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The seven wonders of the ancient world

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

By Lourdes Ballesteros, Co-founder of the World Heritage Network

Many years ago men drew up the first list of the wonders of the world. There were seven of them and they were located between present-day Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq. Of those seven wonders only one remains: the great pyramid of Giza, in Egypt, built around 2500 BC. C. The other six have almost completely disappeared, but we have records and writings about their existence. Thanks to those records, we can imagine:

  • Phidias working the ivory and gold from which he would shape the statue of Zeus, the god of the gods and protector of the city of Olympia;

  • We recreate the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, on the banks of the Euphrates, mysterious and unique and that have nurtured the imagination of countless architects and artists;

  • We worshiped in Ephesus in the Temple of Artemis, of classical Hellenic architecture;

  • We mourn the death of Mausolo in what was one of the most beautiful and best ornamented funerary monuments of the ancient world, and which would give its name to constructions of this type, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus;

  • We were impressed, as were the sailors who entered the port of Rhodes and were greeted by the colossal statue of Helios, the Greek god of the sun;

  • We imagine seeing the light in the sea coming from one of the monuments that held the record of being, for many centuries, the highest in the world: the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, some painted by Maerten van Heemskrerck. Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.

The old list includes only the wonders built by the hand of man, what today we call cultural assets. But there are many wonders of nature of enormous antiquity: waterfalls, mountains, monoliths, islands ... Mount Uluru, the great red monolith in central Australia, is more than 600 million years old; the Namib Desert, which already existed when the dinosaurs became extinct, more than 65 million years ago; and the Galapagos Islands, inspiring muses of Darwin's "The Origin of Species", began to form about 14 million years ago.

Today, UNESCO has compiled a list of more than 1,100 wonders of the world that includes cultural and natural treasures of humanity. These goods, with an exceptional universal value, are distributed among the five continents and, many of them, are in danger of disappearing.

It is time to wonder whether future generations will be able to see with their own eyes the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, the Old City of Damascus, the Okapi Fauna Reserve, Sumatra's tropical rainforests and the historic center of Vienna or should they conform with his written memory as happened with the gardens of Babylon, with the statue of Zeus or with the temple of Artemis. It is time to ask ourselves if we have the right to end the wealth of the world.


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