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List of largest monoliths

  (Redirected from List of megalithic sites)
People on Nias in Indonesia move monoliths to a construction site, circa 1915

This is a list of monoliths organized according to the size of the largest block of stone on the site. A monolith is a large stone which has been used to build a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. In this list at least one colossal stone over ten tons has been moved to create the structure or monument.

In most cases the ancient civilizations had little, if any, advanced technology that would help the moving of these monoliths. The most notable exception is that of the ancient Greeks and Romans who had cranes and treadwheels to help lift colossal stones (see List of ancient monoliths).

Documented in recent times, there is a list of efforts to move colossal stones that used technology that wasn't more advanced than the technology the ancient civilizations used.

Most of these weights are based on estimates by published scholars; however, there have been numerous false estimates of many of these stones presented as facts. To help recognize exaggerations, an introductory description shows how to calculate the weight of colossal stones by calculating volume and density.

Calculating the weight of monolithsEdit

In the cases of the smaller monoliths it may be possible to weigh them. However, in most cases the monoliths were too large or they may have been part of an ancient structure so this method could not be used. The weight of a stone can be calculated by multiplying its volume and density. The density of most stones is between two and three tons per cubic meter. Basalt weighs about 2.8 to 3.0 tons per cubic meter; granite averages about 2.75 metric tons per cubic meter; limestone, 2.7 metric tons per cubic meter; sandstone or marble, 2.5 tons per cubic meter.[1][2][3][4][5] Some softer stones may be lighter than 2 tons per cubic meter, like volcanic tuff, which weighs about 1.9 tons per cubic meter.[6][7] Since the density of most of these stones fluctuates it is necessary to know the source for the stone and volume to obtain accurate measurements.[8][9]

Rock densityEdit

The discussion above is accurate as far as it goes, which is only to the first significant figure. To go any further one needs to be relatively sophisticated about surveying the monolith (including realistic and explicit assessment of the shapes of inaccessible portions of the monolith), then about calculating the volume (and volumetric errors, which vary crudely as the cube of linear uncertainties). Finally and crucially the rock density needs to be measured with appropriate precision. Identifying the rock type is not going to be sufficient as this table (from[10]) illustrates:

Densities of common rocks
in g/cm3 / tonne/m3
Material Density
Sediments 1.7–2.3
Sandstone 2.0–2.6
Shale 2.0–2.7
Limestone 2.5–2.8
Granite 2.5–2.8
Metamorphic Rock 2.6–3.0
Basalts 2.7–3.1

Simply identifying the monolith as being "sandstone" would allow a reasonable ± 15% uncertainty in the weight estimate. In practice, one would measure the density of the monolith itself, and preferably document any variation in density within the monolith as they are made of natural materials, which have not been engineered for homogeneous parameters. Non-destructive methods of density measurements are available (e.g. electron back-scatter); alternatively the site may contain already-separated fragments of the monolith which can be used for laboratory measurements or on-site techniques. At the crudest, a weighing device and a bucket can obtain two significant figures for a density value.

Quarried monolithsEdit

The Unfinished obelisk of Aswan
Statue of Ahimsa, the largest monolithic Jain statue

This list includes only quarried, but not moved monoliths.

Weight Name/Site Type Location Builder Comment
8,799 t (est) Yangshan Stele Stele (body) Yangshan Quarry, China Ming China 49.4 m long, 10.7 m wide, 4.4 m thick[11]
~1,650 t[12] Unnamed monolith Block Baalbek, Lebanon Roman Empire 19.6 m long, 6 m wide, ≥5.5 m high
~1,242 t[13] Unnamed monolith Block Baalbek, Lebanon Roman Empire 19.5–20.5 m long, 4.34–56 m wide, 4.5 m high
~1,100 t[14] Unfinished obelisk Obelisk Aswan, Egypt Ancient Egypt 41.75 m long, 2.5–4.4 m wide
~1,000.12 t[15] Stone of the South Block Baalbek, Lebanon Roman Empire 20.31–76 m long, 4–5.29 m wide, 4.21–32 m high
[16] Statue of Ahimsa Statue Mangi-Tungi, Nasik district of Maharashtra state, India Gyanmati Mataji, 2016 108 ft (33 m)
[17] Bawangaja Statue Madhya Pradesh state, India 84 ft (26 m)
400–600 t Gommateshwara statue Statue Shravanabelagola, Karnataka state, India Chavundaraya 60 ft (18 m) tall, over 30 ft (9.1 m) wide
Rishabha Statue at Gopachal Hill Statue Gwalior Fort of Gwalior state, India Jain laymen 58.4 ft (17.8 m) tall
~1,207 t[18] Granite column Column Mons Claudianus, Egypt Roman Empire Ca. 17.7 m (59 feet) long[19]

Moved monolithsEdit

The 1,250 t heavy Thunder Stone in Saint Petersburg. On top an equestrian statue of Peter the Great
The 53.3 t heavy capital block (the rectangular platform fitted with a railing) of Trajan's Column in Rome, Italy, was lifted by Roman cranes to a record height of about 34 m.
The Western Stone of the Western Wall in Jerusalem weighs 517 t.
Brownshill Dolmen, Ireland (4th millennium BC). The great capstone weighs about 100 tonnes.

This list includes only quarried and moved monoliths.

Weight Name/Site Type Location Builder Comment
1,250 t[20] Thunder Stone Boulder, Statue pedestal Saint Petersburg, Russia Russian Empire, 1770 Moved 6 km overland for shipment,[20] and cut from 1,500 t to current size while on transport[21]
1,000 t[22][23] Ramesseum Statue Thebes, Egypt Ancient Egypt Transported 170 miles (270 km) by ship from Aswan
800 t each[24] Trilithon (3×) Blocks Baalbek, Lebanon Roman Empire Plus about 24 blocks 300 tons each[25]
700 t each Colossi of Memnon (2×) Statues Thebes, Egypt Ancient Egypt Transported 420 miles (680 km) from el-Gabal el-Ahmar (near modern-day Cairo) over land without using the Nile.[22][23][26]
550 to 600 t[27][28] Western Stone, Jewish Holy Temple Block Jerusalem [29] Herod, King of the Jews during the Second Temple period This weight is based on speculations. In 2006 a scientific article was published showing that the depth of this stone is only 1.8-2.5 m. weighing 250-300 t.[30]
520 tons, 170 tons, and 160 tons Great Stele, King Ezana's Stele, Obelisk of Axum Stelae Axum, Ethiopia The stelae were moved about 2.6 miles (4.2 km).[22]
400 t[31] Temple in complex for Khafre's Pyramid Giza, Egypt
300–500 t[32] Masuda no iwafune Asuka, Nara, Japan Large stone structure approximately 11 meters in length, 8 meters in width, and 4.7 meters In height
340 t[33] Levitated Mass Los Angeles, California, United States Moved 106 miles.[34]
330 t The Broken Menhir of Er Grah Menhir Locmariaquer, Brittany Neolithic(4700 BC) Moved 10–20 km. It once stood but was later broken in 4
300 t[22] Broken Menhir of Er Grah Brittany, France Moved 7.5 miles (12.1 km).
285 t[35] Pompey's Pillar Column Alexandria, Egypt Roman Empire
230 t[36] Mausoleum of Theodoric Roof slab Ravenna, Italy Ostrogothic Kingdom
220 t[37] Menkaure's Pyramid Giza, Egypt Largest stones in mortuary temple
200 t[38] Sahure's pyramid Saqqara, Egypt Largest stones over king's chamber
200 t[39] Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites Korea Largest stone
Weight Name/Site Type Location Builder Comment

Lifted monolithsEdit

Luxor Obelisk's erection on the Place de la Concorde, Paris (1836)

These lists include only quarried, moved and lifted monoliths.

Erected in upright positionEdit

Monoliths known or assumed to have been lifted by cranes into an upright position:

Weight Name/Site Type Location Builder Comment
600 t[77] Alexander Column Column Saint Petersburg, Russia Russian Empire Lifted in upright position in 1832
455 t[78] Lateran Obelisk Obelisk Rome, Italy Ancient Egypt Lifted in upright position originally in 15th century BC, then shipped to Rome and lifted with Roman cranes in 357 AD by Constantius II
361 t[79] Vatican Obelisk Obelisk St. Peter's Square, Vatican City Pope Sixtus V Relocated and lifted in upright position by Domenico Fontana in 1586
250 t Luxor Obelisk Obelisk Paris, France Louis-Philippe I Relocated and lifted in upright position by Apollinaire Lebas in 1836

Lifted clear off the groundEdit

Monoliths than have been placed on a towering structure:

Weight Height of the tower Name/Site Type Location Builder Comment
80 t[80] ~66 m (Vimana) Brihadisvara Temple Amalaka block Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India Chola Empire (1010 AD) Block of granite, a square of 7.8 m
25 t[81] ~66 m (Vimana) Brihadisvara Temple Khapuri block Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India Chola Empire (1010 AD) Cupolic granite dome

Monoliths known or assumed to have been lifted clear off the ground by cranes into their position:

Weight Height Name/Site Type Location Builder Comment
108 t[82] ~19 m Jupiter temple Cornice block Baalbek, Lebanon Roman Empire
163 t[82] ~19 m Jupiter temple Architrave-frieze block Baalbek, Lebanon Roman Empire
153.3 t[83] ~34 m Trajan's Column Capital block Rome, Italy Roman Empire Dedicated in 113 AD

List of efforts to move and install stonesEdit

These are listed with the largest experiments first; for additional details of most experiments see related pages.

  • Marinos Carburis, Greek lieutenant-colonel in the Russian Army, organized the move of an enormous boulder called the Thunder Stone (Russian, Камень-Гром) from the Gulf of Finland in 1768 to Saint Petersburg, Russia for the purpose of using it as a pedestal for the Bronze Horseman statue. Based on the density of granite, the mass of the Thunder Stone has been estimated to be around 1500 tonnes. This was done by rolling it on bronze ball bearings on a track. It took an estimated 400 men nine months to move it.[84]
  • In 1997, Julian Richards teamed up with Mark Witby and Roger Hopkins to conduct several experiments to replicate the construction at Stonehenge for NOVA's Secrets of Lost Empires mini-series. They initially failed to tow a 40-ton monolith with 130 men but after adding additional men towing as well as some men using levers to prod the megalith forward, they succeeded in inching it forward a small distance.[85]
  • Roger Hopkins and Mark Lehner teamed up with a NOVA crew to conduct an obelisk erecting experiment; they successfully erected a 25-ton obelisk in 1999. They also managed to tow it a short distance.[86][87][88]
  • Thor Heyerdahl organized an effort to pull a 10-ton Moai on a sledge with a group of 180 men. Approximately 18 men pulled each ton.[89][90][91]
  • Charles Love experimented with a 10-ton replica of a Moai on Easter Island. His first experiment found rocking the statue to walk it was too unstable over more than a few hundred yards. He then found that by placing the statue upright on two sled runners atop log rollers, 25 men were able to move the statue 150 feet (46 m) in two minutes. Approximately 2.5 men pulled each ton.[92]
  • Austen Henry Layard organized an effort to transport two 10-ton colossal statues of a winged lion and a winged bull with a group of 300 men in 1847. He loaded them on a wheeled cart and towed them from Nimrud to the river and loaded on a barge, where it was sent to London. Approximately 30 men pulled each ton.[93]
  • Paul Emile Botta and Victor Place attempted to move two additional 30-ton colossi to Paris from Khorsabad in 1853. In order to facilitate their shipment to Paris, they were sawed in pieces and they still ran into problems. One of them fell into the Tigris river, never to be retrieved. The other made it to Paris.[93]
  • Giovanni Battista Belzoni organized an effort to pull a 7.5-ton fragment of a statue of Ramses on rollers with a group of 130 men in 1815. This statue was towed to the river and loaded on a barge, where it was sent to London. Progress increased with practice as they went along. Approximately 17 or 18 men pulled each ton.[94]
  • Henri Chevrier organized an effort to pull a 6-ton block on a sledge with a group of six men. Approximately one man pulled each ton.[95] Other reports claim that Chevier's experiment required three men to pull each ton.[96]
  • Josh Bernstein and Julian Richards organized an effort to pull a 2-ton stone on wooden tracks with a group of about 16 men. Approximately 8 men pulled each ton.[97]
  • Mark Lehner and NOVA organized an experiment to tow stones and to build a pyramid 9 meters wide by 9 meters deep by 6 meters high. They were able to tow a 2-ton block on a sledge across wood tracks with 12 to 20 men. Approximately 6 to 10 men pulled each ton. The pyramid was 54 cubic meters total estimated weight 135 tons. It was built out of 186 stones. The average weight of each stone was almost 1,500 lb (680 kg) (.75 tons). They found that four or five men could use levers to flip stones less than a ton and roll them to transport them. 44 men took 22 days to complete the pyramid, including the carving of the stones. They used iron to carve the stones that wasn't available to the ancient Egyptians. Egyptians had to use copper. They also used a modern front end loader to accelerate the work on the lower courses. They were unable to use the front end loader to install the capstone, since it was too high and had to use levers to raise it to 20 feet (6.1 m).[98]
  • In a 2001 exercise in experimental archaeology, an attempt was made to transport a large stone along a land and sea route from Wales to Stonehenge. Volunteers pulled it for some miles (with great difficulty) on a wooden sledge over land, using modern roads and low-friction netting to assist sliding, but once transferred to a replica prehistoric boat, the stone sank in Milford Haven, before it even reached the rough seas of the Bristol Channel.[99]
  • Roger Hopkins and Vince Lee both theorized about how the megalithic stones were moved at Baalbek; these theories involved either towing them or flipping them.[100]
  • Vince Lee participated in experiments to test his theories about how the walls of Sacsayhuamán were built.[100]

See alsoEdit


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