Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Wonders of the world

I had a joy to teach a small group of enthusiastic adult learners a week ago in Madingley Hall just outside Cambridge. I was running a residential course on the Seven Wonders of the World and we travelled in time to the Hellenistic period and the empire of Alexander the Great. We very pleasurably looked at the seven buildings or art works around the eastern Mediterranean and explored at the reasons of these wonders were built.

The ruins of Temple of Zeus in Olympia

We stuck to the conventional list of the Great Pyramid, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, Colossus of Rhodes and the Pharos of Alexandria. This meant concentrating on locations and landscapes mainly along the Anatolian coast. Not to mention to marvel the apparently imagined location of the Hanging Gardens.

At the end of our journey we put our heads together and listed important archaeological sites and finds that were there during the Hellenistic times but also those we know were not there but are now known to have been important. We did consult the criteria of UNESCO for the World Heritage sites but ultimately we listed the sites we happened to remember and fancied so it was more for fun than a really serious scientific exercise. However, we considered their after effect and enjoyed the whole voting process.

I am relatively proud of our choice although I must admit we set our sights because of our interests relatively closely to the Mediterranean and Europe. Our list composed of:

  • cave paintings in France and northern Spain
  • Stonehenge
  • Pyramids at Giza
  • the walls and ziggurat of Babylon
  • Knossos
  • Acropolis
  • Pompeii.

  • We ended up choosing Acropolis on the basis of the general importance although several of us preferred the landscape and ambiance at Delphoi.

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