Engineering may seem like a recent technological advancement. However, there are many historical examples of extraordinary engineering feats that were executed without the use of modern technology. Below are seven ancient man-made engineering wonders all dating before the Middle Ages.
- Marvel – Three dry stone walls made of large boulders put together like puzzle pieces.
- Location – Outside the city of Cusco, Peru.
- Date completed – the 16th century.
- Purpose – Incan architecture outside the capital of the empire, Cusco.
The stones are fitted so precisely that a piece of paper couldn’t fit between them. The stones were moved 3 kilometers from the quarry to their current location therefore, it’s uncertain how they were moved. Due to, the weight of the boulder is around 120 tons. A primitive roadway and aqueduct system ran between Saksaywaman and lake cochapata.
Leshan Giant Buddha, China
- Marvel – Largest carved stone Buddha in the world.
- Location – East of Leshan City in Sichuan Province, China at the convergence of the Min River, Qingyi River, and Dadu River.
- Date completed – 803 CE
- Significance – Monk Hai Tong built the statue to appease a water spirit thought to be causing tempestuous water and boat accidents.
1,021 Coiled buns in the statue’s hair have been skillfully embedded in the head. Therefore these buns are part of a hidden drainage system that displaces rainwater to flow through the statue’s head, arms, behind the ears, and clothes to protect it from water damage. However, the statue is 232 feet tall with 92-foot wide shoulders.
Chand Baori, India
- marvel – One of the world’s deepest stepwells.
- Location – Edge of the Thar Desert in the Rajasthan state, India
- Date completed – the 10th century
- Purpose – To provide water supply in the hot, arid region prior to modern water pipe plumbing
3,500 Zig-zag steps descend 13 stories to extend 100 feet below the earth’s surface. Stepwells (called Baori) are tiered, carved stones used to collect and store rainwater. A temple to the Hindu goddess Harsiddhi is located on one side of the well.
Underground Churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia
- Marvel – 11 monolithic churches carved underground from a single block.
- Location – Lalibela, Ethiopia
- Date completed – 12th and 13th century.
- Purpose – Site of spiritual pilgrimage for Ethiopian Orthodox Church worshippers, attracting 80,000 to 100,000 tourist visitors each year.
The underground construction takes advantage of natural aquifers located deep underground. The churches are connected to each other with a complex and extensive system of drainage ditches, tunnels, and subterranean passageways. Because they were carved out of stone, they were built from the top down.
- Marvel – an Ancient urban city with some of the largest pyramidal structures
- Location – Northeast of Mexico City
- Date completed – First established around 100 BCE, reached a peak in 450 CE and declined in the 8th or 9th century.
- Purpose – At its peak, the city’s temples and residences sprawled out over 22 miles and had up to 200,000 inhabitants living there.
The grid of the city is build to be aligned with celestial, geographic and geodetic points of significance. The East-West axis of the city is aligned with the point on the horizon where the sun sets at the beginning of the Mesoamerican calendar. The North-South axis of the city is the Avenue of the Dead, which is aligned with pyramids of the Sun and the Moon and Temple of Quetzalcoatl.
El Mirador, Guatemala
- Marvel – World’s largest pyramid by volume and remains the largest five pre-classical Mayan cities.
- Location – Mirador-Rio Azul National Park, Northern Guatemala
- Date completed – 300 BCE
- Significance – El Mirador is evidence of advanced Mayan culture and architecture almost 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.
The site is 500,000 acres with a civic center measuring 10 square miles 35 triadic pyramids. La Danta is the largest pyramid at 230 feet tall and 2,800,000 cubic meters. Remains of a complex network of large roads linking important architectural sites and nearby cities made up the world’s first highway system. 15 million man-days of labor were required to build La Danta.
The lost city of Mohenjo Daro, Pakistan
- Marvel – Mohenjo Daro was one of the largest centers of the Indus Valley civilization, experiencing the transition from Stone Age to Bronze Age.
- Location – Sindh, Pakistan
- Date completed – 2500 BCE
- Purpose – The Indus Valley civilization was entirely unknown until 1921.
It was a city thought to have housed up to 35,000 inhabitants with incredible architecture and complex water and sewage systems. A well-planned street grid and an elaborate drainage system hint that the occupants of the city were skilled urban planners with a reverence for the control of water. Wells were found throughout the city, and nearly every house contained a bathing area and drainage system. The ‘Great Bath’, is astoundingly well preserved and measures 180 feet North to South and 108 feet East to West.
Modern Day Wonders
Modern-day engineering has also developed its own wonders, which showcase the innovative, determined spirit of engineering. Included among the American Society of Civil Engineers’ historic landmarks and Seven Wonders of the Modern World are:
- The Golden Gate Bridge – 1.7-mile long suspension bridge built in 1937 that remains one of the longest suspension bridges in the world and spans 4,200 feet.
- The Panama Canal – 50-mile long international waterway allowing ships to pass between Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, improving global economic and commercial development.
- The Eurotunnel – 31-mile long tunnel connecting the United Kingdom and France with 24 miles of the tunnel traveling undersea.