10 Unknown Wonders of the World

1.Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein

The Cradle of Humankind, this site is a complex of over 36 limestone caves in South Africa, not far from Johannesburg. Within these caves scientists have found a huge number of hominid fossils dating back over 3.5 million years, with one cave alone containing over a third of all hominid fossils ever found. The caves also show signs of occupation as well, including the first ever in-situ hominid stone tools, and the oldest controlled fire dated to over 1 million years ago. Some of the better known finds include Mrs Ples, the most intact skull of an Australopithecus Africanus ever found, although the sex is not definitely female, x-rays of the teeth seem to show that this was a sub-adult. Another famous find is Little Foot, an amazingly complete hominin skeleton which is believed to be between 2.5 to 3.3 million years old.

2.Takht-e Jamshid
Persepolis, it is located in the south of Iran and was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. Construction was started around 515BC by Cyrus the Great, but the most impressive works were completed by Darius the Great and Xerxes the Great (yes the bad guy from 300) in around 470BC. One of the most awe inspiring structures on this site is the Apadana palace which was the main hall of the kings, where the tributes from nations within his Empire would have been received. The building was supported by columns 20m high, topped with a brace carved to the shape of lions or bulls. I have seen an example of these braces in the Louvre and it gives you an amazing idea of the size and scale of Persepolis. The place also contains the gate of nations, the hall of 100 columns, the imperial treasury, council halls, military quarters, reception halls, cisterns, drainage, sepulchers, royal tombs, royal stables, chariot houses and a number of palaces and royal residences, all covered in engravings and mosaics. The city was destroyed in 330BC, by Alexander.

3.Lascaux Cave

Lascaux is group of caves in southwest France which were decorated over 17,300 years ago, with Paleolithic cave paintings. The public were allowed to view the caves in 1948, but by 1955 the carbon dioxide exhaled by the visitors had damaged the paintings causing the cave to be closed, the art was restored and is now monitored on a daily basis. The images are mostly of animals known to have lived in the area at the time, but images of humans and abstract signs are also present. Some of the images have been carved into the cave but the majority of art has been painted on using mineral pigments. A large portion of the paintings are of horses, but stags, cattle, aurochs, felines, birds, bears and rhinoceros’s are also represented. There are many theories on why this cave was decorated in this manor: it is thought that some of the art may represent star charts, as the constellations of Taurus and Pleiades can be found within the cave. There are also theories that this would have been a scared space to communicate with deities, a gathering place to plan a hunt together or even a record to celebrate the success of a hunt. We will probably never know but these images give us a fascinating look into our past.

4.Tropical Rainforest Sumatra

  The Tropical Rainforest of Sumatra is made up of three national parks on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, and was chosen due to its outstanding scenic beauty and natural habitats for in-situ conservation. The three parks all contain different habitats, allowing for a large diversity in both flora and fauna. The parks are home to Rafflesia Arnoldi, the world’s largest flower, and Amorphophallus Titanum, the worlds tallest flower, as well as 174 species of mammals and 380 species of birds. Of these specimens, 16 are endemic and 73 are currently threatened. Species such as Orang-utans, Sumatran rhinoceros, bornean clouded leopards, Asian tapirs, Sumatran elephants and the leather back turtles are all found within this site, making it one of the most diverse and important conservation sites in the world. The sites main threat is residential expansion and encroaching human occupation, both of which is being battled by a number of different preservation groups.

5.Wadi Al-Hitan

The Whale Valley is found in a desert in Egypt, the site contains fossils showing the evolution of whales from land mammals to the ocean going creatures we are familiar with today. Fossils of the Archaeoceti suborder such as Basilosaurus and Dorudon are common, but the skeletons of sea cows Sirenia, elephants Moeritherium, crocodiles, sea turtles and sea snakes have also been found at the site. The sheer number and quality of these fossils found in such a high concentration make this site unique. The quality of preservation is so good that stomach contents have been found preserved, while the combination of other species found at the site make it possible to reconstruct the environmental and ecological conditions.

6. Wudang Building Complex
 The Wudang Mountains are a small mountain range found in eastern China, which have been inhabited since at least 250 AD. Its called as Taoist monasteries, which were renowned as centers for meditation, martial arts, agriculture and medicines. People traveled to this area to research, learn and practice these skills. The palace and temple complex was constructed in the Ming Dynasty and within it are buildings dating from the 7th century. One of the more famous temples is the Golden Hall; built in 1416, the hall is constructed from gilded copper. It consists of 20 tons of copper and over 300kgs of gold, and was supposedly forged in Bejing, then moved to Wudang. The Nanyan Temple perches precariously on top of a cliff, in legend it is known as the place from which Emperor Zen Whu flew to heaven. The entire temple, including beams, gates and windows, is carved from rock and within the temple are gilded bronze statues of dozens of Taoist deities. Scattered across the cliffs are 500 gilded iron statues of heavenly officials. Another notable building, the Purple Cloud Temple is made up of several halls, the Dragon and Tiger Hall, the Purple Sky Hall, the East Hall, the West Hall and the Parent Hall.

7.Ellora caves

 Ellora is the site of monumental, rock cut, cave temples representing Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religions, built from 400AD in close proximity to each other to show the religious harmony in the area. The structures are multi level buildings, carved directly from caves within the mountain face, and include monasteries, shrines and places of worship. Many of the buildings have vaulted ceilings and are all intricately carved, with most of the shrines containing large carved deities. During construction, 200,000 tonnes of rock had to be removed from the site by generations of workers. Some notable caves are: the Buddhist shrine Vishvakarma, which features a multi-storied entrance, a large hall with vaulted ceilings and a 15ft carving of Buddha in a preaching pose; The Indra Sabha is a two level Jain cave with a monolithic shrine, like all of the Jain caves it once had richly painted ceilings, part of which are still visible today. It also has fine carvings of lotus flowers, Yaksha Matanga on an elephant and Ambika sitting on a lion under a mango tree. Kailasanatha is the centerpiece of Ellora, made to resemble mount Kailash, the home of lord Shiva, this Hindu shrine was built by Krishna I in around 760AD.

8.Aldabra Atoll

Aldabra is the world’s second biggest coral atoll, it is uninhabited, isolated and virtually untouched by humans. The atoll is the home to the world’s largest population of giant tortoises, which makes it an extremely valuable conservation site. During the 1700s, the islands were used by the French to hunt giant tortoises, as they were considered a delicacy at the time, but by the 1900s they had been hunted to the brink of extinction. The tortoises also share this atoll with the Aldabra Rail, the endangered Malagasy Sacred Ibis, Green and Hawksbill turtles and two species of bats found only on Aldabra.

9.Leshan Giant Buddha

This Maitreya Buddha was carved from a cliff face where the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers meet, in southern Sichuan, China. It was constructed by a Chinese monk named Haithong in 713, his followers worked on and off for 90 years to complete it and, today, it is still the largest stone Buddha in the world, at 71m tall and 28m wide. Where the three rivers meet, the water currents were dangerous and would often sink shipping vessels, Haithong thought if he carved the Buddha there it would help to calm the waters. The stone removed to carve the Buddha was dumped into the river, unintentionally altering the currents and calming the waters. Today the Buddha is threatened by pollution, and the wear and tear caused by the thousands of tourists who come each year to visit the statue.


Hatra is located to the northwest of Baghdad in Iraq, you may recognize it from the opening scenes in the film, The Exorcist. It was constructed during the 3rd century BC, by Arabs under the Iranian Parthian Empire. The city became the capital of the first Arab kingdom and became an important border fort against roman invasion. The city was ruled by Arabian princes who would have paid a yearly tribute to the rulers of the Iranian empire, until the Iranians took the city by force in 241. Hatra is recognized as one of the best preserved Parthian cities, with many of its structures still standing, including the inner and outer defensive walls and towers, and a range of temples dedicated to a different Gods from many different cultures.