IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


11th August, 2023 Culture

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  • US President Joe Biden made another gaffe when he inaccurately said that the Grand Canyon is one of the "nine" wonders of the world.


  • Social media users were quick to point out that the widely accepted list includes seven locations, and the Grand Canyon is not part of the list.
  • The actual wonders included are the Great Wall of China, Chichen Itza in Mexico, Petra in Jordan, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil, the Colosseum in Italy and the Taj Mahal in India.

The Grand Canyon

  • The Grand Canyon is located in the state of Arizona in the United States.
  • Carved over millions of years by the mighty Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is a testament to the power of geological forces and the passage of time.

Key Features and Geological Significance

  • Size: The Grand Canyon stretches approximately 446 kilometers in length, up to 29 kilometers wide, and plunges to depths of 1.6 kilometers.
  • Layered Rock Formations: The walls of the Grand Canyon expose a geological history that spans nearly two billion years. The exposed rock layers showcase a fascinating record of Earth's geological evolution, revealing ancient marine environments, desert landscapes, and the effects of uplift and erosion.
  • Colorado River: The powerful Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon over millions of years, creating a network of deep gorges and stunning cliffs. The river's relentless force, carrying sediment downstream, continues to shape the canyon's landscape today.
  • Vibrant Colors: The Grand Canyon's rocks are a canvas of vibrant hues, ranging from deep reds and oranges to striking yellows and subtle purples.

Biodiversity and Ecology

  • Diverse Habitats: The Grand Canyon's varying elevations create a wide range of habitats, from desert shrublands at the bottom to pine and fir forests at higher altitudes. This diversity supports a rich array of plant and animal species.
  • Unique Wildlife: The canyon is home to a variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk, and several bird species. The California condor, one of the rarest birds in the world, has been reintroduced to the area as part of a conservation effort.

Cultural Significance

  • Native American Heritage: The Grand Canyon holds great cultural significance for many Native American tribes, including the Havasupai, Navajo, and Hopi. These tribes have lived in the region for generations and consider the canyon sacred.
  • Tourism and Exploration: The Grand Canyon has been a popular destination for tourists and adventurers for over a century.

Conservation and Protection

  • National Park: The Grand Canyon was designated as a national park in 1919, ensuring its protection for future generations. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Environmental Stewardship: Conservation efforts continue to protect the Grand Canyon's delicate ecosystem and preserve its natural beauty.

Ancient Wonders of the World

The Great Pyramid of Giza

  • Location: Giza, Egypt.
  • Construction Period: Built around 2560 BC during the reign of Pharaoh Khufu (also known as Cheops).
  • Size and Structure: The Great Pyramid is the largest and oldest of the Seven Wonders. It originally stood at approximately 481 feet and was covered in smooth white Tura limestone casing stones, creating a gleaming appearance. It consists of over 2 million limestone blocks, each weighing several tons.
  • Architectural Marvel: The Great Pyramid's precision in alignment with the cardinal points (north, south, east, west) is remarkable, indicating advanced astronomical and engineering knowledge of the ancient Egyptians.
  • Historical Significance: It is a testament to the ingenuity and advanced construction techniques of the ancient civilization, serving as a monumental tomb for Pharaoh Khufu.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

  • Location: Historians believe they were situated in Babylon, near present-day Hillah, Babil, Iraq.
  • Credited to: The gardens are often attributed to King Nebuchadnezzar II, who is said to have created them for his wife Amytis, who missed the green hills and valleys of her homeland.
  • Description: The Hanging Gardens are renowned for their terraced gardens with lush vegetation, creating an oasis in the midst of a desert landscape. It is said that they were built to mimic the beauty of Amytis' homeland.
  • Architectural Enigma: While the existence and exact nature of the Hanging Gardens are debated among historians, they remain a symbol of architectural wonder, showcasing the ambition of the ancient Babylonians.

Statue of Zeus at Olympia

  • Location: Placed in the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, Greece.
  • Sculptor: The statue was created by the renowned sculptor Phidias around 435 BC.
  • Material and Appearance: The Statue of Zeus was a colossal masterpiece, standing approximately 40 feet (12 meters) tall. It was made primarily of gold and ivory, with elaborate details that depicted Zeus seated on a throne, holding a statue of Nike (the goddess of victory) in his right hand.
  • Cultural and Artistic Achievement: This statue is a prime example of ancient Greek sculpture, showcasing the skill and artistry of the period. It was a symbol of the religious and cultural significance of Zeus in Greek mythology and a testament to the grandeur of the ancient Olympic Games.

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

  • Location: Situated in Ephesus, near present-day Selçuk, Turkey.
  • Dedication: The temple was dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis, the goddess of hunting, wilderness, and childbirth.
  • Architectural Marvel: The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was renowned for its immense size and elaborate design. It was supported by 127 Ionic columns, each standing over 60 feet (18 meters) high.
  • Destruction and Reconstruction: The temple faced destruction multiple times due to arson and conquest. It was rebuilt after each destruction, indicating the significance of Artemis in the ancient world.
  • Cultural Impact: The temple was considered one of the grandest and most important in the ancient Greek world, attracting pilgrims and visitors from various regions, contributing to the prosperity of the city.

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

  • Location: Built in Halicarnassus, now Bodrum, Turkey.
  • Purpose: The Mausoleum was constructed as a monumental tomb for Mausolus, a satrap (governor) in the Persian Empire, and his sister-wife Artemisia II.
  • Architects: The Mausoleum was designed by the renowned architects Satyros and Pythius.
  • Architectural Style: It combined various architectural elements from Greek, Egyptian, and Lycian cultures, creating a unique fusion of styles.
  • Legacy: The term "mausoleum" originates from this grand tomb. While the Mausoleum itself no longer stands, its legacy is seen in the preservation of grand tombs and mausoleums throughout history.

Colossus of Rhodes

  • Location: The Colossus stood on the Greek island of Rhodes, at the entrance of the harbor.
  • Purpose: The Colossus of Rhodes was a giant bronze statue erected to honor the sun god Helios and to celebrate Rhodes' victory over the ruler of Cyprus.
  • Sculptor: The statue was created by the renowned sculptor Chares of Lindos.
  • Scale and Appearance: The Colossus stood approximately 110 feet (33 meters) tall, making it one of the tallest statues in the ancient world. It was a representation of Helios, with its legs on either side of the harbor's entrance.
  • Destruction: The Colossus was destroyed by an earthquake around 226 BC. Despite its relatively short lifespan, it left a lasting impact on the imaginations of people throughout history.

Lighthouse of Alexandria

  • Location: The lighthouse was located on the island of Pharos, near Alexandria, Egypt.
  • Architect: It was designed by the architect Sostratus of Cnidus in the 3rd century BC.
  • Purpose: The Lighthouse of Alexandria, also known as the Pharos of Alexandria, served as a functional lighthouse guiding sailors safely to the busy harbor of Alexandria.
  • Innovative Engineering: It was one of the tallest man-made structures of the ancient world, standing at an estimated height of 330 feet (100 meters). It was a marvel of ancient engineering, with a mirror system and an open flame at the top to produce a powerful light visible from miles away.
  • Cultural Symbol: The lighthouse was not only a practical navigation aid but also a symbol of the prosperity and advancement of Alexandria, a renowned center of learning and culture in the ancient Mediterranean.

Modern Wonders of the World

Great Wall of China

  • Location: The Great Wall stretches across northern China, primarily built to protect against invasions from various nomadic groups.
  • Construction Period: The wall was built and expanded during various dynasties, with the earliest sections dating back to the 7th century BC.
  • Size and Structure: The Great Wall spans over 21,196 kilometers and consists of walls, watchtowers, and fortifications built using various materials such as stone, brick, wood, and earth.
  • Cultural Icon: It is not only a symbol of China's military defense but also a representation of Chinese history, culture, and architectural achievement.
  • UNESCO World Heritage: The Great Wall of China is a UNESCO World Heritage site, attracting millions of visitors annually.

Petra, Jordan

  • Location: Petra is an ancient city in the mountainous region of southern Jordan, known for its unique rock-cut architecture.
  • Architectural Wonder: The city is famous for its intricate rock-cut structures, including the iconic Treasury (Al-Khazneh) and the Monastery (Ad Deir).
  • Nabatean Capital: Petra was the capital of the Nabatean Kingdom and a crucial trading hub in ancient times.
  • Water Conduits: One of the impressive features of Petra is its sophisticated water conduit system, which allowed the city to thrive in an arid environment.
  • Rediscovery: Although abandoned and hidden for centuries, Petra was rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812 and has since become a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular tourist destination.

Christ the Redeemer, Brazil

  • Location: The Christ the Redeemer statue stands atop the Corcovado Mountain overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • Religious Symbolism: The statue represents Jesus Christ with outstretched arms, symbolizing peace, and is seen as a symbol of Christianity and a protector of the city.
  • Statue Details: Christ the Redeemer is approximately 98 feet (30 meters) tall, excluding its pedestal, and is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone.
  • Panoramic Views: The statue offers breathtaking panoramic views of Rio de Janeiro, making it a popular tourist attraction.
  • Cultural Icon: It is one of the most iconic and recognizable landmarks in the world, representing both the religious significance and the natural beauty of Brazil.

Machu Picchu, Peru

  • Location: Machu Picchu is an ancient Incan citadel situated in the Andes mountains of Peru.
  • Historical Significance: Machu Picchu is believed to have been built in the mid-15th century and was likely a royal estate or religious retreat.
  • Architectural and Engineering Marvel: The site features remarkable stone construction, with precisely cut stones that fit together without the use of mortar. The city's design takes advantage of the natural landscape, and its drainage systems are engineered to withstand the heavy rains of the region.
  • Cultural Heritage: Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is often considered one of the most important archaeological and cultural sites in the world.
  • Tourism: It attracts millions of visitors each year, offering them a glimpse into the advanced engineering and artistic skills of the Inca civilization.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

  • Location: Chichen Itza is a pre-Columbian archaeological site located in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
  • Maya Civilization: Chichen Itza was an important center in the Maya civilization and played a significant role in the region's history.
  • El Castillo: The iconic pyramid known as El Castillo (or the Temple of Kukulcan) is the most famous structure at Chichen Itza. It has four sides with 91 steps each, totaling 364 steps, and when you include the top platform, the total equals 365, representing the days of the solar year.
  • Astronomical Significance: The architecture and layout of Chichen Itza demonstrate advanced knowledge of astronomy and mathematical precision. During the spring and fall equinoxes, a shadow appears on the pyramid, resembling a serpent descending the steps.
  • UNESCO Recognition: Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is recognized as a remarkable testament to the cultural achievements of the Maya civilization.

Roman Colosseum, Italy

  • Location: The Colosseum is situated in the heart of Rome, Italy.
  • Historical Significance: Also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, it was built during the Roman Empire, inaugurated in AD 80.
  • Architectural Splendor: The Colosseum is a masterpiece of Roman engineering and architecture. It could hold up to 80,000 spectators, making it the largest amphitheater in the ancient world.
  • Gladiator Contests: The Colosseum was famous for hosting gladiatorial contests, animal hunts, and public spectacles. It was an integral part of ancient Roman culture and entertainment.
  • Cultural Symbol: It has become an iconic symbol of ancient Rome, representing the grandeur of the Roman Empire and the legacy of its architectural achievements.

Taj Mahal, India

  • Location: The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.
  • Construction Period: It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, with construction starting in 1632.
  • Architectural Masterpiece: The Taj Mahal is renowned for its stunning white marble construction, intricate detailing, and perfect symmetry.
  • Design and Symbolism: The monument is a fusion of Persian, Islamic, and Indian architectural styles. Its central dome, minarets, and reflecting pools create a breathtaking visual impact.
  • Cultural Heritage: The Taj Mahal is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a symbol of eternal love and artistic excellence.
  • Tourist Attraction: It attracts millions of visitors from around the world who come to admire its beauty and learn about the history and culture of India.


Q.  The "Seven Wonders of the World" is a list of remarkable constructions from ancient and modern times. Which of the following statements about the Seven Wonders of the World is NOT correct?

a) The Great Pyramid of Giza, located in Egypt, is the only ancient wonder that still exists today.

b) The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, often described as a beautiful terraced garden, is the only wonder whose existence remains a subject of debate among historians and archaeologists.

c) The Colossus of Rhodes was a massive bronze statue of the Greek god Helios that stood at the entrance of the harbor of the city of Alexandria.

d) The Pyramids at Chichen Itza in Mexico, known for their step-pyramid structures, were included as one of the New7Wonders of the World in a global poll conducted in 2007.

Answer: c)