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Recreating Stonehenge with sticks & stones
July 22, 2004 5:34 AM   Subscribe

The forgotten technology - "I am a retired carpenter with 35 years experience in construction ... I have began to build a replica of Stonehenge with eight 10 ton blocks on end and 2 ton blocks on top. One man, no wheels, no rollers, no ropes, no hoist or power equipment, using only sticks and stones." (some slow loading clips on the pages)
posted by madamjujujive (31 comments total)

 
Very very interesting. A few of the photos would not load, so I missed some of the explanation, but an excellent link, all the same.
posted by dg at 5:52 AM on July 22, 2004


we are not fucking doing stonehenge !
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:53 AM on July 22, 2004


retired carpenters... no one knows who they were.... or what, they were doing...
posted by sunexplodes at 6:01 AM on July 22, 2004


Does he realize that this will attract flakes in droves? And good luck finding authentic Welsh labor in Michigan.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:03 AM on July 22, 2004


Great link, mjj. Carpenters 1, Archeologists 0, Von Daniken -1,000.
posted by rory at 6:06 AM on July 22, 2004


Excellent link. Firefox wouldn't play the short videos (which look like broken images, dg), but IE works. This is for pages 1,9, 10. And yes, it is worth firing up IE to see the clips
posted by quiet at 6:48 AM on July 22, 2004


I just love madamjjj. thanks for the link
posted by matteo at 7:00 AM on July 22, 2004


Did I miss the part where he actually explained his "technique," or is he merely a modern version of this guy?
posted by rushmc at 7:08 AM on July 22, 2004


I don't think Mayor Curley even read the whole link's contents.


(this is cool madam)
posted by angry modem at 7:21 AM on July 22, 2004


...Archeologists 0, Von Daniken -1,000.

Hey, cut the archaeologists some slack. Reputable egyptologists have known for years that there was no real trickery (nor even much forced labor) in the pyramids.

For me, the great part about stories like this is that they demonstrate that those "primitive" old ancients might possibly have figured stuff out without help from aliens -- or without using kites.

His discussion of how he would build the pyramid at Giza is revealing. In recent years, Egyptologists have taken similar approaches -- even going so far as to consult project management experts. There's not evidence that they used his specific techniques (and I think his overall labor estimates might be a tad optimistic), but I think approaching the problem the way he does, honors the builders.

I.e., he assumes they were smart enough to figure something like this out, and "civilized" enough to organize themselves to do it. Previously, we've assumed that they were too stupid to do it without alien help or modern technological ideas, and so despotic they'd have to use slave labor.
posted by lodurr at 7:31 AM on July 22, 2004


Yeah sure Stonehenge right , now my gf has seen me looking at the page and she now thinks she's the Druid of furniture and I'm the one who'll build her the temple....thank you madamjujujive !
posted by elpapacito at 7:45 AM on July 22, 2004


My new stone-moving technique is unstoppable.
posted by delapohl at 8:01 AM on July 22, 2004


Hey, cut the archaeologists some slack.

Yeah, okay. (Hey, cut the one-line quippers some slack.)

But I didn't mean that archaeologists have assumed trickery. I meant that the various theories we've all heard over the years about using log rollers and ropes and brute force to construct Stonehenge, the Easter Island statues, and so on, have been shown to be unnecessary by this man's methods. There's a lot to be said for practical experience.
posted by rory at 8:15 AM on July 22, 2004


His theory that the air shafts in the Great Pyramid were used as conduits for ropes used in the moving of the stones is a new insight, as far as I can tell. National Geographic specials have made a lot of hay out of the investigation of these passages without ever mentioning such an idea.
posted by beagle at 8:27 AM on July 22, 2004


This is awesome
posted by xammerboy at 9:19 AM on July 22, 2004


I absolutely love that there are people like this and that they'll go to the trouble of making a website to share what they've done, learned, etc. Thanks, madam!
posted by lobakgo at 9:26 AM on July 22, 2004


Maybe troutfishing will give him a hand.
posted by homunculus at 9:26 AM on July 22, 2004


I saw this on TV (some science news of the week show), and it was really cool to watch. I, too, love this kind of stuff.
posted by evening at 9:39 AM on July 22, 2004


rushmc: Did I miss the part where he actually explained his "technique"?

It wasn't terribly clear, but I guess he has to save something for the video. It's basically standing a block on two closely-spaced fulcra, then adding a counterweight so that there's zero reaction on one and the block easily spins and tilts on the other. By doing it alternately on each fulcrum, shifting the counterweight back and forth at each step, you 'walk' the block forward. I'm sure it must have been independently rediscovered many times, and I bet this was what Leedskalnin did. Raising the megalithic roof mentions British engineer Cliff Osenton using a similar two-fulcra rocking method to lift capstones for dolmen reconstructions. I thought Wallington's "round road" idea for handling the counterweight shift was especially neat; same principle as Stan Wagon's square-wheeled bicycle.
posted by raygirvan at 10:11 AM on July 22, 2004


Beagle: Bear in mind that proving one thing about the air shafts wouldn't disprove another thing.

E.g., even if the air shafts were used as rope conduits, they could still have had tremendous symbolic significance. In fact, the use as rope conduits (...rope passing like a thread between teh lower and the upper...) could have reinforced symbolic significance.

In the context of the time, I doubt that the practical functions of the shafts (assuming that's why they were put there) could have been teased apart from the symbolic function. Rationalists often take a theory like this, find corroboration, and then go forth and say "See? These ancients were really very rational, scientific people..." Forgetting, all the while, about such paradoxes as Mayan astronomy and calendar systems co-existing with one of the more bizarre ritual-torture complexes yet discovered. Or, for that matter, consider how many modern scientists have been devout christians.
posted by lodurr at 11:03 AM on July 22, 2004


It wasn't terribly clear, but I guess he has to save something for the video.
I was hoping to see his son’s barn moved with his techniques. For 20 bucks I’ll go read up on my physics instead.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:02 PM on July 22, 2004


His theory that the air shafts in the Great Pyramid were used as conduits for ropes used in the moving of the stones is a new insight, as far as I can tell.Thought that was how they locked up the tombs after placing the Pharos in their burial rooms. Large stones the sizes of a wall were lowered down from above sealing the rooms up.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:13 PM on July 22, 2004


The Smithsonian came up with the ultimate simple technique for pyramid building at least 25 years ago. First, imagine a square (one side of your stone block), then put four pieces of wood on the sides, pinned together, the outsides rounded. Properly done, you've turned a square into a circle. Eight pieces of reuseable wood and pins, and it takes a tenth of the manpower and time to move your stone blocks to and from ships.
The rest of the project uses dirt ramps--something the ancients were very good at building. When you finish by putting the capstone on the pyramid, it is almost completely covered with earth. Then you take away the earth and there your pyramid is.

Unsurprisingly, very little remains around where the pyramids were built. But there are lots of ruins and artifacts around where the stone quarries existed--where you would have to have most of your labor. Whole cities have been found there--where most of the work was done. They pyramids themselves were just assembly.
posted by kablam at 3:05 PM on July 22, 2004


When you finish by putting the capstone on the pyramid, it is almost completely covered with earth.
May explain where some of the dirt came from that buried them.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:14 PM on July 22, 2004


Unsurprisingly, very little remains around where the pyramids were built. But there are lots of ruins and artifacts around where the stone quarries existed--where you would have to have most of your labor. Whole cities have been found there--where most of the work was done. They pyramids themselves were just assembly.

That's funny. Most of the news in regards to Egyptology over the last few years seems to have centered on the workers city that is less than a kilometer away from the great pyramid with population estimates ranging from 20,000 to 35,000 seasonal workers. Zahi Hawass describes Giza as a fairly well developed area with an ongoing presence aside from the pyramids. Giza was not just where the Old Kingdom dynasties deposited their dead, but was quite possibly one of the most important religious sites along the Nile valley. Even centuries later, the site was important enough for Amenhotep II to build one of his greatest public works there.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:22 PM on July 22, 2004


First, imagine a square (one side of your stone block), then put four pieces of wood on the sides, pinned together, the outsides rounded.

I've heard of this, in conection with a story ending with archaeologists saying "So that's what those curved things are". They're called "rockers" or "cradle runners", as described here.
posted by raygirvan at 5:12 PM on July 22, 2004


Stonehenge 2

I was riding out in the Texas hill country, miles from nowhere, and came upon this. It was already a long, discouraging ride for me and my companion, over bad pavement with steep hills, and when I rounded a bend I looked up and exclaimed "Holy Shit, it's Stonehenge." For a moment, I wondered if I were hallucinating.
posted by adamrice at 5:38 PM on July 22, 2004


KirkJobSluder: Cities around great edifices might be there before, during or after they are built. How do you connect them to the construction? Unlike quarry towns, mining towns, or sea ports, which are obviously there for their related purpose.
For a truly huge city, the one around Mexico's pyramids of the Sun and the Moon are like endless condos, many designed for two or three families. But were they the people who built the pyramids, or something akin to the Aztec middle classes?
Tikal, in Guatemala (another great visit), is an entire city reserved for the upper classes. They guess that the biodegradable city supporting it and surrounding it may have had hundreds of thousands of people--though almost no trace remains of their homes.

Anyway, the rock of the pyramids can be traced to a given quarry, and from the quarry to nearby navigable water that would take it down river. But once on site, what relics (except the aforementioned rockers) would survive, except maybe the dwellings of workers? Quarrymen and stone masons were a professional class, and carved monuments to themselves accordingly; but except the site engineer, what remains of somebody who pushes rock or digs earth?
posted by kablam at 8:03 PM on July 22, 2004


adamrice: BTW, I wonder why somebody re-creating Stonehenge insists on using that "rough-hewn" rock look? Imagine what a Stonehenge would look like made out of smooth, polished stone, maybe even with a silicone-glass glazing to protect the rock?

Dang. Imagine a crystal-glass Stonehenge! Now that would be cool.
posted by kablam at 8:08 PM on July 22, 2004


This is why I keep coming back to mefi. Thanks MJJ!
posted by Tacodog at 12:56 AM on July 23, 2004


Everything old is new again...
posted by LowDog at 3:14 PM on July 23, 2004


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