Seven Wonders of the World

The Original Ancient Wonders


The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (often called simply, the Seven Wonders of the World) is a list of man-made structures built during the classical era. Scholars believe that ancient historians began compiling the list in the second century B.C. The final list of the Seven Wonders that we currently reference was defined in the Middle Ages.

The Great Pyramid at Giza
Cairo, Egypt
Noted for being the only surviving member of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramid is the largest of the 3 pyramids built in the ancient city of Giza, now part of greater Cairo, Egypt. The pyramid is believed to have been built around 2560 B.C. as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, and likely took 20 years to construct. (Egyptologists argue over man-power numbers, and estimates have ranged from 14,000 to 360,000 men). When built, the pyramid measured nearly 480 feet high, with the sides each measuring about 755 feet long. In addition, each side is oriented with one of the cardinal points (north, south, east and west). Nearly 2.3 million blocks of stone, each weighing approximately 2 tons, comprise the pyramid. The pyramid remained the world's tallest building for 4 millennia after it was built.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Al-Hillah, Iraq
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are said to have been built by Nebuchadnezzar II, a ruler of Babylon, around 600 B.C. Though historians often debate the actual existence of the gardens, because there's no physical evidence and Babylonian documents never mention them (Greek scholars first described the gardens), accounts state that the gardens consisted of vaulted terraces raised above one another and supported on pillars -- in other words, an artificial rising mountain of gardens. The terraces were filled with dirt and planted with trees and flora, which were said to hang over the sides. The amazement over the gardens stems from what would have been an extraordinarily complicated irrigation system, which brought water from the Euphrates to the gardens in an otherwise arid environment. The gardens are thought to have been destroyed by an earthquake around the first century B.C.

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Selcuk, Turkey
Completed around 550 B.C. to honor the Greek goddess of hunting and nature, the Temple of Artemis was built during the Achaemenid Dynasty of the Persian Empire. Arson destroyed the temple in 356 B.C. The ancient author and philosopher Pliny described the temple as being 377 feet long and 180 feet wide (about 3 times the size of the Parthenon), with 127 Ionic columns measuring 60 feet high, and made solely of marble. Used as both a marketplace and a place of worship, the temple housed numerous works of art and sculpture.

Statue of Zeus at Olympia
Olympia, Greece

This enormous statue honoring the god Zeus was built at the Temple of Zeus in Olympia around 450 B.C. Designed by the Greek sculptor Pheidias, the statue of a seated Zeus measured 40 feet tall and was carved from ivory with gold-plated accents. The statue depicts him seated on a cedar throne inlaid with jewels, holding a statue of Nike (goddess of victory) in his right hand and a scepter with an eagle on top in his left hand. Various theories exist to explain the statue's destruction. Some scholars believe that it was destroyed along with the temple in the fifth century. Others argue that the statue was brought to Constantinople, where it was destroyed in a fire in A.D. 462.

Tomb of Maussollos at Halicarnassus
Southwestern Turkey
The tomb built to hold the remains of the Persian king Mausollos and his wife, Artemisia, was designed by the Greek architects Satyrus and Pythius and constructed around 353 B.C. on a hill overlooking the ancient city of Halicarnassus. The tomb stood 135 feet high, and its exterior was surrounded by an ornamental frieze. Numerous statues, bas-reliefs and columns decorated the exterior of the ornate and enormous tomb, and eventually the term "mausoleum" became used to describe any large and impressive tomb. Multiple earthquakes ultimately led to the destruction of the tomb in the 14th century.

Colossus at Rhodes
Rhodes, Greece
The Colossus of Rhodes was actually an enormous, looming 100-foot tall statue of the Greek god Helios, built on the island of Rhodes around 280 B.C. The statue was erected to commemorate the island's patron god, Helios, after Rhodes successfully defended itself in 304 B.C. from an invasion. Scholars believe that the statue stood either on a pedestal at the entrance to the island's harbor or on a breakwater in the harbor. An earthquake destroyed the statue in 226 B.C., a mere 54 years after its construction.

Lighthouse of Alexandria
Pharos Island, Alexandria, Egypt
Scholars estimate the Lighthouse of Alexandria measured between 383 and 450 feet high and was built in the third century B.C. to act as a landmark for Pharos, a small island off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. The lighthouse's tower was built using light-colored stone, and at its highest point, a mirror was placed to reflect sunlight during the day; at night a fire burned to give off light. Some historians believe that the light given off could be seen for some 35 miles. The lighthouse was damaged by 2 earthquakes in 1303 and 1323, and its remains were destroyed in 1480, when a fort was built on the site.

Chichen Itza is the largest known city of the Mayan civilization, located in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The powerful city flourished from AD 800 to 1200 and was a trading center for cloth, slaves, honey and salt. 960 1280


The main attraction of Chichen Itza is the pyramid also known as El Castillo. Built sometime between 1000 and 1200, the pyramid was used as a temple to the god Kukulkan. Archaeologists believe that the pyramid also served as a calendar for the Mayas. In total it has 365 steps -- one for each day of the year. 960 1280


The Christ the Redeemer statue stands at the top of the 2,330-foot-tall Corcovado Mountain, looming over the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 960 1280


The 130-foot-tall statue of Jesus Christ was completed in 1931 and is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone. It is one of the largest Art Deco statues in the world, and it weighs in at 2.5 million pounds. 960 1280


The Roman Colosseum was built between AD 70 and 80, and it was in used for gladiatorial events, battle reenactments, animal hunts and other performances for 500 years. 960 1280


The Colosseum sat nearly 50,000 spectators, and its design still influences the construction of modern-day amphitheaters. Earthquakes and stone-robbers have left the Colosseum in a state of ruin, but portions of the structure remain open to tourists. 960 1280


The Great Wall of China, actually a series of many walls, stretches 5,500 miles across northern China. 960 1280


Built between the 5th and 16th centuries BC to protect China's borders from invasion by nomadic tribes, the Great Wall is the world's longest manmade structure. 960 1280


Machu Picchu, a 15th-century Inca archaeological site, sits 7,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains of Peru. It is often referred to as the 'Lost City of the Incas,' because it was known only to locals until it was discovered in 1911 by American historian Hiram Bingham. 960 1280


Archaeologists estimate that 1,200 Incas could have lived in Machu Picchu, although many believe it was most likely a retreat for Incan rulers, built as an estate for the emperor Pachacuti (1438-1472). 960 1280

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Petra, an archeological city in Jordan, is known for its dusty pink buildings carved out of rock and its impressive water conduit system. Built sometime around the 6th century BC, Petra was the capital city of the Nabataeans. 960 1280


The entrance to the city of Petra is through a narrow gorge, flanked on either side by 250-foot cliffs. The most recognizable building in Petra is the Treasury, carved completely out of rock as a tomb for a Nanataean king. The building's façade stands almost 150 feet high. 960 1280


Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan was so distraught by the passing of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal, that he commissioned an elaborate mausoleum to be built for her. The Taj Mahal shines as a symbol of eternal love and was built entirely of white marble. Construction stretched over a period of 22 years, beginning in the 1630s. 960 1280


The Taj Mahal, located in Agra, India, is just one part of a vast complex that consists of a main gateway, an elaborate garden, a mosque, a guest house and several other magnificent buildings. 960 1280


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