Throughout the world, there are plenty of strange monuments, cultural artifacts, and bizarre creations that pique our interest and get us thinking. Which strange artifacts are natural, and which are merely ancient relics of a forgotten world? It’s not always easy to tell which wonders are manmade and which are organic, but let’s examine a few that walk the line.
Is there any natural wonder more captivating than Stonehenge? Well, natural might be a misnomer. Although Stonehenge is subject to plenty of strange conspiracy theories regarding its construction, modern day historians are pretty sure that the monument was built by humans — not aliens or wizards. But just how these humans built Stonehenge is another question. And that question doesn’t have an answer.
Researchers estimate that Stonehenge was built around 5,000 years ago by Neolithic Britons, likely as a burial site. But this was a burial site unlike any other. Stonehenge’s massive megaliths weigh between 4 to 40 tons each, and they were carved in an era that predated even the wheel. To confuse matters further, scientists traced the source of each stone to find that many were sourced from a quarry in modern-day Wales, around 200 miles away from Stonehenge’s site.
So, how exactly did tribal populations manage to carve up these huge rocks, move them hundreds of miles, and stack them up, all without any modern technology? We don’t know for sure, which is why Stonehenge has captured the imagination of so many visitors. Over 1.5 million tourists come to see Stonehenge for themselves each year.
Easter Island Moai
The carved Moai statues of Easter Island need no introduction. Most of us have seen images of these iconic statues before, even if we haven’t seen them in person. Standing as high as 33 feet in the air and weighing tens of thousands of pounds each, these amazing statues certainly appear supernatural, though they’re believed to be entirely manmade. Historians estimate that the Moai heads were built between 1500 and 1000 BCE by ancient Polynesian sculptors, though nobody knows which tribes actually did the construction.
Much like Stonehenge or the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Moai’s construction is shrouded in mystery. It’s not known how the Stone Age tribes managed to move such massive statues across the island, though oral histories are rich with stories about how it might have happened. Some say that the statues came to life and walked themselves, while others believe that they were moved by a king named Tuu Ku Ihu at the divine behest of the God Makemake.
But however they might have been built, these mysterious wonders of the world are a testament to ancient Polynesian culture, the likes of which we may never see again.
Technically, Niagara Falls is a natural wonder. Situated between the U.S. and Canada, Niagara Falls is a series of high-volume waterfalls that funnel waters from multiple streams and drain into the Great Lakes at a rate of six million cubic ft. per minute.
This impressive geography certainly isn’t manmade; the Niagara Peninsula took thousands of years of geologic shifting before creating the conditions for the Falls as we know them today. But while the Falls themselves are natural, we’ve appropriated them for many of our manmade purposes. For example, Niagara Fall is one of the biggest sources of hydroelectric power in the U.S., and the waters are used by both the United States and Canada for a number of purposes.
So, technically no, Niagara Falls isn’t manmade. But unlike the other wonders on this list, it’s an active site that’s being put to work in plenty of great ways (outside of being a tourist attraction).