Wonders of the World - Winners and Finalists

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Christ the Redeemer, One of the New 7 Wonders

Christ Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Christ Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by DERWAL Fred/hemis.fr/Getty Images

You may know about the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Only one - the Great Pyramid at Giza - still stands. So, Swiss film producer and aviator Bernard Weber launched a global voting campaign to let you, and millions of other people, create a NEW list. Unlike the list of Ancient Wonders, the New Seven Wonders list includes both ancient and modern structures from every part of the world.

From the hundreds of recommendations, architects Zaha Hadid, Tadao Ando, Cesar Pelli, and other expert judges selected 21 finalists. Then, millions of voters around the world picked the top seven New Wonders of the World.

The New Seven Wonders of the World were announced in Lisbon, Portugal on Saturday, July 7, 2007. This photo gallery displays the winners and the finalists.

Christ the Redeemer Statue:

Completed in 1931, the Christ Redeemer statue that overlooks the city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is a monument to the architecture of its day—Art Deco.  As an art deco icon, Jesus became sleek in form, a near two-dimensional flag with robes of strong lines. Also called Cristo Redentor, the statue towers atop the Corcovado mountain overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. From the 21 finalists, the Christ Redeemer statue was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It is an iconic statue.

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Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico

The Kukulkan Pyramid in Chichen-Itza which known as “El Castillo” (the castle)
In Chichen-Itza, the Kukulkan Pyramid known as “El Castillo” (the castle) is one of the new seven wonders of the world i. Press photo © 2000-2006 NewOpenWorld Foundation (cropped)

Ancient Mayan and Toltec civilizations built great temples, palaces, and monuments at Chichen Itza on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.

One of the New 7 Wonders

Chichen Itza, or Chichén Itzá, offers a rare glimpse into Mayan and Toltec civilization in Mexico. Located about 90 miles from the coast in the northern Yucatan peninsula, the archaeological site has temples, palaces, and other important buildings.

There are actually two parts to Chichen: the old city that thrived between 300 and 900 AD, and the new city that became the center of Mayan civilization between 750 and 1200 AD. Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage site and voted to be a new wonder of the world.

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Colosseum in Rome, Italy

The Ancient Colosseum in Rome, Italy
The Ancient Colosseum in Rome, Italy. Press photo © 2000-2006 NewOpenWorld Foundation (cropped)

At least 50,000 spectators could sit in the Colosseum of ancient Rome. Today, the amphitheater reminds us of early modern sports arenas. In 2007, the Colosseum was named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

One of the New 7 Wonders

The Flavian emperors Vespasian and Titus built the Colosseum, or Coliseum, in central Rome between 70 and 82 AD. The Colosseum is sometimes called the Amphitheatrum Flavium (Flavian Amphitheater) after the emperors who constructed it.

The powerful architecture has influenced sports venues around the world, including the 1923 Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. The mighty stadium in California, modeled after ancient Rome's, was site of the first Super Bowl game in 1967.

Much of Rome's Colosseum has deteriorated, but major restoration efforts are preserving the structure. The ancient amphitheater is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Rome, and one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions.

Learn More:

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Great Wall of China

Wonders of the Modern World, The Great Wall of China
Wonders of the Modern World, The Great Wall of China. Press photo © 2000-2006 NewOpenWorld Foundation (cropped)

Stretching for thousands of miles, the Great Wall of China protected ancient China from invaders. The Great Wall of China is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2007, it was named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

One of the New 7 Wonders

No one is sure exactly how long the Great Wall of China is. Many say that the Great Wall extends some 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers). But the Great Wall is not actually a single wall but a series of disconnected walls.

Snaking along the hills in the southern part of the Mongolian plain, the Great Wall (or Walls) were built over centuries, beginning as early as 500 BC. During the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), many walls were joined and re-enforced for greater strength. In places, the massive walls are as tall as 29.5 feet (9 meters).

Learn More:

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Machu Picchu in Peru

Machu Picchu, 15th-century Inca site at 2,430 metres on mountain ridge above Peru Urubamba Valley
Wonders of the Modern World Machu Picchu, Lost City of the Incas, in Peru. Photo by John & Lisa Merrill/Stone/Getty Images

Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas, nestles in a remote ridge among the Peruvian mountains. On July 24, 1911, the American explorer Hiram Bingham was led by natives to a nearly inaccessible deserted Incan city on a Peruvian mountaintop. On this day, Machu Picchu became known to the Western world.

One of the New 7 Wonders

In the fifteenth century, the Inca constructed the small city of Machu Picchu in a ridge between two mountain peaks. Beautiful and remote, the buildings were constructed of finely cut white granite blocks. No mortar was used. Because Machu Picchu is so difficult to reach, this legendary city of the Inca was almost lost to explorers until the early 1900s. The historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

More About Machu Picchu:

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Petra, Jordan, the Nabataean Caravan City

The ancient desert city of Petra, Jordan, carved into a mountainside
Wonders of the Modern World: Desert City of Petra The ancient desert city of Petra, Jordan. Photo by Joel Carillet/E+/Getty Images

Carved from rose-red limestone, Petra, Jordan was lost to the Western World from about the 14th century until the early 19th century. Today, the ancient city is one of the world's largest and most important archaeological sites. It has been an inscribed property of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre since 1985.

One of the New 7 Wonders

Inhabited for thousands of years, the strikingly beautiful desert city of Petra, Jordan was once home to a civilization long since vanished. Petra's location between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea made it an important center for commerce, where Arabian incense, Chinese silks, and Indian spices were traded. The buildings reflect a welcoming of cultures, combining native Eastern traditions with Western Classical (850 BC-476 AD) architecture from Hellenistic Greece. Noted by UNESCO as "half-built, half-carved into the rock," this capital city also had a sophisticated system of dams and channels for collecting, diverting, and providing water to the arid region.

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The Taj Mahal in Agra, India

Bright white ivory marble of the Taj Mahal in India, symmetrical photo
Wonders of the Modern World The grand marble Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Photo by Sami's Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Built in 1648, the Taj Mahal in Agra, India is a masterpiece of Muslim architecture. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of the New 7 Wonders

Some 20,000 workers spent twenty-two years constructing the glistening white Taj Mahal. Made entirely of marble, the structure was designed as a mausoleum for a favorite wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Mughal architecture is characterized by harmony, balance, and geometry. Beautifully symmetrical, each element of the Taj Mahal is independent, yet perfectly integrated with the structure as a whole. The master architect was Ustad Isa.

Facts and Stats:

  • Top Dome - 213 feet high
  • Minarets - 162.5 feet high
  • Platform - 186 feet by 186 feet
  • Cost To Build - 32 Million Rupees

Taj Mahal Collapse?

The Taj Mahal is one of many famous monuments on the World Monuments Fund's Watch List, which documents endangered landmarks. Pollution and environmental changes have jeopardized the wooden foundation of the Taj Mahal. Professor Ram Nath, an expert on the building, has claimed that unless the foundation is repaired, the Taj Mahal will collapse.

Learn More:

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Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Germany
Nominated World Wonder: Disney's Fairy Tale Inspiration The fanciful Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Germany. Press photo © 2000-2006 NewOpenWorld Foundation (cropped)

Does Neuschwanstein Castle look familiar? This romantic German palace may have inspired the fairy tale castles created by Walt Disney.

New 7 Wonders Finalist

Although it is called a castle, this building in Schwangau, Germany is not a medieval fortress. With towering white turrets, Neuschwanstein Castle is a fanciful 19th century palace built for Ludwig II, King of Bavaria.

Ludwig II died before his romantic home was completed. Like the much smaller Boldt Castle in the U.S., Neuschwanstein was never completed yet remains a very popular tourist destination. Its popularity is largely based on this castle being the model for Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle in Anaheim and Hong Kong and the Cinderella Castle in Disney's Orlando and Tokyo magic theme parks.

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Acropolis in Athens, Greece

The Parthenon Temple crowns the Acropolis in Athens, Greece
Nominated World Wonder: The Acropolis and the Parthenon Temple in Athens The Parthenon Temple crowns the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Press photo © 2000-2006 NewOpenWorld Foundation (cropped)

Crowned by the Parthenon temple, the ancient Acropolis in Athens, Greece holds some of the world's most famous architectural landmarks.

New 7 Wonders Finalist

Acropolis means high city in Greek. There are many acropoleis in Greece, but the Athens Acropolis, or Citadel of Athens, is the most famous. The Acropolis in Athens was built on top of what is known as the Sacred Rock, and it was supposed to radiate power and protection for its citizens.

The Athens Acropolis is home to many important archaeological sites. The most famous is the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena. Much of the original Acropolis was destroyed in 480 BC when Persians invaded Athens. Many temples, including the Parthenon, were rebuilt during the Golden Age of Athens (460–430 BC) when Pericles was the ruler.

Phidias, a great Athenian sculptor, and two famous architects, Ictinus and Callicrates, played key roles in the reconstruction of the Acropolis. Construction on the new Parthenon began in 447 BC and was mostly completed in 438 BC.

Today, the Parthenon is an international symbol of Greek civilization and the temples of the Acropolis have become some of the world's most famous architectural landmarks. The Athens Acropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2007, the Athens Acropolis was designated a preeminent monument on the European Cultural Heritage list. The Greek government is working to restore and preserve the ancient structures on the Acropolis.

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Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain

Alhambra Palace, the Red Castle, in Granada, Spain.
Nominated World Wonder Alhambra Palace, the Red Castle, in Granada, Spain. Photo by John Harper/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Alhambra Palace, or the Red Castle, in Granada, Spain contains some of the world's finest examples of Moorish architecture. For many centuries, this Alhambra was neglected. Scholars and archaeologists began restorations in the nineteenth century, and today the Palace is a major tourist attraction.

New 7 Wonders Finalist

Along with the Generalife summer palace in Granada, Alhambra Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Angkor, Cambodia

World's largest sacred temple complex
Nominated World Wonder Khmer Architecture of the Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia. Press photo © 2000-2006 NewOpenWorld Foundation

The world's largest complex of sacred temples, Angkor is a 154 square mile archaeological site (400 square kilometers) in the northern Cambodian province of Siem Reap. The area contains the remains of the Khmer Empire, a sophisticated civilization that prospered between the 9th and 14th centuries in Southeast Asia.

Khmer architectural ideas are thought to have originated in India, but these designs were soon mixed with Asian and local art that evolved to create what UNESCO has called "a new artistic horizon." Beautiful and ornate temples extend throughout the agricultural community that continues to live in Siem Reap. Ranging from simple brick towers to complicated stone structures, temple architecture has identified a distinct social order within the Khmer community.

New 7 Wonders Finalist

Not only is Angkor one of the largest sacred temple complexes in the world, but the landscape is testament to the ancient civilization's urban planning. Water collection and distribution systems as well as routes of communication have been unearthed.

The most famous temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park are Angkor Wat—a large, symmetrical, well-restored complex surrounded by geometric canals—and the Bayon Temple, with its giant stone faces.

Learn More:

Source: Angkor, UNESCO World Heritage Centre [accessed January 26, 2014]

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Easter Island Statues: 3 Lessons from Moai

Giant stone statues, or Moai, on Easter Island
Nominated World Wonder: The Moai of Chili Giant stone statues, or Moai, on Easter Island. Press photo © 2000-2006 NewOpenWorld Foundation

Mysterious giant stone monoliths called Moai dot the coastline of Easter Island. The giant faces that dot the island of Rapa Nui were not chosen in the campaign to select the New 7 Wonders of the World. They are still a world wonder, however—when choosing up sides, you're not always in the top seven picked. What can we learn from these ancient statues when we compare them to other structures around the world? First, a little background:

Location: Isolated volcanic island, now owned by Chili, located in the Pacific Ocean, about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) from Chile and Tahiti
Other Names: Rapa Nui; Isla de Pascua (Easter Island is the European name used to describe the inhabited island discovered on Easter Sunday in 1722 by Jacob Roggeveen)
Settled: Polynesians, around 300 AD
Architectural Significance: Between the 10th and 16th centuries, ceremonial shrines (ahu) were built and hundreds of statues (Moai) were erected, carved from porous, volcanic rock (scoria). Generally they face inward, toward the island, with their backs to the sea.

New 7 Wonders Finalist

The Moai range in height from 2 meters to 20 meters (6.6 to 65.6 feet) and weigh many tons. They resemble enormous heads, but the Moai actually do have bodies beneath the ground. Some Moai faces were decorated with coral eyes. Archaeologists speculate that the Moai represented a god, a mythical creature, or revered ancestors that protect the island.

3 Lessons from Moai:

Yes, they are mysterious, and we may never know the real story of their existence. Scientists deduce what happened based on today's observations, because there is no written history. If only one person on the island had kept a journal, we would know a lot more about what went on. The statues of Easter Island have made us think about ourselves and others, however. What else can we learn from the Moai?

  1. Ownership: Who owns what architects call the built environment? In the 1800s, several Moai were removed from the island and today are displayed in museums in London, Paris, and Washington, DC. Should the statues have stayed on Easter Island, and should they be returned? When you build something for someone else, have you given up your ownership of that idea? Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was famous for revisiting houses he had designed and getting angry at modifications made to his design. Sometimes he even hit buildings with his cane! What would the carvers of the Moai think if they saw one of their statues at the Smithsonian Museum?
  2. Primitive does not mean Stupid or Juvenile: One of the characters in the movie Night at the Museum is the unnamed "Easter Island Head." Instead of intelligent or spiritual dialog from the Moai, the movie's writers chose the head to utter lines such as "Hey! Dum-dum! You give me gum-gum!" Very funny? A culture with a low level of technology is disadvantaged when compared with other societies, but that doesn't make them ignorant. The people who live on what English-speakers call Easter Island have always been isolated. They inhabit the most remote land in the entire world. Their ways may be unsophisticated compared with other parts of the world, but mocking the primitive seems petty and childish.
  3. Progress happens step-by-step: The statues are thought to have been carved from the island's volcanic soil. Although they may look primitive, they are not very old—perhaps built between 1100 and 1680 AD, which is just 100 years before the American Revolution. During this same time period, great Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals were being built throughout Europe. The Classical forms of ancient Greece and Rome reinvented a Renaissance in architecture. Why were Europeans able to build more complex and grand buildings than the inhabitants of Easter Island? Progress happens in steps and advancement occurs when people share ideas and methods. When people traveled from Egypt to Jerusalem and from Istanbul to Rome, ideas traveled with them. Being isolated on an island makes for a slow evolution of ideas. If only they had had the Internet back then....

Learn More:

Sources: Rapa Nui National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Centre, United Nations [accessed August 19, 2013]; Explore Our Collections, Smithsonian Institution [accessed June 14, 2014]

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Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

Eiffel Tower, iron lattice, Champ de Mars in Paris, design by Gustave Eiffel, 1889 World's Fair
Nominated World Wonder: La Tour Eiffel The Eiffel Tower, tallest structure in Paris. Photo by Ayhan Altun/Gallo Images/Getty Images

The Eiffel Tower in France pioneered new uses for metal construction. Today, a trip to Paris is not complete without a visit to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

New 7 Wonders Finalist

The Eiffel Tower was originally built for the 1889 World Fair to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. During construction, the Eiffel was considered an eyesore by the French, but the criticism died down once the tower was completed.

The Industrial Revolution in Europe brought about a new trend: the use of metallurgy in construction. Because of this, the engineer's role became increasingly important, in some cases rivaling that of the architect. The work of engineer, architect, and designer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel is perhaps the most famous example of this new use for metal. Eiffel's famous tower in Paris is made of puddled iron.

Learn more about Cast Iron, Wrought Iron, and Cast-Iron Architecture

Engineering the Eiffel Tower:

Rising 324 feet (1,063 meters), the Eiffel Tower is the tallest structure in Paris. For 40 years, it measured the tallest in the world. The metal lattice-work, formed with very pure structural iron, makes the tower both extremely light and able to withstand tremendous wind forces. The Eiffel Tower open to the wind, so when you stand near the top you may have the sensation that you are outside. The open structure also allows visitors to look "through" the tower - to stand in one part of the tower and look through the latticed wall or floor to another part.

Learn More:

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Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey (Ayasofya)

Interior of the Hagia Sofia (Aya Sofia), Istanbul, Turkey.
Nominated World Wonder Interior of the Hagia Sofia (Aya Sofia), Istanbul, Turkey. See the exterior. Photo by Salvator Barki/Moment/Getty Images

Today's grand Hagia Sophia is the third structure built on this ancient site.

  • 360 AD Megale Ekklesia (Big Church) ordered by Emperor Konstantios; wooden roof burned and building destroyed during the public riots of 404 AD
  • 415 AD Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) ordered by Emperor Theodosios II; wooden roof burned and building destroyed during the public riots of 532 AD
  • 537 AD ordered by Emperor Justinianos (Flavius Justinianus); architects Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Miletus each employed 100 architects, each with 100 workers

About Justinian's Hagia Sophia, New 7 Wonders Finalist

Historic Period: Byzantine
Length: 100 meters
Width: 69.5 meters
Height: Dome from the ground level is 55.60 meters; 31.87 meters radius North to South; 30.86 meters radius East to West
Materials: white marble from Marmara Island; green porphyry from Eğriboz Island; pink marble from Afyon; yellow marble from North Africa
Columns: 104 (40 in the lower and 64 in the upper); nave columns are from the Temple of Artemis in Ephessus; eight dome columns are from Egypt
Structural Engineering: Pendentives
Mosaics: stone, glass, terra cotta, and precious metals (gold and silver)
Calligraphy Panels: 7.5 - 8 meters in diameter, said to be the largest in the Islamic world

Source: History, Hagia Sophia Museum at www.ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr/en/tarihce.html [accessed April 1, 2013]

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Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan

Architecture blends with nature
Nominated World Wonder Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan. Press photo © 2000-2006 NewOpenWorld Foundation

Architecture blends with nature at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan. The words Kiyomizu, Kiyomizu-dera or Kiyomizudera can refer to several Buddhist temples, but the most famous is the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. In Japanese, kiyoi mizu means pure water.

New 7 Wonders Finalist

Kyoto's Kiyomizu Temple was constructed in 1633 on the foundations of a much earlier temple. A waterfall from adjacent hills tumbles into the temple complex. Leading into the temple is a wide veranda with hundreds of pillars.

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Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, Russia

Colorful onion domes at St Basil's Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow, Russia
Nominated World Wonder St. Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow. Press photo © 2000-2006 NewOpenWorld Foundation

The Kremlin in Moscow is the symbolic and governmental center of Russia. Just outside the Kremlin Gates is St. Basil's Cathedral, also called the Cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God. St. Basil's Cathedral is a carnival of painted onion domes in the most expressive of Russo-Byzantine traditions. St. Basil's was built between 1554 and 1560 and reflects the renewed interest in traditional Russian styles during the reign of Ivan IV (the Terrible).

Ivan IV built St. Basil's Cathedral to honor Russia's victory over the Tatars at Kazan. It is said that Ivan the Terrible had the architects blinded so that they could never again design a building so beautiful.

New 7 Wonders Finalist

Cathedral Square in Moscow has some of Russia's most important architecture, including the Cathedral of the Dormition, The Archangel's Cathedral, Grand Kremlin Palace, and Terem Palace.

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Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

The pyramids of Giza, Egypt
Nominated World Wonder The pyramids of Giza, Egypt. Photo by Cultura Travel/Seth K. Hughes/Cultura Exclusive Collection/Getty Images

The most famous pyramids in Egypt are the Pyramids of Giza, built more than 2,000 years B.C. to shelter and safeguard the souls of Egyptian pharaohs. In 2007, the Pyramids were named honorary candidates in a campaign to name the New 7 Wonders of the World.

In the valley of Giza, Egypt are three large pyramids: the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Kafhre, and the Pyramid of Menkaura. Each Pyramid is a tomb constructed for an Egyptian king.

Original 7 Wonders

The Great Pyramid of Khufu is the largest, oldest, and the best preserved of the three Pyramids. Its enormous base covers approximately nine acres (392,040 square feet). Constructed in about 2560 BC, the Great Pyramid of Khufu is the only surviving monument from the original 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. The other Wonders of the Ancient World were:

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Statue of Liberty, New York City

The Statue of Liberty in New York, USA
Nominated World Wonder The Statue of Liberty in New York, USA. Photo by Carolia/LatinContent/Getty Images

Sculpted by a French artist, the Statue of Liberty is an enduring symbol of the United States. Towering over Liberty Island in New York, the Statue of Liberty is recognized around the world as a symbol of the United States. French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi designed the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from France to the United States.

New 7 Wonders Finalist, The Statue of Liberty:

  • Construction began in France in 1875.
  • Ten years later in 1885, a French transport ship carried the statue to New York in 214 crates holding 350 separate pieces.
  • Height: 151 feet 1 inch; Total height on pedestal: 305 feet 1 inch.
  • Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel used an internal skeleton, a flexible engineering approach that allows the statue to sway several inches in strong winds.
  • Weight of statue: 156 tons (31 tons of copper attached to 125 tons of framework).
  • Liberty's Crown has 25 windows and 7 rays.
  • Liberty's head is 10 feet wide; each eye is 2 1/2 feet wide; her nose is 4 1/2 feet long; her mouth is 3 feet wide.

The Statue of Liberty was assembled on a pedestal designed by American architect Richard Morris Hunt. The statue and pedestal were officially completed and dedicated by President Grover Cleveland on October 28, 1886.

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Stonehenge in Amesbury, UK

Stonehenge in Amesbury, United Kingdom
Nominated World Wonder: Sophistocated Prehistoric Design Stonehenge in Amesbury, United Kingdom. Photo by Jason Hawkes/Stone/Getty Images

One of the world's most famous archaeological sites, Stonehenge reveals the science and skill of a Neolithic civilization. Before recorded history, Neolithic people erected 150 huge rocks in a circular pattern on the Salisbury Plain in southern England. Most of Stonehenge was built about two thousand years before the Common Era (2000 BC). No one knows for certain why the structure was built or how a primitive society was able to raise the enormous rocks. Massive stones recently discovered in nearby Durrington Walls suggest that Stonehenge was part of a vast Neolithic landscape, much larger than previously imaged.

New 7 Wonders Finalist, Stonehenge

Location: Wiltshire, England
Completed: 3100 to 1100 BC
Architects: a Neolithic civilization in Britain
Construction Materials: Wiltshire Sarsen sandstone and Pembroke (Wales) Bluestone

Why is Stonehenge Important?

Stonehenge is also on the UNESCO World Heritage list. UNESCO calls Stonehenge "the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world," citing these reasons:

  • size of the prehistoric stones, the the largest weighs over 40 tons (80,000 pounds)
  • sophisticated placement of the large stones in a concentric architectural design
  • artistic shaping of the stones
  • constructed with different kinds of stone
  • precision of engineering, stone lintels locked horizontally in place by carved joints

Source: Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites, UNESCO World Heritage Centre, United Nations [accessed August 19, 2013].

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Sydney Opera House, Australia

Sydney Opera House, Australia, at dusk
Nominated World Wonder: A Shell-Shaped Heritage Site Sydney Opera House, Australia, at dusk. Photo by Guy Vanderelst/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the startling shell-shaped Sydney Opera House in Australia inspires delight and controversy. Utzon began work on the Sydney Opera House in 1957, but controversy surrounded the construction. The modern expressionist building wasn't completed until 1973, under the direction of Peter Hall.

New 7 Wonders Finalist

During recent years, updates and renovations to the shell-shaped theater have remained a subject of heated debate. Despite the many controversies, the Sydney Opera House is widely praised as one of the world's great landmarks. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2007.

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Timbuktu in Mali, West Africa

Islamic architecture in Western Africa
Nominated World Wonder Timbuktu in Mali, West Africa. Press photo © 2000-2006 NewOpenWorld Foundation

Founded by Nomads, the city of Timbuktu became legendary for its wealth. The name Timbuktu has taken on mythic meaning, suggesting a place that is very far away. The real Timbuktu lies in Mali, in West Africa. Scholars surmise that the area became an Islamic outpost at the time of the Hijra. Legend has it that an old woman named Buktu guarded the camp. The Place of Buktu or Tim-Buktu became a safe haven for the many merchants and traders supplying the architects of Gothic cathedrals with gold from West Africa. Timbuktu became a center for wealth, culture, art, and higher learning. The famous University of Sankore, founded in the fourteenth century, drew scholars from far away. Three major Islamic mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, made Timbuktu a great spiritual center in the region.

New 7 Wonders Finalist

The splendor of Timbuktu is reflected today in Timbuktu's fascinating Islamic architecture. The mosques were important in the spread of Islam into Africa, and the threat of their "desertification" prompted UNESCO to name Timbuktu a World Heritage Site in 1988. The future held much more severe threats.

21st Century Unrest:

In 2012, Islamic radicals took control of Timbuktu and began destroying parts of its iconic architecture, reminiscent of the Taliban's destruction of Afghanistan's ancient shrines in 2001. Ansar al-Dine (AAD), an Al-Qaeda-linked group, used picks and axes to tear down the door and wall area of the famous Sidi Yahia mosque. Ancient religious belief warned that opening the door would bring calamity and devastation. Ironically, AAD devastated the mosque to prove that the world would not end if the door opened.

The region remains unstable for the casual visitor. The U.s. Department of State has designated AAD a Foreign Terrorist Organization and as of 2014 travel warnings remain in place for the region. The historic preservation of the ancient architecture seems to be controlled by whoever is in power.

Learn More:

Sources: UNESCO/CLT/WHC; Islamists destroy 15th-century Timbuktu mosque, The Telegraph, July 3, 2012; Mali Travel Warning, U.S. Dept. of State, March 21, 2014 [accessed July 1, 2014]

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Craven, Jackie. "Wonders of the World - Winners and Finalists." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/wonders-of-the-world-new-list-4065228. Craven, Jackie. (2023, April 5). Wonders of the World - Winners and Finalists. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/wonders-of-the-world-new-list-4065228 Craven, Jackie. "Wonders of the World - Winners and Finalists." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/wonders-of-the-world-new-list-4065228 (accessed June 7, 2023).