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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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Demographics

Median Age of the Population in Every Country

How do countries around the world compare in terms of age? This compelling visualization shows the median age for every country in the world.

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The Median Age of the Population in Every Country

View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here

With a few notable exceptions, the world is rapidly aging.

Today’s infographic, which was shared by Bill Gates on Reddit, shows this incredible explosion in age and how different countries contrast with one another on this demographic metric.

While aging populations in Europe, North America, and Asia stand out on this type of visualization, it’s also important to look at the negative space. In both South America and Africa, populations are still quite young, with Africa getting younger and younger.

Note: The infographic is grouped based on U.N. regional classifications, and lumps Central America, the Caribbean, and South America as one demographic region.

The Oldest Countries

Which countries are the outliers in terms of global demographics?

Let’s start by taking a look at the oldest countries in terms of median age.

RankCountryMedian AgeRegion
#1Japan47 yearsAsia
#2 (t)Germany45 yearsEurope
#2 (t)Italy45 yearsEurope
#4 (t)Greece44 yearsEurope
#4 (t)Bulgaria44 yearsEurope
#4 (t)Portugal44 yearsEurope

Japan takes the cake for the oldest population and it’s joined by a host of European nations.

The following countries tied for the #7 spot, which is just off of the above list: Austria, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Spain, and Bermuda. All of these places had median ages of 43 years, with Bermuda being the only non-European state of this group.

It’s worth noting that some smaller countries appear to be excluded from Gates’ infographic. As we showed on our last chart covering the subject of median age, which uses a different data set, the small city-state of Monaco (which has a population of just 39,000 people) actually has the highest median age in the world at 53.1 years.

The Youngest Countries

Now, let’s take a peek at the world’s youngest countries in terms of median age.

RankCountryMedian AgeRegion
#1 (t)Chad14 yearsAfrica
#1 (t)Niger14 yearsAfrica
#3 (t)Afghanistan16 yearsMiddle East
#3 (t)Angola16 yearsAfrica
#3 (t)Burkina Faso16 yearsAfrica
#3 (t)Mali16 yearsAfrica
#3 (t)Somalia16 yearsAfrica
#3 (t)South Sudan16 yearsAfrica
#3 (t)Uganda16 yearsAfrica

The youngest countries globally are Chad and Niger with a median population age of 14 years. Both are located in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The only non-African country is war-torn Afghanistan, where the median age is 16 years.

A variety of countries tied with a median age of 17 years old, which puts them just off of the above list. Those countries include: Benin, Burundi, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia, Yemen, and Timor-Leste.

More Context on Aging

Want to get an even better idea of what the world looks like as it ages?

To get a sense of change over the coming decades, it’s worth taking a look at this animation that shows median age projections with a focus on Western countries all the way until the year 2060.

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Misc

Map: Visualizing 40 Years of Nautical Piracy

Ever since humans first sailed the high seas, piracy has been a dangerous risk. See instances of modern piracy on this detailed map.

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Map: Visualizing 40 Years of Nautical Piracy

View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here

For millennia, voyaging on the open seas has been a dangerous and risky endeavor.

Between the powerful forces of Mother Nature and self-made obstacles stemming from human error, there is no shortage of possible calamities for even the bravest of sailors.

But for most of human history, perhaps the biggest fear that sailors grappled with was that of piracy. A run in with such marauders could lead to the theft of valuable cargo or even possible death, and it’s a threat that carries on even through modern times.

Hotbeds of Modern Piracy

Today’s map comes from Adventures in Mapping and it aggregates instances of piracy over the last 40 years based on the database from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

It should be noted that all individual events can be seen on this interactive map, which is what we will use to look at current hotbeds of piracy in more depth below.

1. The Strait of Malacca

The Strait of Malacca

The Strait of Malacca is one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, and also one of the most notorious.

A key chokepoint that sits between Malaysia and Indonesia, the Strait of Malacca is as narrow as 25 miles wide while also seeing a quarter of the world’s traded goods shipped through it every year. As a result, the strait and surrounding area are a frequent target for modern piracy.

Example account: (September 2002)
“The 1,699-ton Malaysian-flag tanker (NAUTICA KLUANG) was hijacked 28 Sep at 0300 local time while underway off Indonesia in the vicinity of Pulau Iyu Kecil at the southern tip of the Strait of Malacca. The pirates, armed with guns and machetes, tied up the crew and locked them in cabins. When the crew freed themselves at 0900, 29 Sep, the thieves had transferred the ship’s cargo of 3,000 tons of diesel oil, damaged communications equipment, and renamed it (CAKLU). “

2. The Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa

When many people think of modern piracy, they think of the coast of Somalia. While those waters are often avoided, the nearby areas can be just as problematic.

In particular, the Bab el Mandeb strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, is a target for modern piracy. Similarly, the waters just off of Yemen are quite treacherous as well.

Example account: (January 1991)
“Somali pirates attached MV Naviluck off Somalia, killing three Filipino crewmen and setting fire to the vessel. Three boatloads of armed Somali pirates boarded the vessel on 12 Jan 91 took the crew ashore and killed three of them. The captain said the vessel was attacked off Xaafuun while on her way from Mombasa to Jeddah. He declined to specify the cargo. The surviving crew were made to jump overboard, and were later rescued by M Stern TRLR Dubai Dolphin.”

3. The Gulf of Guinea

The Gulf of Guinea

While we hear the most about Somalian pirates, the Gulf of Guinea that sits south of Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and Ghana in West Africa is also a well-known hotbed.

Tanker theft of petroleum products being shipped to and from Nigerian refineries is rampant, creating an ongoing concern for companies operating in the region.

Example account: (June 2013)
“On 13 June, the Singapore-flagged underway offshore supply vessel MDPL CONTINENTAL ONE was boarded and personnel kidnapped at 04-02N 008-02E, approximately 7 nm southwest of the OFON Oil Field. Two fiberglass speedboats, each with 2 outboards engines, each carrying 14 gunmen in wearing casual t-shirts and no masks, launched an attack. The pirates were armed with AK47’s. After stealing personal items and belongings, four expat crew were kidnapped (Polish Chief Engineer) and three Indians (Captain, Chief Officer, and Bosun).”

4. The Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean

The Caribbean has a longstanding history with piracy – and while things have died down considerably since the peak, there are still isolated incidents that occur, especially with yachts.

Most incidents happen off the coast of Venezuela, or in and around the islands on the eastern side of the sea, such as Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, and Grenada.

Example account: (March 2016)
“On 4 March, near position 13-16N 061-16W, several gunmen boarded a yacht anchored at Wallilabou in southwestern St. Vincent. During the course of the boarding, a German citizen aboard the yacht was killed and another person was injured. Authorities are investigating the incident.”

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