Sometimes it may seem that historians already know everything possible about the ancient world. Indeed, scientists have found ways to glance at the very beginning of time, starting from the moment Earth appeared, through the age of bacteria, dinosaurs, primitive tribal societies, and until the most recent events. This does not mean there are no mysteries left, or no questions are unanswered, though. On the contrary, historians all over the world keep introducing theories explaining this or that historical phenomenon. And there are many of them in need of being explained: myths and legends such as the city of Atlantis, or why some figures on the Mayan and Aztec graves strongly resemble people in spacesuits, or speculations about how Stonehenge was built.
In fact, the latter—meaning ancient architecture in general—is often the subject of either debates or admiration (or both). Historians and archaeologists, mystics, and conspiracy theorists, adventurers and common people around the world all agree that raising some of the most impressive constructions such as the pyramids of Giza or Angkor Wat, using relatively simple tools and engineering methods, required enormous resources, effort, and technical wit, to say the least. Regarding the times they were built in, these constructions can be rightfully called wonders of the ancient world. Let us take a look at some of them.
Any list of ancient wonders would not be full-fledged without the mention of Stonehenge—a gigantic ring of stones standing in the middle of Salisbury Plains in England. Being not the most beautiful wonder, Stonehenge still manages to inspire and impress; it is mostly its purpose and the way it was built, rather than its appearance, which intrigues. When it was first constructed, Stonehenge was a ring of huge megaliths standing on the ground, with another ring of megaliths on top of them; in other words, it was a structure of two circles, one lying upon the other. The construction is primitive, but the weight of some of the stones reaches 50 tons; the nearest quarry such stones could be extracted from is 18 miles away from the site. How did ancient people manage to transport megaliths? Why would they even want to do this, given that there was no dynamite, caterpillars, trucks, or other modern means of construction; respectively, transporting each megalith was a task of immense complication. There is evidence proving that works on the site where Stonehenge stands now started about 11,000 years ago, although the rocks were placed on their spots much later—only around 2,000 years B.C. The people who raised Stonehenge had no written language, their origins are unknown, as well as the purpose they worked on Stonehenge for such a long time. There are guesses that the stone rings were used for druid ceremonies, or as an ancient calendar, but an unequivocal explanation has not been provided yet (Unmuseum.org).
Another example of an ancient architectural wonder is the famous Great Wall of China. It is so enormous that it is probably the only human-made structure that can be seen from space (as they say), and that the extent of borders of some European countries would be less than the Wall’s overall length. To be more precise, the Wall is 13,170 miles long, and served as ancient China’s main protection against nomadic invasions from the West. In fact, it is so big that recently the Chinese government discovered that the Wall is even longer than it has been believed before. The process of the Wall’s construction took around 2,000 years: the project started around the 3rd century B.C., and continued until the 17th century. Built and expanded on from the third century B.C. until the seventeenth century A.D., obviously, it was not built as a single wall, meaning that different Chinese kingdoms (since China was not always a single state) in different periods of time raised different segments of the Wall. Many of its parts were reconstructed, so to the probable disappointment of some tourists, the Wall is not “original”—at least, not all of it; these “unoriginal” parts are exactly the segments open for tourists: Badaling, Juyongguan, Mutianyu, and Simatai. However, the Wall’s bigger part remains untouched and slowly degrades because of deterioration (Weather.com).
Speaking of Asia, it is always a source of exotic and mind-boggling wonders, which have remained unknown to the public for a long time. Perhaps everyone in the West knows about the pyramids of Giza, the Rhodes Colossus, the lighthouse of Alexandria, or the statue of Zeus. What people seldom know is that in Asia, there are lots of architectural wonders that are in no ways inferior to those located in the western hemisphere. For example, the gigantic statue of Buddha in Leshan: located in Sichuan, China. This is the largest statue of Buddha in the world, carved from stone. 71 meters high and 24 meters wide, the Leshan Buddha is impressive—not only because witnessing it makes you think about how the ancient sculptors managed to carve such a tremendous figure out of a cliff, but also because it emits calm and antiquity. Its construction started during the reign of the Tang dynasty (around 713 A.C.), and lasted for almost a century; the Leshan Buddha’s head is decorated with 1021 buns, and the drainage system it secretly utilizes reflects the engineering proficiency of those who raised the statue—this system helps keep the statue from deterioration, so this is one of the reasons why it is still standing there almost in its original magnificence (TMW).
As we can see, antiquity has a lot of surprises. The age of gigantic constructions and engineering wonders did not start with the first skyscrapers in the United States; thousands of years ago, people raised huge buildings, using primitive tools and methods that were available back then. However, wonders like Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China, or the Leshan Buddha prove there is no limit and no obstacle for human inspiration and innovation.
“Stonehenge: Mystery on the Salisbury Plain.” Unmuseum.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2017.
“10 Wonders of the Ancient World.” The Weather Channel. N.p., 28 Jan. 2016. Web. 14 June 2017.
“Top 10 Greatest Architectural Wonders of the Ancient World.” The Mysterious World. N.p., 10 Apr. 2017. Web. 14 June 2017.
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