Infographic: Seven Man-Made Engineering Wonders of the Ancient World
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Seven Man-Made Engineering Wonders of the Ancient World

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Take a look around any major city today, and it’s evident that humans are pretty incredible builders.

We can create suspension bridges that span the widest rivers, or sleek skyscrapers that are over 1,000 m (3,300 ft) high. Even further, we can design these complex structures with extreme amounts of precision and consistency.

But while there is no shortage of modern engineering accomplishments to marvel at, it’s true that our ancestors also made impressive feats in the field of civil engineering. Ancient cultures were able to do things that still baffle people today, such as constructing majestic pyramids, erecting flawless walls out of huge boulders, or carving out multiple underground, monolithic churches from a rocky ridge.

Engineering Feats of the Ancient World

Today’s infographic comes to us from Norwich University, and it showcases details on seven civil engineering wonders from the Ancient world.

Note: Some ancient wonders, like the Great Pyramid of Giza, Roman aqueducts, and the Great Wall of China can be found on a previous infographic that counts them among the 10 Most Impressive Civil Engineering Projects of All Time

Seven Man-Made Engineering Wonders of the Ancient World

Ancient engineers and architects were able to pull off some pretty impressive feats.

Let’s take a detailed look at the seven listed here, including the aspects that continue to baffle modern engineers today.

Ancient Man-Made Wonders

1. Saksaywaman, Peru (16th century)
Imagine three giant stone walls made of giant boulders that all fit together perfectly, like puzzle pieces. The Incas managed to build these outside of Cusco, using boulders up to 120 tons in size. No one knows how they moved them from a quarry 3 km (2 miles) away to the site – and even more perplexing is how flawless they fit together.

2. Leshan Giant Buddha, China (803 CE)
This is the world’s largest carved stone Buddha statue in the world, and it stands 232 tall in China. The carved hair of the statue even has a hidden, built-in drainage system that displaces rainwater to protect it from damage.

3. Chand Baori, India (10th century)
This one of the world’s deepest stepwells, and it provides water to a hot, arid region before modern plumbing was possible. The stairs weave 3,500 steps, or about 13 stories, down into the depths where carved stones collect rainwater.

4. Underground Churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia (12th and 13th centuries)
These 11 underground churches were carved out of rock from the top-down. They are also connected, using a complex system of drainage ditches, tunnels, and subterranean passageways.

5. Teotihuacan, Mexico (450 CE peak)
At its peak, this ancient urban city sprawled 22 miles (35 km) with over 200,000 inhabitants. Not only does it have some of the largest pyramidal structures on the planet, but it also has many other unique traits, such as being aligned with celestial, geographic, and geodetic points of significance.

6. El Mirador, Guatemala (300 BCE)
This is the largest of five known Pre-Classical Mayan cities and it contains the world’s largest pyramid by volume. A total of 15 million man-days of labor were needed to create the iconic temple, named La Danta.

7. The Lost City of Mohenjo Daro, Pakistan (2500 BCE)
This city is over 4,500 years old, and it was unknown to modern people until 1921. It housed up to 35,000 people, and contained complex water and sewage system on a grid plan. Mohenjo Daro is regarded today as one of the most important archaeological finds, unveiling details on the Indus Valley people – one of the most widespread and mysterious civilizations of the early Ancient era.

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Misc

Visualizing the Odds of Dying from Various Accidents

This infographic shows you the odds of dying from a variety of accidents, including car crashes, bee stings, and more.

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Infographic: The Odds of Dying from Various Accidents

Fatal accidents account for a significant number of deaths in the U.S. every year. For example, nearly 43,000 Americans died in traffic accidents in 2021.

Without the right context, however, it can be difficult to properly interpret these figures.

To help you understand your chances, we’ve compiled data from the National Safety Council, and visualized the lifetime odds of dying from various accidents.

Data and Methodology

The lifetime odds presented in this graphic were estimated by dividing the one-year odds of dying by the life expectancy of a person born in 2020 (77 years).

Additionally, these numbers are based on data from the U.S., and likely differ in other countries.

Type of AccidentLifetime odds of dying (1 in #)
Motor vehicle accident101
Complications of medical and surgical care798
Alcohol poisoning1,606
Accidental building fire1,825
Choking on food2,745
Drowning in swimming pool5,782
Sunstroke6,368
Accidental firearm discharge7,998
Drowning10,386
Airplane accident11,756
Bee or wasp sting57,825
Dog attack69,016
Lightning strike138,849

For comparison’s sake, the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292,000,000. In other words, you are 4000x more likely to die by a lightning strike over your lifetime than to win the Powerball lottery.

Continue reading below for further context on some of these accidents.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S., with a 1 in 101 chance of dying. This is quite a common way of dying, especially when compared to something like bee stings (1 in 57,825).

Unfortunately, a major cause of vehicle deaths is impaired driving. The CDC reports that 32 Americans are killed every day in crashes involving alcohol, which equates to one death every 45 minutes.

For further context, consider this: 30% of all traffic-related deaths in 2020 involved alcohol-impaired drivers.

Drowning

The odds of drowning in a swimming pool (1 in 5,782) are significantly higher than those of drowning in general (1 in 10,386). According to the CDC, there are 4,000 fatal drownings every year, which works out to 11 deaths per day.

Drowning also happens to be a leading cause of death for children. It is the leading cause for kids aged 1-4, and second highest cause for kids aged 5-14.

A rather surprising fact about drowning is that 80% of fatalities are male. This has been attributed to higher rates of alcohol use and risk-taking behaviors.

Accidental Firearm Discharge

Lastly, let’s look at accidental firearm deaths, which have lifetime odds of 1 in 7,998. That’s higher than the odds of drowning (general), as well as dying in an airplane accident.

This shouldn’t come as a major surprise, since the U.S. has the highest rates of gun ownership in the world. More importantly, these odds highlight the importance of properly securing one’s firearms, as well as learning safe handling practices.

As a percentage of total gun-related deaths (45,222 in 2020), accidental shootings represent a tiny 1%. The two leading causes are suicide (54%) and homicide (43%).

Interested in learning more about death? Revisit one of our most popular posts of all time: Visualizing the History of Pandemics.

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