6 of the World’s Most Mysterious Monuments & Ruins (PART 2)
Perhaps the world’s best known monument is Stonehenge, located in the English county of Wiltshire. It’s composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones and is believed to have been built around 2500 BC but has been revised and remodeled over a period of more than 1400 years. Though theories and speculation abound, no one knows what the original purpose of the prehistoric monument was and it remains one of the earth’s greatest mysteries.
Machu Picchu is the most well-preserved city of the Inca empire, hidden in the Peruvian Andes high on a steep mountain with a flattened top, a location that helped it escape notice by Spanish conquistadors. It was forgotten for centuries by the outside world, and re-discovered by archeologist Hiram Bingham in 1911. The stones of this city fit together so tightly a knife blade can’t fit between them. Modern research suggests that Machu Picchu was built around 1450 CE as a retreat by and for the Inca ruler Pachacuti and that it was actually relatively small by Inca standards.
Great Zimbabwe Ruins
Few people know that the modern-day African country of Zimbabwe was actually named after stone ruins that lie all over the countryside. The ‘Great Zimbabwe Ruins’ are some of the oldest and largest structures located in Southern Africa and at its peak, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe are estimated to have housed as many as 18,000 inhabitants. The Great Zimbabwe ruins span 1,800 acres and were constructed starting in the 11th century without the use for mortar. No one knows for sure why the site was eventually abandoned.
Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua, is a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, most famous for its monumental statues which were created by the Rapanui people. The statues, called moai, were part of the ancestral worship of the island’s settlers and were carved between 1250 and 1500 CE. The heaviest moai erected weighs 86 tons, illustrating how great a feat it was for the Rapanui to have created and moved them. Nearly half of all remaining moai are still at Rano Raraku, the main moai quarry, but hundreds were moved to stone platforms around the island’s perimeter.
Coral Castle, Monument to Lost Love
How did one five-foot-tall, 100-pound man build an intricate rock garden using pieces of coral that weighed several tons each? Coral Castle, in Homestead, Florida, was Latvian immigrant Ed Leedskalnin’s monument to a lost love. He began building it in 1923 after being jilted by his fiance in Latvia just days before their wedding, and dedicated his life to completing it. Construction continued even after his death in 1951. Experts are puzzled as to how Leedskalnin, who had only a fourth-grade education, could have built Coral Castle by himself. One engineer claims that even Albert Einstein couldn’t figure it out.
Peru’s Chavín de Huantar Ruins
While not as famous as the ruins at Machu Picchu, the Chavín de Huantar Ruins of Peru are also a fascinating World Heritage Site containing ruins and artifacts originally constructed by the Chavín, a pre-Inca culture, around 900 BC. The site served as a gathering place for people in the area to assemble and worship. It’s unclear why the Chavín culture disappeared, though some believe that the Chavín de Huantar ruins offer clues as to why some civilizations vanish. Most theories about the Chavín center on difficult environmental conditions including earthquakes, while others involve power struggles with other civilizations in the same region.