10 Architectural Wonders Of The Ancient World
These engineering marvels were built to last.
Ancient Architecture Worth Adding to Your Bucket List
The Pyramids, Egypt
The Pyramids of Egypt are surely the most recognizable ancient architecture on Earth. The Step Pyramid of Djoser, the oldest of the structures in the Saqqara necropolis, is estimated to have been built around the year 2630 B.C. To this day, experts have not been able to come up with a solid explanation as to how the ancient Egyptians built these perfectly aligned buildings using nothing but physical strength. It is presumed that as many as 100,000 slaves worked over the years to build these immense, mysterious tombs, which are still considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The Roman Aqueducts
These aqueducts were built around 145 B.C., and were used to transport water throughout the Roman Empire. What makes the aqueducts particularly impressive is that they work on gravity alone—an incredible engineering feat considering the resources available at that time. Although many of the aqueducts were long lost and forgotten, taken over by shrubs and vines, some stretches remain standing, two thousand years on.
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Known as the Treasury at Petra, this amazing achievement in ancient architecture was built around the first century A.D. What makes it so impressive, even today, is the intricate detail of the sandstone carving that has, for the most part, remained intact. There are several legends surrounding its intended purpose, with theories suggesting it served as treasury for the Egyptian Pharaoh during the time of Moses, or as a hiding spot for thieves and pirates to stash their stolen goods. Whatever the reason for its construction, its architectural beauty is indisputable.
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According to the legend in the village of Abhaneri in Rajasthan, India, where the Chand Baori stepwell lies, ghosts built this architectural marvel around the 10th century. As far-fetched as that may seem, there don’t seem to be any other explanations as to how this perfectly designed stepwell came to be. Around 900 A.D., King Chanda had it built to solve the area’s drought problem. Roughly 13 storeys high, dug into a V-shape nearly 100 feet below the earth’s surface, with an estimated 3,500 perfectly levelled steps, King Chanda devoted it to the Goddess of Joy and Happiness, Hashat Mata, upon its completion.
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One of the most amazing constructions of antiquity, the Parthenon was built around 438 B.C. Although it served as a temple at certain points in history, it was originally built as a fortress and was later converted into a Christian church. The construction of this immense building, most commonly known as the Temple of Athena, is extremely impressive when you consider the fact that all the stones used to build it were carried and laid in place by hand.
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A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this 9th century Buddhist temple contains over 500 Buddha statues, and some very ornate and striking designs. Completed around the year 825 A.D., Borobudur was actually lost under volcanic ash, until it was rediscovered and excavated in the early 1800s. Nowadays, it’s a popular pilgrimage site.
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Built between 3000 and 700 B.C., the megalithic temples of Malta are believed by some archaeologists to be the oldest freestanding buildings in the world. Given the building tools available at the time, the intricate details in the structures—originally built to worship various gods—evoke a genuine sense of awe.
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Leshan Giant Buddha
Construction on the Leshan Giant Buddha in Sichuan, China, began around the year 713 A.D, but work was halted for about 70 years due to funding issues. It wasn’t until 803 A.D. that the project reached its completion, securing its spot as the largest statue of the pre-modern world. At the time, the raging river at the statue’s feet made it difficult for ships to pass, which is why a monk sought to have the statue created: He felt the statue in Buddha’s honour would tame the turbulent waters. In the end, so much stone carved from the mountain had fallen into the river, it actually did alter its flow, making it more easily navigable.
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The Great Wall of China
Construction on the Great Wall of China, perhaps the greatest engineering feat in history, began as early as the 7th century B.C. and was continued by several different Chinese dynasties over hundreds of years to protect the borders of the country. Stretching more than 21,000 kilometers, the stone, brick and wood structure remains a popular tourist attraction, drawing millions of visitors each year.
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The stone fortress of Sacsayhuaman is a breathtaking marvel of ancient architecture in Cusco, Peru. Considering that some of the stones used to make up the structure weigh as much 200 tons, it’s mind-boggling to think this structure was built between 900 A.D. to 1200 A.D., with the stones cut from a quarry several kilometres away, and pulled to the site by rope. Even more impressive is the fact that stones were cut to fit into one another seamlessly, without the use of mortar or grout of any kind. The masonry was so impressive that when the Spanish invaded and took over Cusco in the mid 1500s, they thought Sacsayhuaman must have been built by demons and ordered it to be dismantled. Much of it remains intact today, however, since many of the stones were simply too heavy for the Spaniards to move.
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