Nerds on History
Episode No. 70 — The 7 Wonders of the Ancient-ish World
Eric and Bryan welcome actor, history buff, (and Bryan’s uncle) Greg Mortensen, where they begin to re-evaluate The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Listen to see what makes the list. Brace yourself, folks, these show notes are over 1,000 words!
Eric and I have been racking our brains for months trying to come up with a unique way to handle the Seven Wonders. After much consideration, it was decided that we flat out couldn’t. It’s all been done before. Nevertheless, as we explored the topic more, Eric came up with a brilliant idea: what if we made our own list of the Seven Wonders? To his credit, Eric completely drafted the list of the new seven. My only comment was that some of them weren’t actually ancient, hence why the episodes title includes “ish” at the end.
You’ll have to listen to the episode for the full list, but for the first part, we covered the following monuments:
- Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, United States of America
- The Acropolis, Athens, Greece
- Temple of Karnak, Luxor, Egypt
Starting with what is closest to us and working our way eastward, the first place we explored was Chaco Canyon. Despite being in the middle of a desert, the site is the location of a large collection of Anasazi indian living quarters, or what they called kivas. Eric geeked out by sharing a plethora of information on the site:
- The remote and extreme area reaches 115 degrees in the summer and below zero in winter. Food had to be brought in from elsewhere for the builders of the site.
- The Chacoian culture occupied 95,000 square miles primarily in New Mexico and traded with cultures 3000 miles south of them. Hundred of miles of road connecting them. Chaco canyon was a spirals center it is thought.
Eric was particularly excited about the Fahota Bute: a structure consisting of three slabs of limestone, behind which are two spiral patterns on a wall.
- On the equinox days, the smaller spiral is pierced by a dagger of light when the sun shines through the slats.
- On the winter solstice, two daggers bracket the large spiral. Several other examples of solar signifactat rock art (petroglyphs) cover the bute. Including a drawing of Publo Benito with an arrow through it pointing at a spiral.
The then continued to share even more insightful facts:
- 12 generations took 250 years to build Chaco Canyon complex starting in 850 AD.
- There are thousands of rooms, with some buildings being over 4-5 stories high. Large buildings were constructed with timbers, 20,000 of them. These had to be transported in from over 60 miles away.
- The structure Pueblo Benitio was the size of the Roman Coliseum. 12 of the 14 primary complexes have solar or lunar alignments.
- Pueblo Benito is a sophisticated astronomical ritual site. Most rooms are deep inside building closed off from ventilation showing very little signs of habitation. The structure is set up as a semicircle with walls setup in exact North, South, East and West orientations.
- The E/W wall aligns with the rising and setting of the sun during different times of the year. The N/S wall denotes time of day, morning from afternoon.
- Just like the markings at Fahota bute, three other complexes are built along the north/south east/west lines perfectly intercepting each other, creating the same astronomical layout of Pueblo Benito.
Eric clearly felt this monument deserved to be a wonder, and rightfully so! We then hopped from North America to Greece to discuss the famous Acropolis of Athens. It is rather surprising that this was not on the original list of Seven Wonders, if nothing else for the architectural genius behind it. I took the reins and shared some of the following fun facts:
- The structure was build atop a hill in Athens, ensuring that anyone in the City would be able to see it. This makes the rough translation of Acropolis, “city on the summit,” fitting.
- It was constructed in the fifth century BC, under the leadership of Pericles.
- The entire structure is an optical illusion. Even though the columns and horizontal lines appear to be straight from far away, up it far from the truth.
- When Greece was under Roman rule, a temple devoted to Augustus was erected to mimic the design of it’s existing temples, and establish Roman dominance.
- The Parthenon, the famous temple devoted to Athena Parthenos (greek for Virgin), was later converted to a Church devoted to the Virgin Mary in the 6th Century.
Our guest Greg also aptly mentioned that not too far away from the Acropolis is Paul’s Rock, the very place where the early Christian bishop St. Paul preached to the Athenians. We wrapped up the Acropolis with the following:
- The structures in the Acropolis were defaced over the centuries, but since the liberation of Greece in the 19th century, the site has been re-excavated, some of the artifacts being sold to the British.
- Since 1975, the Greek government has had a committee devoted to the conservation of the Acropolis.
Moving to the southeastern of the Mediterranean, Eric took back over the reins to discuss the Temple of Karnak. If anyone is suddenly shocked by Eric talking about the subject of Egypt, please listen to the following episodes: Gilligan’s Egypt Parts I and II, and The Mongoose Equation…you know what, just listen to episodes 1-69. You’ll hear it there. Here’s a recap of what he covered:
- It was created by Senusret I in the 11th Dynasty
- Amun, creator god of the Universe, was worshiped here, replacing Montu, a similar god who represented the region. Before the reunification of Egypt in the Middle Kingdom, this area was small and under developed with no large temple complex. Only a small shrine had been constructed.
- During the New Kingdom, this area received even more wealth as a result of it being the central burial place of egypts most powerful leaders. As such it also became the spiritual center of Egypt. Moving it away from Mephis in the north.
- Three primary sections of the temple, the precinct of Amun-Re, Mut, Montu. From the Middle Kingdom to the Ptolemaic Period. Aproximently 30 Pharaohs built on to the temple.
- The Great Hypostyle Hall has an area 50,000 ft and 134 massive columns in 16 rows. They are between 10 and 12 meters high, built by Seti I and Rameses II.
- Large pylons and obelisks were constructed throughout the temple, with some being walled up or overshadowed by larger monuments as a way of competing with their predecessors. Some were even disassembled and used as filler.
We ended on a necropolis, with plans of picking up Part II on a necropolis. Of course, as always, DON’T TAKE OUR WORD FOR IT! Below are the resources we found during our research for the episode:
The Solstice Project — http://www.solsticeproject.org
The Mystery of Chaco Canyon (film) — Buy the DVD Here
Ministry of Culture and Sports | Acropolis of Athens — http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/3/eh351.jsp?obj_id=2384
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Photo Credit: “Chaco Canyon to the South” by Greg Willis, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Flickr.