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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.
The Pyramids, Egypt
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.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
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.
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.
Terracotta Warriors, China
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
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.
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 horsewas 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.
Bradshaw (Gwion Gwion) Rock Paintings, Australia
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.
Otzi the Iceman, Austria
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.
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.
The Acropolis, Greece
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 BCE). 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.
Caves of Lascaux, France
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.
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.
Valley of the Kings, Egypt
This valley 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.
Old Bagan, Myanmar
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.
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, USA
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.
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. Throughout its nearly 1,000-year history, different peoples have left their mark on the city. The Maya and Toltec vision of the world and the universe is revealed in their stone monuments and artistic works. The fusion of Mayan construction techniques with new elements from central Mexico make Chichen-Itza one of the most important examples of the Mayan-Toltec civilization in Yucatán.
Tollund Man, Denmark
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.
Mayan Ruins, Guatemala
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. Construction on the city began in the 11th century and continued until it was abandoned in the 15th century. The stone city spans an area of 7.22 square kilometres (2.79 square miles) 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. 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.
Stonehenge is woven into the earliest Arthurian legends and has been analysed by everyone from archaeologists, to town planners, to the Druids who have made it their spiritual home. By refusing to adopt one theoretical position, Rosemary Hill provides the most wide-ranging and expansive history of the megalithic structure to date, from its creation in 3000 BC to the threat of the thunderous main roads that flank it today.
The legendary city of Troy was the stage on which devastating battles were fought and heroic deeds were done during Troy's conflict with the Greeks. Homer's 8th-century BC works 'The Iliad' and 'The Odyssey', which were often sung, kept the Trojan-Greek War alive in the minds of millions of people. However, the stories suddenly came to life in 1871, when an amateur archaeologist announced he had found the gold that belonged to Priam and the city that had been destroyed by the Greeks. Plenty of other archaeological finds have been made, and Homer's epic poems have been translated from the Greek time and again.
No one knows why the Moai, nearly a thousand megalithic volcanic statues, were carved, transported, and erected or why they were all found facedown by European explorers. In addition, did a Stone Age population of less than 10,000 actually deforest the land, causing environmental devastation? Though the island is one of the most studied and probed places in the world, Easter Island remains one of the most mysterious places on the planet.