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Year 7: Ancient Wonders

Ancient Wonders

UNESCO and World Heritage


Check out what the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has to say about World Heritage.

Criteria for selection as a world heritage area

Ancient Wonders Choices

The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient fortress located on a rocky outcrop above the city, containing the remains of several ancient buildings (including the Parthenon). It is the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex still existing in our times, and was planned and constructed under the guidance of the great general and statesman Pericles of Athens (495 - 429 BC). Wishing to create a lasting monument which would both honour the goddess Athena (who presided over Athens) and proclaim the glory of the city to the world, Pericles spared no expense in the construction of the Acropolis.

Encyclopedia Britannica database: Acropolis

World History Encyclopedia: Acropolis Acropolis

Athens Acropolis

Angkor Wat is an enormous Buddhist temple complex located in northern Cambodia, and is the largest religious structure in the world by and area, measuring 162.6 hectares. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of four towers surrounding a central spire that rises to a height of 65 m above the ground. It was originally built in the first half of the 12th century as a Hindu temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, Its name translates to “temple city” in the Khmer language of the region.

Encyclopedia Britannica database: Angkor Wat

World History Encyclopedia: Angkor Wat

World Famous Unsolved Mysteries: The jungles of Angkor 
Ebook chapter.

Odynovo Tours: Top 10 Facts about Angkor Wat 

Khan Academy: Angkor Wat

Old Bagan, Myanmar is an ancient city  in the Mandalay Region of Myanmar. From the 9th to 13th centuries, the city was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom,the first kingdom that unified the regions that would later constitute Myanmar. During the kingdom's height between the 11th and 13th centuries, more than 10,000 Buddhist  temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2200 temples and pagodas survive.

Inside Asia: Bagan

Wonder Bagan: History of Bagan

Bagan: History, Temples and Pagodas

History of the Bagan Empire 

Bagan, Myanmar: Traditional and Historical Architecture

Borubudur is a 7th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple on the island of Java, Indonesia. It is the world's largest Buddhist temple, an ancient site widely considered to be one of the world’s seven wonders. The monument is a marvel of design, and is a temple consisting of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. It is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues.

*Note: there are various spellings: e.g. Borubudur, Borobudur, Barabudur etc.

Encyclopedia Britannica database: Borobudur

World History Encyclopedia: Borobudur

National Geographic: Borubudur National Compounds

Khan Academy: Borobudur: Temple in Indonesia

Wonderful Indonesia: Borobudur

The Bradshaw or Gwion Gwion rock paintings are sophisticated paintings dotted across approximately 100,000 sites spread over an area of 50,000 square kilometres (the size of some small countries). They are thought to be at least 17,000, perhaps more than 25,000 years old. (Compare this to the famed Egyptian hieroglyphs which are a mere 5,000 years old.). Today the Ngarinyin people of the Kimberley are the custodians of this art form. The ancient Bradshaw rock paintings are very different to any other Aboriginal rock art found in Australia. They depict graceful human figures engaged in display or hunt. Figures are beautifully painted, adorned with tassels, hair ornaments and even clothing. 

Bradshaw Foundation: Bradshaw Paintings

Creative Spirits: Bradshaw (Gwion Gwion) Rock Art

Convict Creations: The Lost World of the Bradshaws

The Australian: Secrets of the Stones

Australia for Everyone: Gwion (Bradshaw) Rock Art

Sydney Morning Herald: Why Scientists are Intrigued by the Gwion Gwion Rock Art 

Chichén Itzá is a ruined ancient Mayan city occupying an area of 10 square km in south-central Yucatan state in Mexico. It is a sacred site, thought to have been a religious, military, political, and commercial centre that at its peak would have been home to 35,000 people. It has a nearly 1,000 year old history, Maya priests in Chichen Itza sacrificed children to petition the gods for rain and fertile fields by throwing them into sacred sinkhole caves, known as “cenotes.” The caves served as a source of water for the Mayans and were also thought to be an entrance to the underworld. 

Encyclopedia Britannica database: Chichén Itzá

Chichen Itza

World History Encyclopedia: Chichen Itza

National Geographic: Chichen Itza

The Colosseum is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, just east of the Roman Forum. It is the largest ancient amphitheatre ever built, and is still the largest standing amphitheatre in the world today, despite its age. Measuring 189 metres long, 156 metres wide and 50 metres in height, it could seat around 50,000 spectators for a variety of events. These included gladiator contests, animal hunts and re-enactments of famous battles.

Encyclopedia Britannica database: Colosseum

World History Encyclopedia: Colosseum

National Geographic: Colosseum Colosseum

Easter Island Moai Statues, Chile - In 1722, Dutch explorers found a remote island in the Pacific off the coast of Chile dotted with hundreds of huge stone statues. Where had the Islanders originally come from? Why and how had they built the figures? There are nearly 900 moai on Easter Island, in various stages of construction. Opinions differ widely on how they were moved and raised (Some think they were walked; others that they were pushed on log rollers.) but no one disputes the years of effort involved in getting the statues carved and into place. Some stones weighed 80 tons, twice the weight of Stonehenge's, and were transported 16km from the quarry.

Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications that were built across the historical northern borders of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China as protection against various nomadic groups from the Eurasian Steppe, such as Genghis Khan. It is one of the largest building-construction projects ever undertaken. The Great Wall actually consists of numerous walls—many of them parallel to each other—built over some two millennia across northern China and southern Mongolia. The main wall is around 3,460 km long with an extra 2,860 km of branches and spurs

Encyclopedia Britannica database: Great Wall of China

World History Encyclopedia: Great Wall of China

National Geographic: Great Wall of China Great Wall of China

Great Zimbabwe is an ancient African city in the south-eastern hills of Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe and the town of Masvingo. It is thought to have been the capital of a great kingdom, during the country's late Iron Age (1200 BC – 332 BC). The stone city spans an area of 7.22 square kilometres which, at its peak, could have housed up to 18,000 people. Great Zimbabwe is believed to have served as a royal palace for the local monarch and the seat of political power. Among the edifice's most prominent features were its walls, some of which are eleven metres high.[5] They were constructed without mortar (dry stone). Eventually, the city was abandoned and fell into ruin. Great Zimbabwe has since been adopted as a national monument by the Zimbabwean government, and the modern independent state was named after it. The word great distinguishes the site from the many hundreds of small ruins, now known as "zimbabwes", spread across the Zimbabwe Highveld.

Encyclopedia Britannica: Great Zimbabwe

World History Encyclopedia: Great Zimbabwe

National Geographic: Great Zimbabwe

The Guardian: Lost Cities #9: Racism and Ruin - the plundering of Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe 
Ebook chapter from Cox, Reg; Morris, Neil, Seven Wonders of the Medieval World, 1995

Lascaux is famous for its Palaeolithic cave paintings, found in a complex of caves in the Dordogne region of southwestern France, because of their exceptional quality, size, sophistication and antiquity. The are the combined efforts of many generations, and are estimated to be anywhere up to 20,000 years old, and the paintings consist primarily of large animals, once native to the region. Horses are the most numerous, but deer, aurochs, ibex, bison, and even some felines can also be found.

Encyclopedia Britannica database: Lascaux Cave paintings discovered

The cave art paintings of the Lascaux Caves

Musée Archoléogie Nationale: Lascaux

World History Encyclopedia: Lascaux Cave

Machu Picchu, Peru - This is one of the most iconic and important archeological sites in the world, but the origins of the Inca's Machu Picchu remain a mystery. The Inca left no record of why they built the site 600 years ago,or how they used it before it was abandoned in the early16th century. It is amazing that this dramatic and towering fortress of stone cut from cliffs was fashioned by men without the wheel, tools or mortar, yet the stones fit so tightly together that not even a knife's blade could fit between them.

Mesa Verde National Park is in southwest Colorado. It's known for its well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, notably the huge Cliff Palace. The Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum has exhibits on the ancient Native American culture. Mesa Top Loop Road winds past archaeological sites and overlooks, including Sun Point Overlook with panoramic canyon views. Petroglyph Point Trail has several rock carvings.

Encyclopedia Britannica database: Mesa Verde National Park

National Geographic: Mesa Verde National Park

US National Park Service: Mesa Verde National Park.

LiveScience: Cliff dwellings of the Anasazi

National Park Foundation: Palaces of the past - Mesa Verde National Park

Mungo Man, Central Australia - When the bones of Australia's oldest and most complete human were unearthed in the 1970s, it rewrote history. Dubbed 'Mungo Man' after the dried-up lake basin where he was found, the skeleton dates back about 42,000 years, and is the world's first evidence of a human ritual burial, a cremation. Mungo Man provided a further glimpse into a past that all of a sudden appeared far more complex than archaeologists across the world had previously thought possible The Discovery Sent Shockwaves Through Archaeology, But the Remains of Mungo Man Still Hold Secrets of First Australians

St Stephen's School: Mungo Man

Visit Mungo: Mungo Lady and Mungo Man

ABC Science: Mungo Man

The Nazca Lines are a collection of giant geoglyphs—designs or motifs etched into the ground—located in the Peruvian coastal plain about 400 kilometers south of Lima, Peru. Created by the ancient Nazca culture in South America, and depicting various plants, animals, and shapes, the 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines can only be fully appreciated when viewed from the air given their massive size. Despite being studied for over 80 years, the geoglyphs—which were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994—are still a mystery to researchers.

nazca-lines-spider | SearchOfLife Blog | Flickr

The Care and Feeding of the Uffington White Horse Through More Than 100  Generations

White Horse of Uffington,  a prehistoric hill figure, 110 m long, formed from deep trenches filled with crushed white chalk.

Ötzi, also called the Iceman, was mummified naturally in the glacier ice. Due to the length of time he lay in the snow and ice, the body dehydrated, i.e. much of the body fluid was lost. Most mummies were treated with substances to preserve them as part of ritual burial after their organs had been removed. Ötzi is unique in that he has been preserved almost in his entirety. He lived between 3400 and 3100 BC, discovered in September 1991 in the Ötztal Alps on the border between Austria and Italy. Ötzi is believed to have been murdered, due to the discovery of an arrowhead embedded in his left shoulder and various other wounds.

Encyclopedia Britannica database: Otzi

St Stephens College Library - Otzi Information

Otzi the Iceman

Penn Museum - Expedition Magazine: Otzi the Iceman

Petra, Jordan Archaeology and History | National Geographic

Inhabited since prehistoric times, this Nabataean caravan-city, situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, was an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. It is one of the world's most famous archaeological sites, where ancient Eastern traditions blend with Hellenistic architecture.

Encyclopedia Britannica database: Petra 

National Geographic: Petra 

Smithsonian Magazine: Reconstructing Petra 

Smithsonian Magazine: Zooming in on Petra Petra 

Pompeii is a preserved ancient Roman city near Naples at the southeastern base of Mount Vesuvius. Around noon in 79 CE, a huge eruption from Mount Vesuvius showered volcanic debris over the city of Pompeii, followed the next day by clouds of blisteringly hot gases. Buildings were destroyed, the population was crushed or asphyxiated, and the city was buried beneath a blanket of ash and volcanic glass. For many centuries Pompeii slept beneath its pall of ash, which perfectly preserved the remains. When these were finally unearthed, in the 1700s, the world was astonished at the discovery of a sophisticated Greco-Roman city frozen in time.

Encyclopedia Britannica database: Pompeii

National Geographic Kids: The lost city of Pompeii

Khan Academy: Pompeii

World History Encyclopedia: Pompeii

Built during a time when Egypt was one of the richest and most powerful civilizations in the world, the pyramids—especially the Great Pyramids of Giza—are some of the most magnificent man-made structures in history. Their massive scale reflects the unique role that the pharaoh, or king, played in ancient Egyptian society. More than 4,000 years later, the Egyptian pyramids still retain much of their majesty, providing a glimpse into the country’s rich and glorious past.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain. The bluestones in the middle weigh about 3.6 tonnes each (that’s the same as two cars!), while the bigger sarsen stones each weigh a whopping 22 tonnes.  Archaeologists believe that the sarsen stones were hauled to the site on big wooden sledges from 32km away, but the bluestones have been traced to rock outcrops 225km away in Wales! It’s thought they could have been dragged on sledges to a waterway and then floated on rafts to the building site.

The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE with the purpose of protecting the emperor in his afterlife. Three pits containing the Terracotta Army held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which remained buried in the pits near Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum Other terracotta non-military figures were found in other pits, including officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians.

Ducksters: Ancient China - The Terracotta Army

Smithsonian Institution: Terracotta soldiers on the march

LiveScience: Terracotta warriors - an army for the afterlife

World History Encyclopedia: Terracotta army

Discovery Magazine: Terracotta Warriors


Tollund Man is one of many “bog bodies” that have been discovered in the peat bogs of Northern Europe, where unusual conditions allow natural mummification to occur. Over the centuries, the acid dissolves the calcium phosphate of their bones, and their skin turns a deep, dark brown. Tollund Man was so perfectly preserved that when he was discovered in 1950 by two brothers, they reported to the police what they thought was a recent murder, but it turned out to be a 2,400 year old murder. He died by hanging one winter’s day or early spring, and shortly after the hanging he was cut down. The rope is still around his neck. Somebody closed his eyes and mouth and placed him in a sleeping position in an old bog. The reasons for his murder are still a mystery.

Gale History in Context database: Tollund Man 

The Tollund Man: A Face From Prehistoric Denmark

The Smithsonian Museum: Europe's Famed Bog Bodies Are Starting to Reveal Their Secrets

Ancient Origins: Tollund Man

Vasser University: Tollund Man - Peat Bog Bodies Today and in the Iron Age Tollund Man Tollund Man

St Stephens College Library: Tollund Man Information

The name Troy refers both to a place in legend and a real-life archaeological site in modern day Turkey, near Gallipoli. In legend, Troy is a city that was besieged for 10 years and eventually conquered by a Greek army led by King Agamemnon. The Trojan horse was a huge hollow wooden horse constructed by the Greeks to gain entrance into Troy during the Trojan War. Despite the warnings the horse was taken inside the city gates. That night Greek warriors emerged from it and opened the gates to let in the returned Greek army, who slaughtered the Trojans and burnt the city.

The Valley of the Kings was part of the ancient city of Thebes and was the burial site of almost all the kings (pharaohs) of the from 1539–1075 BC, from Thutmose I to Ramses X, when they no longer used pyramids. These pharaohs, fearing for the safety of their rich burial sites, adopted a new plan of concealing their tombs sunk into the heart of the mountain. The plan of the tombs consists essentially of a descending corridor interrupted by deep shafts to baffle robbers and by pillared chambers or vestibules. At the farther end of the corridor is a burial chamber with a stone sarcophagus (stone coffin) in which the royal mummy was laid and store chambers around which furniture and equipment were stacked for the king’s use in the next world. 

National Geographic: Valley of the Kings: Information and Facts

Encyclopedia Britannica database: Valley of the Kings

World History Encyclopedia: Valley of the Kings

Great Courses Daily: The Story of the Valley of the Kings

Useful Databases

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