The Megalith Movers Prehistoric Engineering
/continued First website and experiments - movement of heavy stones      Erecting the stones    Flushed with success from my experiments I began to wonder if the same small workforce could also erect the stones, using the same crude implements, wooden levers and rough logs.    After much head scratching I eventually began to see how it might be possible. I dug a hole and positioned the stone horizontally across it. The idea was to raise the horizontal stone into the air (levers were again used for this task) supporting it as it rose on two stacks of rough logs. As I had no logs available I used timber pallets instead. When the stone had reached what I estimated as the right height I placed a collapsible ‘A’ frame (made from two rough logs joined together at one end with a wooden dowel, a length of rope between the legs of the ‘A’ frame held the legs in place) under one end of the stone so that the stone was now resting on the ‘A’ frame at one end and the tower of pallets at the other. I now removed the tower of pallets that had become redundant.    Now all I had to do was cut the rope holding the legs of the ‘A’ frame and the ‘A’ frame would collapse allowing the stone to fall into the hole, as it did so the forward motion created by this action would propel the stone perfectly upright. That was the theory anyway. To accomplish this safely I built a small fire under the rope, light it and retired to a safe distance. As I had no way of retrieving the stone once it was planted this experiment had to be 100% successful first time. Unfortunately, I had overlooked one thing, as the stone arced down and into the hole the stack of pallets moved back, it was only a matter of inches but it robbed the stone of much of its forward momentum. The stone was bang on target but only stood at about 80 degrees.    I could not repeat the experiment, as I had no way of retrieving the stone. However I was fairly satisfied, the stone was in the hole and I was confident that if I ever got the chance to repeat the experiment with a bigger stone, next time I would get it right. All that was needed to stop the support tower moving was a buttress of wooden props. this would ensure the stone finished perfectly upright.    Although this experiment was conducted on a stone of only 4 tons, I am confident that this method will work just as well on a stone even as big as the biggest at Stonehenge, 40 tons.    The advantages of this method are:     Great savings in manpower. A 40 ton stone could be erected by a team of less than 25 men.     Great savings in time. The whole operation could be completed in one day.     No preparations required. The orthodox method requires the construction of a massive earth ramp (read the segment below). * * * * * * *    Another extract from the paper entitled “Science and Stonehenge”.    Raising the uprights.    “This part of the experiment involved raising one of the 40 tonne uprights to vertical in a stone-hole (prepared by machine excavation) the profile of which was based on that of stone 56 excavated by Gowland. the assumption was made that the stone was inserted from the ramped side of the hole.    Most published diagrams and illustrations of raising the stones to vertical show various systems whereby the stone is levered up from its top end, or hauled up using ropes on a timber ‘A’ frame (see for example Atkinson 1956, 128; English Heritage 1995; 26-70) Both systems would require a lifting force of at least 20 tonnes, some 3.5 times greater than the maximum 6 tonne force generated by the team of 130 volunteers. Whilst the ‘A’ frame could give some considerable mechanical advantage and levers could be used to generate lifting force, both systems lack the necessary control that would ensure that the stone could be inserted into the hole without sliding forward on tilting and jamming against its front face. Precise positioning of the stone would be of critical importance as its recovery from a partially inserted position would have been extremely difficult. A system was required which allowed the stone to rotate to an angle of 70 degrees from horizontal, to clear the front face of the stone-hole and finally drop the remaining short distance into the bottom of the hole.    The approach that was adopted recognised that for the stone to rotate successfully into the hole, it would require a hard ‘pivot point’ on which to rotate. An alternative means of generating the force required to rotate the stone was also sought. The most suitable pivot point that could be envisaged was one of stone and initial thoughts were that the upright could be notched in order to hook over the pivot stone as it rotated. The present appearance of the upright sarsens at Stonehenge does not support this concept which was eventually modified to one where the front of a wooden sledge, to which the upright was tightly lashed, provided the ‘notch’. The pivot ‘stone’, triangular in section and reminiscent of some of the wedge-shaped stones in the sarsen circle, was made of reinforced concrete and was set immediately adjacent to the stone-hole, the line of the sloping face of which extended up through the sloping side of the pivot stone (70 degrees from horizontal). A ramp of crushed stone (representing a chalk ramp) laid to a slope of 1 in 20 was constructed behind the pivot stone, and timber rails, identical to those employed in the moving experiment, were laid on its surface.    Trial models suggested that the pivot was best set 1500 mm above the ground level, so that the stone, bearing in mind it was heavier at its ‘bottom’ end due to its shape, was not in danger of overbalancing either forward when near the horizontal or backwards once tipped to an angle of 70 degrees. The stone was placed on a sledge on the ramp with its centre of gravity positioned to the rear of the pivot point. In order to provide force to assist with the rotation of the stone, timber rails were placed along its length and on these was placed a small wooden sledge to which were lashed six, 1 tonne concrete blocks. The principle of this method was that the near horizontal stone could be pivoted using the weight of the ’tilting stones’ as they reached the tip of the stone overhanging the hole. The stone was lashed to the sledge in such a position that theoretically, on completion of its rotation through 70 degrees, the leading edge of the sledge would engage with the lip of the pivot stone. The stone would be held momentarily in this position before breaking free of its lashings and dropping into the base of the hole”    See drawing below.    When the stone had settled in the hole it was hauled upright as in the photo below by means of ropes attached to a massive ‘A’ frame.    I have several reservations about accepting this as the method used by the builders of Stonehenge. Firstly, the amount of preparation required, hundreds of hours wasted building a ramp with a hard pivot point, more hours wasted making thousands of yards of rope by hand.    Secondly, the use of an ‘A’ frame as gearing to reduce the amount of manpower required, it is one thing to suggest that Neolithic man probably knew how to use a simple lever, (something he could have discovered by accident thousands of years before) but something else entirely to presume that he had a grasp of the engineering principals involved in using an ‘A’ frame as gearing.    Thirdly, the amount of manpower required, even using an ‘A’ frame at least 130 individuals, without the use of an ‘A’ frame around 400. The population of Britain at this time was small and spread thinly from Cornwall in the south, to the Orkneys off the northern coast of Scotland. * * * * * * *    Raising The Lintel Stones    I was happy that with a limited workforce heavy stones could be transported to and erected on site at Stonehenge without undue effort and using only materials that were readily available at the time Stonehenge was built. Only one question remained. Could the lintel stones be put in place just as easily?    Raising the lintel stones is a comparatively easy task. Use the same method as used when elevating the upright stones prior to erection. A crib of logs is progressively inserted under the stone as it is being raised by the levers. When the levers have reached a height that causes difficulty for the operators, provide the operators with a platform on which to work that rises as the stone rises.    This method has been tried and tested by archaeologists with some success, below is an extract from a paper presented to the British Academy by archaeologist Julian Richards.    Crib method.    “The timber ‘crib’, essentially a platform of alternating horizontally laid timbers, has often been suggested as the method by which the lintels were raised. Some illustrations show a plank decking on which workers use levers to raise alternate ends of the lintel, which are then supported before the process continues. This method was tested using a platform of railway sleepers and demonstrated that the lintel could be raised quite satisfactorily. Each end of the stone could be raised by the depth of a railway sleeper (approximately 150 mm). The process of levering was shown to be quite easy and swift, with considerably more time being taken to raise the remainder of the platform up to the corresponding level. Once the platform had reached a height above which a direct down- ward pull could not be applied to the ends of the levers, then the levers could only be operated by means of ropes. Operated in this way the levers were prone to slipping.”    Had the archaeologists concerned with this experiment thought to provide the lever operators with a working platform as in the sketch above this problem would not have arisen. The stone could then have been raised to whatever height was required easily and swiftly.    Below is another extract from the paper presented to the British Academy entitled “Science and Stonehenge”.    Ramp method.    “The method devised for raising the lintel (see below) is essentially a variation on the ramp method suggested by a number of previous authors (e.g. Stone 1924a) and tested at a considerable scale by Pavel (Pavel 1992). A 30 degree scaffolding ramp was constructed, intended to represent one built of timber and earth, but with due regard to health and safety.    A slipway of three parallel wooden rails was built on the ramp up which the lintel was to be hauled, lashed to a sideways running sledge. At the point at which the angled ramp joined the horizontal decking around the top of the uprights, the final section of the rails projected the 30 degree ramp angle. The rails here were designed to break as the stone reached this point, allowing it to slide the final horizontal distance of 1.5 m into a position just in front of the two uprights. The level of this was such that it was set to clear the top of the tenons on the upright stones, by running off the slipway onto two greased blocks set on top of the stones.    It was calculated that the force required to haul the 10 tonne lintel up the greased slope of 30 degrees was approximately 6 tonnes, with a team of 90 people the lintel on its sledge was hauled up the ramp using the ‘A’ frame lever, at each stage the sledge was tied back and the lever reset. Once teething problems with both lashing and with the sledge binding on the rails had been overcome, the lintel was raised in about 3 hours. However in pulling up the ramp, the lintel had drifted out of line with the tenons and was 100 mm out of position. Over 4 hours was then spent coaxing the stone over that final short distance using levers.”    Reading this last sentence I can only presume that modern man has forgotten how to use levers correctly. By using levers correctly, with the necessary fulcrums an adjustment of 100 mm should take no more than a minute. It is not therefore surprising that modern archaeologists cling to the notion that the only way Stonehenge and the pyramids could have been achieved is by means of ramps.    The ancient Egyptians could also have used this method to build the pyramids.    Why build a massive ramp to haul heavy stones up a pyramid, when the pyramid itself is nothing but a giant staircase up which it is easy to move a stone with levers? Elevate the stone to the level of the first step, then use the pivoting action to move the stone onto the step. Again provide the lever operators with a simple working platform that rises at the same rate as the stone. As the stone progresses up the pyramid the support logs at the lower level can be reused as they become redundant.    Using this method to build pyramids offers many advantages, great saving in manpower, less than ten men to transport and to elevate a stone of 10 tons.    Great savings in construction time, by eliminating the need to construct ramps, the volume of which would necessarily have had to be around three times the volume of the pyramid itself, this time could be devoted to pyramid construction.    With only a comparatively small team needed to transport and elevate each stone many more stones could be moved at the same time by any given workforce, each stone could be delivered to the exact point of the pyramid were it is needed and many stones at once could be elevated from all four sides.    To anyone who remains unconvinced by my arguments I conclude with one last fact. Two thousand years before the building of Stonehenge or the pyramids, stone-age man was transporting a large stone several kilometres across northern France. Known as Le Grand Menhir Brise this stone, now broken into four pieces, lies on the coast near the town of Carnac. Compared to anything used in the construction of either Stonehenge or the pyramids this stone is truly colossal. According to archaeologists it once stood erect and was as tall as a four storey building, it is estimated to weigh as much as 350 tons!!! An army of thousands, hauling on ropes, could not have moved this stone, not by so much as one inch! Yet it was moved several kilometres by our ancestors. How? There can be only one answer to this question, levers.    It is my ambition to repeat the experiments described on this web site on a more meaningful scale, using a stone of perhaps 10 or even 40 or 50 tons. As an ordinary working man, a carpenter, I lack the resources to further this ambition. If you think you may be able to help in this respect, or would just like to comment on the experiments so far, I would be pleased to hear from you. follow link to world-mysteries website return to top of this page

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