SEVEN WONDERS

๐”พ๐•ฃ๐•–๐•’๐•ฅ ๐•Ž๐•’๐•๐• ๐• ๐•— โ„‚๐•™๐•š๐•Ÿ๐•’

Great might be an understatement. One of the worldโ€™s largest building-construction projects, the Great Wall of China is widely thought to be about 5,500 miles (8,850 km) long; a disputed Chinese study, however, claims the length is 13,170 miles (21,200 km). Work began in the 7th century BCE and continued for two millennia. Although called a โ€œwall,โ€ the structure actually features two parallel walls for lengthy stretches. In addition, watchtowers and barracks dot the bulwark. One not-so-great thing about the wall, however, was its effectiveness. Although it was built to prevent invasions and raids, the wall largely failed to provide actual security. Instead, scholars have noted that it served more as โ€œpolitical propaganda.โ€

โ„‚โ„๐•€โ„‚โ„๐”ผโ„• ๐•€๐•‹โ„ค๐”ธ

Chichen Itza is aย Mayanย city on theย Yucatรกn Peninsulaย inย Mexico, which flourished in the 9th and 10th centuries CE. Under the Mayan tribe Itzaโ€”who were strongly influenced by theย Toltecsโ€”a number of important monuments and temples were built. Among the most notable is the stepped pyramid El Castillo (โ€œThe Castleโ€), which rises 79 feet (24 meters) above the Main Plaza. A testament to the Mayansโ€™ย astronomicalย abilities, the structure features a total of 365 steps, the number of days in the solar year. During the spring and autumnal equinoxes, the setting sun casts shadows on the pyramid that give the appearance of a serpent slithering down the north stairway; at the base is a stone snake head. Life there was not all work and science, however. CHICHEEN ITZA is home to the largestย tlachtliย (a type of sporting field) in the Americas. On that field the residents played a ritual ball game popular throughout pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

โ„™๐•–๐•ฅ๐•ฃ๐•’

The ancient city ofย Petra,ย Jordan, is located in a remote valley, nestled among sandstone mountains and cliffs. It was purported to be one of the places whereย Mosesย struck a rock and water gushed forth. Later theย Nabataeans, an Arab tribe, made it their capital, and during this time it flourished, becoming an important trade center, especially for spices. Noted carvers, the Nabataeans chiseled dwellings, temples, and tombs into the sandstone, which changed color with the shifting sun. In addition, they constructed a water system that allowed for lush gardens and farming. At its height, Petra reportedly had a population of 30,000. The city began to decline, however, as trade routes shifted. A major earthquake in 363 CE caused more difficulty, and after another tremor hit in 551, Petra was gradually abandoned. Although rediscovered in 1912, it was largely ignored by archaeologists until the late 20th century, and many questions remain about the city.

๐•„๐•’๐•”๐•™๐•ฆ โ„™๐•š๐•”๐•”๐•™๐•ฆ

Thisย Incanย site nearย Cuzco,ย Peru, was โ€œdiscoveredโ€ in 1911 byย Hiram Bingham, who believed it was Vilcabamba, a secret Incan stronghold used during the 16th-century rebellion against Spanish rule. Although that claim was later disproved, the purpose ofย Machu Picchuย has confounded scholars. Bingham believed it was home to the โ€œVirgins of the Sun,โ€ women who lived in convents under a vow of chastity. Others think that it was likely a pilgrimage site, while some believe it was a royal retreat. (One thing it apparently should not be is the site of a beer commercial. In 2000 a crane being used for such an ad fell and cracked a monument.) What is known is that Machu Picchu is one of the few majorย pre-Columbianย ruins found nearly intact. Despite its relative isolation high in theย Andes Mountains, it features agricultural terraces, plazas, residential areas, and temples.