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Wonders of the World

Various lists of the Wonders of the World have been compiled from antiquity to the present day, to catalogue the world's most spectacular natural wonders and manmade structures. The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is the first known list of the most remarkable creations of classical antiquity; it was based on guidebooks popular among Ancient Greece sightseers and only includes works located around the Mediterranean rim and in Mesopotamia. The number seven was chosen because the Greeks believed it represented perfection and plenty, and because it was the number of the five planets known anciently, plus the sun and moon. Many similar lists have been made.

antiquity mesopotamia greece

1. Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

The Great Pyramid of Giza, the only wonder of the ancient world still in existence.
The Colosseum in Rome.
The Great Wall of China.
Hagia Sophia.
Machu Picchu.
Taj Mahal.
Empire State Building.
Golden Gate Bridge.
The Victoria Falls contain the largest sheet of falling water in the world in terms of area.
The Great Barrier Reef.
CN Tower.
Chichen Itza.
Ely Cathedral.
Old City of Jerusalem.
The Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.
Grand Canyon.
The London sewerage system's original Abbey Mills pumping station.
The Sydney Opera House.

The historian Herodotus (484 – ca. 425 BC) and the scholar Callimachus of Cyrene (ca. 305–240 BC), at the Museum of Alexandria, made early lists of seven wonders. Their writings have not survived, except as references.

The classic seven wonders were:

  • Colossus of Rhodes
  • Great Pyramid of Giza
  • Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  • Lighthouse of Alexandria
  • Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  • Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  • Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

The only ancient world wonder that still exists is the Great Pyramid of Giza.

2. Lists from Other Eras

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, some writers wrote their own lists with names such as Wonders of the Middle Ages, Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages, Seven Wonders of the Medieval Mind, and Architectural Wonders of the Middle Ages. However, it is unlikely that these lists originated in the Middle Ages, because the word "medieval" was not invented until the Enlightenment-era, and the concept of a Middle Age did not become popular until the 16th century. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable refers to them as "later list[s]",[1] suggesting the lists were created after the Middle Ages.

Many of the structures on these lists were built much earlier than the Medieval Ages but were well known.[2][3]

Typically representative are:[1][2][4][5]

  • Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa
  • Colosseum
  • Great Wall of China
  • Hagia Sophia
  • Leaning Tower of Pisa
  • Porcelain Tower of Nanjing
  • Stonehenge

Other sites sometimes included on such lists:

  • Cairo Citadel[6]
  • Cluny Abbey[7]
  • Ely Cathedral[8]
  • Taj Mahal[9]

3. Recent Lists

Following in the tradition of the classical list, modern people and organisations have made their own lists of wonderful things ancient and modern. Some of the most notable lists are presented below.

3.1. American Society of Civil Engineers

In 1994, the American Society of Civil Engineers compiled a list of Seven Wonders of the Modern World, paying tribute to the "greatest civil engineering achievements of the 20th century".[10][11]

Wonder Date started Date finished Location Significance
Channel Tunnel December 1, 1987 May 6, 1994 Strait of Dover, between the United Kingdom and France The longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world.
CN Tower February 6, 1973 June 26, 1976 Toronto, Ontario, Canada Tallest freestanding structure in the world 1976–2007.
Empire State Building March 17, 1930 April 11, 1931 New York City , New York, U.S. Tallest structure in the world 1931–1954, Tallest freestanding structure in the world 1931–1967, Tallest Building in the world 1931–1970. First building with 100+ stories.
Golden Gate Bridge January 5, 1933 May 27, 1937 Golden Gate Strait, north of San Francisco , California , U.S. The longest suspension bridge main span in the world from 1937 to 1964.
Itaipu Dam January 1970 May 5, 1984 Paraná River, between Brazil and Paraguay The largest operating hydroelectric facility in the world in terms of annual energy generation.
Delta and Zuiderzee Works 1920 May 10, 1997 Zeeland, South Holland, North Holland, Friesland and Flevoland, Netherlands The largest hydraulic engineering project undertaken by the Netherlands during the twentieth century.
Panama Canal January 1, 1880 January 7, 1914 Isthmus of Panama One of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken.

3.2. USA Today's New Seven Wonders

In November 2006 the American national newspaper USA Today and the American television show Good Morning America revealed a new list of New Seven Wonders as chosen by six judges.[12] An eighth wonder was chosen on November 24, 2006 from viewer feedback.[13]

Number Wonder Location
1 Potala Palace Lhasa, Tibet, China
2 Old City of Jerusalem Jerusalem[14]
3 Polar ice caps Polar regions
4 Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Hawaii, United States
5 Internet Earth
6 Mayan ruins Yucatán Peninsula, México
7 Great Migration of Serengeti and Masai Mara Tanzania and Kenya
8 Grand Canyon (viewer-chosen eighth wonder) Arizona, United States

3.3. Seven Natural Wonders of the World

Similar to the other lists of wonders, there is no consensus on a list of seven natural wonders of the world, and there has been debate over how large the list should be. One of the many existing lists was compiled by CNN:[15]

  • Aurora
  • Grand Canyon
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Harbor of Rio de Janeiro
  • Mount Everest
  • Parícutin volcano
  • Victoria Falls

3.4. New7Wonders of the World

In 2001 an initiative was started by the Swiss corporation New7Wonders Foundation to choose the New7Wonders of the World from a selection of 200 existing monuments.[16] Twenty-one finalists were announced January 1, 2006.[17] Egyptians were not happy that the only surviving original wonder, the Great Pyramid of Giza, would have to compete with the likes of the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Opera House, and other landmarks, calling the project absurd. In response, Giza was named an honorary Candidate.[18] The results were announced on July 7, 2007, in Lisbon, Portugal:[19]

Wonder Date of construction Location
Great Wall of China Since 7th century BC[20] China China
Petra c. 100 BC Jordan Jordan
Christ the Redeemer Opened October 12, 1931 Brazil Brazil
Machu Picchu c. AD 1450 Peru Peru
Chichen Itza c. AD 600 Mexico Mexico
Colosseum Completed AD 80 Italy Italy
Taj Mahal Completed c. AD 1648 India India
Great Pyramid of Giza (honorary candidate) Completed c. 2560 BC Egypt Egypt

3.5. New7Wonders of Nature

New7Wonders of Nature (2007–11), a contemporary effort to create a list of seven natural wonders chosen through a global poll, was organized by the same group as the New7Wonders of the World campaign.

  • Iguazu Falls
  • Hạ Long Bay
  • Jeju Island
  • Puerto Princesa Underground River
  • Table Mountain
  • Komodo
  • Amazon rainforest

3.6. New7Wonders Cities

New7Wonders Cities is the third global vote organized by New7Wonders.

  • Durban, South Africa
  • Vigan, The Philippines
  • Havana, Cuba
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Beirut, Lebanon
  • Doha, Qatar
  • La Paz, Bolivia

3.7. Seven Wonders of the Underwater World

The Seven Underwater Wonders of the World was a list drawn up by CEDAM International, an American-based non-profit group for divers, dedicated to ocean preservation and research.

In 1989 CEDAM brought together a panel of marine scientists, including Dr. Eugenie Clark, to pick underwater areas which they considered to be worthy of protection. The results were announced at The National Aquarium in Washington DC by actor Lloyd Bridges, star of TV's Sea Hunt:[21]

  • Palau
  • Belize Barrier Reef
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Deep-Sea Vents
  • Galápagos Islands
  • Lake Baikal
  • Northern Red Sea

3.8. Seven Wonders of the Industrial World

British author Deborah Cadbury wrote Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, a book telling the stories of seven great feats of engineering of the 19th and early 20th centuries.[22] In 2003, the BBC aired a seven-part docudrama exploring the same feats, with Cadbury as a producer. Each episode dramatised the construction of one of the following industrial wonders:[23]

  1. SS Great Eastern
  2. Bell Rock Lighthouse
  3. Brooklyn Bridge
  4. London sewerage system
  5. First Transcontinental Railroad
  6. Panama Canal
  7. Hoover Dam

3.9. Seven Wonders of the World Film

Seven Wonders of the World is a 1956 film in which Lowell Thomas searches the world for natural and man made wonders and invites the audience to try to update the ancient Greek Wonders of the World list.

3.10. Seven Wonders of the Solar System

In a 1999 article, Astronomy magazine listed the "Seven Wonders of the Solar System". This article was later made into a video.[24]

  • Enceladus, a moon of Saturn
  • The Great red spot of Jupiter
  • The Asteroid belt
  • The surface of the Sun
  • The Oceans of Earth
  • The Rings of Saturn
  • Olympus Mons on Mars

3.11. Other Lists of Wonders of the World

Numerous other authors and organisations have composed lists of the wonders of the world. For example:

  • British biographer, science writer, and novelist Ronald W. Clark published a book of man-made and natural wonders titled Wonders of the World, which lists 52 wonders, one for each week of the year.[25]
  • Travel writer Howard Hillman published two books on the subject, one with 10 man-made wonders,[26] and one with 10 natural wonders.[27]


  1. Evans, I H (reviser (1975). Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (Centenary edition Fourth impression (corrected) ed.). London: Cassell. p. 1163. 
  2. Hereward Carrington (1880–1958). The Seven Wonders of the World: ancient, medieval and modern", reprinted in the Carington Collection (2003). ISBN 0-7661-4378-3. 
  3. The Carrington Collection. Retrieved October 29, 2014. 
  4. Latham, Edward (1904). A Dictionary of Names, Nicknames and Surnames, of Persons, Places and Things. p. 280. OCLC 01038938. 
  5. Miller, Francis Trevelyan; Woodrow, Wilson; Taft, William Howard; Roosevelt, Theodore (1915). America, the Land We Love. p. 201. OCLC 00334597. 
  6. The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Crusades. 2001. p. 153. 
  7. "Cluny Abbey". The Catholic Encyclopedia 16: p. 74. 1913. OCLC 06974688. 
  8. The Rough Guide To England. 1994. p. 596. 
  9. Palpa, as You Like it. p. 67. 
  10. "American Society of Civil Engineers Seven Wonders". July 19, 2010. Archived from the original on August 2, 2010. Retrieved August 30, 2010. 
  11. American Society of Civil Engineers. "Seven Wonders of the Modern World". 
  12. "New Seven Wonders panel". USA Today. October 27, 2006. Retrieved July 31, 2010. 
  13. Clark, Jayne (December 22, 2006). "The world's 8th wonder: Readers pick the Grand Canyon". USA Today. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  14. Both the USA Today article and the Good Morning America broadcast described this wonder as "Jerusalem's Old City, Israel." The Old City is located in East Jerusalem, which is claimed by both the State of Israel and the State of Palestine. The UN and most countries do not recognize Israel's claim to East Jerusalem, taking the position that the final status of Jerusalem is pending future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. See Positions on Jerusalem for more information.
  15. "Natural Wonders". CNN. November 11, 1997. Archived from the original on July 21, 2006. Retrieved July 31, 2010. 
  16. "The multimedia campaign to choose the New 7 Wonders of the World is in its final stage.". New7Wonders. Archived from the original on January 3, 2007. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  17. "New 7 Wonders of the World Campaign announced 21 finalist candidates". New7Wonders. Archived from the original on February 7, 2006. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  18. "Egypt's pyramids out of seven wonders contest". Daily News Egypt. April 20, 2007. Retrieved 25 June 2018. 
  19. "Reuters via ABC News Australia "Opera House snubbed as new Wonders unveiled" 7 July 2007". Australia: ABC. July 8, 2007. Retrieved July 31, 2010. 
  20. "Great Wall of China". Encyclopædia Britannica. 
  21. "Underwater Wonders of the World". Wonderclub. Retrieved August 31, 2010. 
  22. Kumar, Manjit (7 November 2003). "Review: Seven Wonders of the Industrial World by Deborah Cadbury". The Guardian. 
  23. Cadbury, Deborah (17 February 2011). "British History in Depth: Seven Wonders of the Industrial World". Retrieved 2015-03-25. 
  24. "Seven Wonders of the Solar System Video:". 1999. Archived from the original on April 1, 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  25. Clark, Ronald W. (1980). Wonders of the World. Artus Publishing Company Ltd. ISBN 978-0-668-04932-0. 
  26. Hillman, Howard. World's Top 10 Man-made Travel Wonders. Hillman Quality Publications. Retrieved July 7, 2007. 
  27. Hillman, Howard. World's Top 10 Natural Travel Wonders. Hillman Quality Publications. Retrieved July 7, 2007. 
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