Stoned, For All Eternity
A great deal has been written about and made much of in alternative archaeology books about how and why our technologically primitive ancestors were able to carve out, transport and erect massive multi-ton stone blocks into megalithic monuments of well, monumental size. The implication is that since there is no doubting the existence of these structures, our ancestors must of in fact possessed an advanced technology or had assistance from those who did (i.e. – ‘ancient astronauts’). That runs contrary to the standard model of scholarly archaeology. But the questions remain.
Perhaps I’d better say what I mean by massive multi-ton stone blocks. I mean stones that are at least several tons in weight, up to the largest known carved (but still in-situ and unused) stone block weighing in at roughly 1250 tons. That’s not the record however for there is, apparently, a stele base in China that weighs in at 16,250 tons. I mean these are stones that aren’t trivial to toss around, even today. And while not all major continents and countries have megalithic stone monuments, like North America (USA & Canada) or Australia (including New Zealand) that still leaves a lot of places, and well known places, that do.
How and why these megaliths were constructed is no trivial matter. For our ancestors to go to such lengths and expend such efforts, well these stone monuments were obviously very important to them, and it’s important to us to figure out how and why they did it. Using large stone blocks instead of wood or even small stone blocks or bricks must have served a purpose despite the greater hardships involved. So, why did our ancient ancestors need large stones; and how did they handle them?
As to the why, presumably, for starters, if you decide to use stone, then it’s important enough a material serving a purpose(s) that necessitates lasting for all practical purposes an ‘eternity’. If you build something to last, at least back then, you use stone, the larger the better. But for what purpose did the ancients need such megalithic giants?
Issues Arising: Purpose
These ancient societies or cultures spent an awful lot of resources to build things that were relatively peripheral to their basic needs. The Easter Islanders could survive without those Moai statues; ancient Egypt would still have been a ‘superpower’ even without those pyramids, the Giza Sphinx, massive statues of some New Kingdom pharaohs (like Ramesses II – often called Ramesses the Great), stele and obelisks. The Parthenon in Athens was just a shrine to one of the Greek deities (Athena), and similar observations could be extended to the thousands of other monumental megalithic temples and monuments around the world which were mainly ceremonial in function.
It’s difficult to figure out how Stonehenge contributed to the basic survival needs of the local population – you don’t need to construct something of that magnitude just to tell you what season it is! If you need to mark, say the Summer Solstice, all you need have is a traditionally and permanently well marked and easily identified Point A, where you can observe some fixed structure like a rock on the Horizon, that’s Point B, and when the Sun arises directly over Point B, that’s the longest day of the year. There’s no need to engage in any sort of backbreaking toil or construction whatever.
If a society can afford to spend time and effort and money on secondary projects, say like in modern society various public art works compared to primary projects like roads (transport), schools (education) and hospitals (health care), then you have to conclude that that society was well off given that they could divert basic resources from primary projects to undertake projects of a secondary nature. Either that, or that which looks to us as relatively trivial or unimportant like Stonehenge or Carnac (Brittany, France) or those Easter Island statues or the Sphinx actually held a primary function incomprehensible to us but which rivalled in importance housing and insuring adequate food supplies and similar things vital to their day-to-day survival.
Issues Arising: Logistics
There’s also the logistics problem. You need a large workforce that had to be fed and clothed and housed and cared for, especially fed. There wasn’t exactly a nearby supermarket where endless supplies could be purchased. Further, while employed on these quarrying, transporting and construction projects the workers couldn’t be gainfully employed elsewhere to provide basics like hunting and gathering for food or even tending to domesticated livestock and agricultural crops. The workers couldn’t have been used for serving in the army, or any other useful and necessary task. All of this carving, transporting and construction were not just busy work designed to keep the rabble off the streets and out of trouble, and slave labour wasn’t …