The mystery of Baalbek: how ancient craftsmen moved giant stones

Baalbek, an ancient city in Lebanon, is no longer what it once was. The majestic temples dedicated to the god Jupiter, once considered one of the wonders of the world, are now just ruins. But behind this dilapidation lies a mystery that historians and archaeologists have been trying to unravel for centuries.

Baalbek, also known as Balbek or Baalat, is considered one of the oldest cities known to mankind. Located in the Bekaa Valley at the foot of the Antelivan Mountains, it was a sacred site for many civilizations. Today, its ruins cover an area of about five square kilometers.

However, the temple of Jupiter makes the greatest impression on visitors. It is a huge building whose roof rested on 54 columns and created a peristyle. Only six of these columns have survived to this day, the rest are fragments. But the most interesting thing is the base of the temple, which consists of cyclopean stone blocks.

Each of these blocks measures approximately 11 x 4.6 x 3.3 meters and weighs more than 300 tons. At the base level, there are also giant megalithic blocks called the Trilithon or the Miracle of the Three Stones. Each of them reaches 21 meters in length, 5 meters in height and weighs about 800 tons.

How did ancient builders manage to move and install such gigantic stones? This is a question that still remains unanswered. Modern technology is only getting closer to solving such problems, but is still far from fully understanding the methods used in antiquity.

Michel Alouf, former curator of Baalbek, described the experience of seeing these gigantic blocks: “Despite their enormous size, they are so neatly stacked and so precisely joined together that it is almost impossible to put a needle between them”.

Attempts to reconstruct the ancient technology has been made repeatedly and in Baalbek, and in other places where the construction of mysterious structures used giant stones. So far, none of them have been successful. Garcilaso de la Vega tells us that one of the Inca kings, wishing to strengthen his reputation, gathered 20 thousand people and ordered them to lift one of the huge stones on the mountain (on the mountain from time immemorial there was a structure made of the same blocks).

The matter ended in tragedy – a huge stone fell off, and thousands of people were killed. Perhaps it was because the wrong technique was chosen to move the stones?

To date, there are several assumptions about the method of transportation of giant blocks. The first method – moving the stones on special stone or wooden rollers – was rejected as a result of calculations. It turned out that the rollers collapse at a much lower force than is required to lift the blocks.

The second method, assuming the existence of huge working animals (similar to modern elephants, but much larger) in ancient times, was rejected by biologists: not a single skeleton of such a creature has been found so far.

The third method – moving stones according to the principle of “pull-push” with the use of a special rhythm – could probably explain how the stones were delivered to the place of construction. But it is impossible to adjust them to other blocks in the masonry (or at least just to raise them to the right height) in this way.

Supporters of the fourth method proceed from the fact that the ancients had access to many skills hopelessly lost at present. Stones could easily be put in place by teleportation.

It should be noted that the structures, whose appearance (and often – and function) does not find a rational explanation, in the world is not so few. For example, near the place of Tiahuanaco (southern shore of Lake Titicaca, Bolivian plateau) were found huge blocks of stone, which can be compared in size with Baalbek.

The legend explaining their appearance is also connected with the giants who allegedly built the structure in one night after the Flood.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x