Wonders of the World has been curated at the author’s discretion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Encyclopedia Britannica or its editorial team. Consult individual encyclopedia entries about the topics for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
In the year 2000, a Swiss charity began a mission to identify the New Seven Wonders of the World. Given that the original Seven Wonders list was prepared in the 2nd century BCE and that just one entrant (the Pyramids of Giza) is still standing, it seemed time for an update. The final results, published in 2007, were received with both cheers and jeers—a number of prominent contenders, such as Athens’ Acropolis, did not make the cut. Are you in agreement with the updated list?
China’s Great Wall as Wonders of the World
China’s Great Wall
Near Beijing, the Great Wall of China.
To say it’s great would be an understatement. The Great Wall of China, one of the world’s largest construction projects, is usually regarded to be roughly 5,500 miles (8,850 km) long; nevertheless, disputed Chinese research states the length is 13,170 miles (21,200 km). Work began in the seventh century BCE and lasted two millennia. Although referred to as a “wall,” the structure really consists of two parallel walls spanning long sections. The barrier is also dotted with watchtowers and barracks. The wall’s effectiveness, on the other hand, was not that great. Despite being constructed to deter invasions and raids, the wall mainly failed to provide true security. Scholars have highlighted that it was more of a “political propaganda” tool.
Chichén Itzá (Tzotzil)
Chichén Itzá, Yucatán state, Mexico, El Castillo, a Toltec-style pyramid
Chichén Itzá is a Mayan metropolis on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula that flourished in the ninth and tenth century CE. A number of notable structures and temples were created by the Mayan tribe Itzá, who was heavily influenced by the Toltecs. The stepped pyramid El Castillo (“The Castle”), which rises 79 feet (24 meters) above the Main Plaza, is one of the most prominent. The building has 365 steps, representing the number of days in the solar year, and is a tribute to the Mayans’ astrological ability. The setting sun casts shadows on the pyramid during the spring and falls equinoxes, giving the illusion of a serpent sliding down the north stairs; at the foot is a stone snakehead. However, life there was not all work and science. The largest tlachtli (a type of sporting field) in the Americas can be found in Chichén Itzá. On the field, the residents engaged in a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican ritual ball game.
Petra as Wonders of the World
Petra, Jordan’s ancient city, is set in a lonely valley surrounded by sandstone mountains and cliffs. It was said to be one of the locations where Moses smote a rock and water poured forth. Later, the Nabataeans, an Arab tribe, made it their capital, and it flourished during this period, becoming an important commercial center, particularly for spices. The Nabataeans were skilled carvers who carved buildings, temples, and tombs into the sandstone, which changed color with the changing light. They also built a water system that allowed for beautiful gardens and farming. Petra allegedly had a population of 30,000 people at its peak. However, as trade routes changed, the city began to collapse. A severe earthquake in 363 CE exacerbated the situation, and after another tremor struck in 551, Petra was eventually abandoned. Despite being unearthed in 1912, it was mostly overlooked by archaeologists until the late twentieth century, and many doubts regarding the city persist.
Machu Picchu, Peru as Wonders of the World
Peru’s Machu Picchu
Hiram Bingham “found” an Incan site in Cuzco, Peru, in 1911, believing it was Vilcabamba, a hidden Incan fortress utilized during the 16th-century rebellion against Spanish control. Although that allegation was ultimately debunked, the function of Machu Picchu has perplexed academics. Bingham believed it was the home of the “Virgins of the Sun,” women who lived in convents under a chastity vow. Others say it was a pilgrimage destination, while others claim it was a royal retreat. (One thing it should not be, apparently, is the location of a beer commercial.) A crane employed for such an advertisement toppled and shattered a monument in 2000.) What is known is that Machu Picchu is one of the few great pre-Columbian monuments that have been discovered almost completely intact. Despite its remoteness high in the Andes, it has agricultural terraces, plazas, residential areas, and temples.
Jesus Christ, the Redeemer
Statue of Christ the Redeemer
Christ the Redeemer, a massive statue of Jesus, stands atop Rio de Janeiro’s Mount Corcovado. Its beginnings can be traced back to the immediate aftermath of World War I when some Brazilians feared a “flood of godlessness.” They offered a statue, which Heitor da Silva Costa, Carlos Oswald, and Paul Landowski eventually designed. Construction started in 1926 and was finished five years later. The resulting monument is 98 feet (30 meters) tall (not including its base, which is around 26 feet (8 meters) tall), with 92 feet of spread arms (28 meters). Christ the Redeemer is composed of reinforced concrete and has roughly six million tiles covering it. The statue has frequently been struck by lightning, and the tip of Jesus’ right thumb was broken during a storm in 2014.
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Colosseum as Wonders of the World
Emperor Vespasian ordered the building of the Colosseum in the Roman empire in the first century, and it was built. The amphitheater is a feat of engineering, measuring 620 by 513 feet (189 by 156 meters) and featuring a complicated vault system. It could hold 50,000 people who came to see a variety of events. Gladiator bouts were perhaps the most famous, but men battling animals was also widespread. In addition, water was occasionally pumped into the Colosseum to simulate naval battles. The notion that Christians were killed there, specifically by being thrown to lions, isn’t a sure thing. Around 500,000 people died in the Colosseum, according to some estimates. Furthermore, so many animals were trapped and then slaughtered there that several species are said to have become extinct.
The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal
This mausoleum complex in Agra, India, is considered one of the world’s most iconic structures and is considered to be the absolute epitome of Mughal architecture. Emperor Shah Jahn (reigned 1628–58) commissioned it to remember his wife Mumtaz Mahal (“Chosen One of the Palace”), who died in 1631 while giving birth to her 14th child. The project, which includes a massive park with a reflecting pool, took around 22 years and 20,000 laborers to build. The mausoleum is constructed of white marble with semiprecious stones in geometric and floral motifs. It has a magnificent central dome flanked by four lesser domes. According to certain accounts, Shah Jahn desired his own mausoleum built of black marble. However, before any construction could begin, he was overthrown by one of his sons.