voting system which was open to the world. It began in 2000 and the votes were collected and announced in 2007. The Swiss organization which created the scheme was called New7Wonders and the idea was to bring a new system in which wanted to highlight some of the newer wonders which inspire people all over the globe.
There was some criticism of the New7Wonders scheme as, although funded through donations, the company behind it is a commercial entity which does profit from royalties and sponsorship. More controversy was courted when it was discovered that certain countries pushed their own wonder with incentive such as free text messages and advertising. This may have skewed the results, but the wonders in contention still meet the criteria.
Many Wonders of the World lists exist, more than the New7Wonders initiative. One notable one was not voted on by the public, but by the American Society of Civil Engineers. This list was made to recognize the incredible feats of engineering which have been been carried out in the modern age (not to say that the attractions above are not incredible feats of engineering). They are as follows:
- Panama Canal
- Delta Works/Zuiderzee Works in the Netherlands
- The Channel Tunnel between France and England
- Empire State Building in New York, USA
- Itaipu Dam between Brazil and Paraguay
- CN Tower in Toronto, Canada
- Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA
Many of these engineering marvels are designed to connect trade routes. These show the more globalized state of how the world works between these wonders compared to the New7Wonders list. The latter list is more concerned with local culture, establishing communities and even, in the case of the Great Wall of China, a way to keep people out. In a few hundred years time, it will be interesting to see what the next set of Wonders of the World will say about our increasingly global culture.
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