Here are our favourite 8 lesser known facts about some of the Wonders of the World:
The Great Wall of China
Did you know that parts of this wall date back to the 7th Century? Emperor Qin, the leader who unified China, started extending the wall around 220 BC. Subsequent dynasties continued building and reinforcing the wall until it reached its current length: 21,196 kms. That is just over half the circumference of the earth.
The Lost City of Petra
Petra is not the original name of this city. It was originally called Nabataea and at its height, had a population of 20,000 people. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who used the city as a place to do business due to its proximity to key regional trade routes. The rock wall carving that Petra is best known for is actually a mausoleum for a Nabataean king name Aretas IV. It was built in 1000 AD.
The Great Pyramid of Giza
This, the largest of the three pyramids at El Giza, took an estimated 20 years to build, with workers moving 800 tonnes of stone every day. This equates to 12 blocks per hour, 24 hours a day for 20 years. The pyramid was built as a tomb for a pharaoh named Khufu, as well as his wives and some of his nobles. The outside of the pyramid was original smooth but the limestone casing stones have since eroded. Before this deterioration occurred, the pyramid stood at 146.5m tall. This is equivalent to a 44 storey building.
Did you know Machu Picchu was only ‘discovered’ in 1911? A Yale professor named Hiram Bingham led an expedition to South America in search of the last Incan capital. He discovered Machu Picchu and incorrectly dubbed it the capital. He also explored and documented a city called Vilcabamba that was later identified as the last Incan capital. In the local Quechua language, Machi means ‘old’ and Picchu means ‘chewing coca’ or ‘pyramid/pointed mountain’.
Chichen Itza on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula has a grisly history in the sense that it was a site of live human sacrifice. The upside is that being sacrificed was considered a great honour in Mayan society. A mass grave unearthed at the site corroborates this theory.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
This wonder came about by accident. The foundations of this bell tower were unstable and the structure started to lean while it was being built. The tilt – said to be four degrees off being perpendicular – worsened over time. The tower took 199 years to build and architects working on later stages of the project actually built one side longer than the other in order to correct the lean, meaning the tower bends. The legendary status of the building has meant that modern engineers have reinforced the tower without correcting the lean.
In today’s money, the Taj Mahal cost around $1 billion to build over ten years from 1633 – 1643. The Taj Mahal was built as a mausoleum for Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s favourite wife, Mumtaz Jahan, who died while giving birth to her 14th child. The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.
Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious monuments in the world and is built on 402 acres located 5.5kms from Siem Reap. It was originally a temple devoted to the Hindu God Vishnu, and was later transformed into a Buddhist temple. Angkor Wat translates from Khmer into English as City of Temples.
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