The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, abbreviation of UNESCO, identifies culturally and historically important places that played a huge role in shaping our modern civilisation. Some of these world heritage sites are visually stunning, making them instantly recognisable. Can you identify these heritage sites in this History Quiz? We also have fun trivia for you in the answers.
Forbidden City, located in Beijing, is probably the second most recognised place in China after The Great Wall. Construction of the large palace started under the Ming Dynasty in 1406, taking 14 years and the labour of a million people to complete. Spanning 178 acres, Forbidden City wasn't just the home for the Emperor but also government headquarters for the Empire.
Why is it called Forbidden City? The heavily fortified palace with high walls did not allow any ordinary citizen to enter. It was also very restrictive to the people who worked there. Forbidden City was divided into two courts - the inner and outer. Outer court was where the government employees worked while only women who were employed as servants and maids were allowed inside the inner court. The royal family themselves rarely left the fortress, all the necessities were brought directly to the Emperor.
Ming dynasty's rule ended in 1644 after the Manchus rebel took over the city, starting the 300 year rule of the Qing Dynasty. The Qing Empire collapsed in 1908 and after the formation of The Republic of China, the Forbidden City was opened to the public. It was made into a museum in 1914 and the artefacts such as paintings and sculptures were put on display. In 1987, UNESCO declared Forbidden city a world heritage site.
An oasis in the desert, Palmyra in northern Syria was an important junction along the silk route the stretched from Rome to China. During the mid 3rd century, Palmyra was under Roman occupation but had some very important freedoms like - having their own laws, tax codes and an army. Because, Palmyra was a trading post for every good exchanged between Europe and Asia, it became incredibly wealthy. So wealthy in fact, that it could challenge the colonial Roman Empire. The King of Palmyrene, Odaenathus, along with his wife Zenobia, captured Roman territories towards the west. Odaenatus was assassinated by his nephew, after which he was succeeded by his young son.
Zenobia continued her conquests capturing Egypt, Syria and Turkey. Romans who until now were preoccupied with Goths in Europe decided to retaliate. They sent General Aurelian who recaptured Egypt and led the troops to Palmyra. The Roman troops were able to ambush the Palmyrene army in one of the attacks but Zenobia survived and escaped to the city fortress. The Romans then began the seize of Palmyra, starving the city of food. Zenobia secretly tried to head to Persia in hope for help but was captured en route by Roman guards.
Over the following years the city was taken over by Byzantine, Timurid and Ottoman Empire. In 2015, ISIS destroyed several Roman architectures that defined the city. They have been driven out the Syrian Army but the heavy damage to the ancient city cannot be undone.
The history of construction of Angkor Wat is a little unclear. It was built during the reign of Khymer Empire in modern day northern Cambodia. King Suryavarman II started building the temple complex as a dedication to the Hindu God Vishnu in 1113 and the construction finished almost a century later. It was however converted into a Buddhist temple around the 14th century. The grand temple's architecture is so visually striking that many Cambodians in later century found it hard to believe that their ancestors built the remarkable temple complex and thought it was built by the god Indira instead.
Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan city located in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. The place - once the Mayan capital around 600 A.D - 900 A.D, today boasts of well preserved remains of the culture including the towering pyramid called El Castillo, various temples and a ballgame court.
The pyramids were important part of Mayan culture. El Castillo has 365 steps, matching the number of days in a Mayan calendar year. It was aligned to match the angles of sunrise and sunset which at particular times of the year illuminate the stairs, giving an illusion of a slithering snake.
Abu Simbel is a rock cut temple from ancient Egypt built by Ramesses II around 1244 B.C. Standing at 20 meters tall, the statues depict Ramesses II himself, who ruled Egypt for 66 years. One of the statue's heads fell soon after its construction due to an earthquake.
In 1950's the Egyptian government decided to construct a high dam to help the local economy. But, there was a problem of the dam water flooding Abu Simbel. UNESCO spent 40 million dollars to rescue the temple. It was broken down, moved and reconstructed at a higher ground; safe from the flood water but close to the original location.
Acropolis was constructed by ancient Greeks in the years 447-432 BC. The hill top citadel overlooking Athens was built as a place to worship goddess Athena. Today Parthenonis (in the picture), the large pillared temple is the only recognisable remain of the once magnificent complex that consisted of Propylea - the entrance, Erechtheion - a temple, Temple of Athena Nike and a 12 meter tall gold-and-ivory statue of Athena.
During the Byzantine rule, Acropolis was turned into a church and then into a mosque during the Ottoman rule. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the independent Greek state started the restoration of Acropolis.
Just like Angkor, people in the British Isles were often mystified looking at these gigantic but well arranged stone structures. The 12th century king of Monmouth, Geoffrey proposed a theory that a wizard named Merlin built the Stonehenge with magic.
In reality, the question of who build these magnificent stonehenge is still unresolved. Theories in history suggest that the construction started during the time of Beaker People and ended at the time of Wessex Culture in a period from 3000-2000 B.C. Eighty Bluestones were used in construction, each weighing from 3 tons to 30 tons. But, there are no sources of Bluestone near the site and it is speculated that these heavy stones were transported on sledges from quarries up-to 160 miles away from the site.
The purpose of the Stone rings is again a mystery as there are no written records. Speculation range from it being a ritual site for funerals; an astronomical guide such as a calendar; or a system to predict solar and lunar eclipses.
During the height of the Inca Empire, they built a city in the Cuzco valley in the Andes Mountain, 2500 meters above the sea level. The city built around 1450, was at the centre of the Inca Empire under the king Pachacutec, stretching north along the Andes up to Ecuador and down south to central Chile. Despite the altitude, Machu Picchu was a fully functioning city, with agricultural lands, houses, temples, military outposts and palaces.
The city is believed to have been abandoned after the death of Pachacutec. Later, the Spanish arrived at the Andes; leading to the wars, conflict and the slow collapse of the Inca Empire. The city however, remained undiscovered until 1911, when Hiram Bingham found the 'Mystic City in the Clouds'.
Located in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, 2000 miles away from the Chile's coast, it is remarkable how a culture flourished in the middle of nowhere. The remote Easter Island was only discovered in 1722, by Jacob Roggeveen, who found giant sculpted statutes spread along the coast of the Island and there was no signs of the civilization that built them.
The islands were inhabited by the Polynesians during the 11th century and most of the giant stone structures were constructed during 14th and 15th century - during the peak of the civilization.
Why were the giant statues - some as tall as 30 feet and weighing up to 75 tons - built on Easter Island? No one knows. There are also questions about how the giant stones were transported from the quarries. The collapse of the civilization is believed to be because of strain on resources due to the rapid growth in population. Forest was cleared, resources were exploited and the environment devastated. This lead to a lot of infighting and even cannibalism. Still, the remains of the statues on the Easter Island are engineering marvels by themselves and a testament to the ingenious Polynesians that once inhabited the Island.
Images - Wikipedia Commons
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