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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.
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 monoliths
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. Some softer stones may be lighter than 2 tons per cubic meter, like volcanic tuff, which weighs about 1.9 tons per cubic meter. 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.
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) illustrates:
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.
Osireion Abydos, Egypt. Columns and lintels, about 60 tons.
Pantheon, Rome, Italy. Granite columns, 39 feet (11.8 m) tall, five feet (1.5 m) in diameter, and 60 tons in weight were transported from Egypt by barge.
Olmec heads, Mexico, gulf coast. Largest Olmec head, almost 50 tons. Transported 37 to 62 miles (100 km).
?a?ar Qim, one of the Megalithic Temples of Malta. Its largest stone weighs 57 tons and measures approximately 19 feet (5.8 m) long by 9 feet (2.7 m) tall by 2 feet (0.61 m) thick. The Maltese temples are the oldest free standing structures on Earth.
Stonehenge, England. Largest stones over 40 tons were moved 18 miles (29 km), smaller bluestones up to 5 tons were moved 130 miles (210 km).
Trajan's column Rome, Italy. Forty-ton drums. The capital block of Trajan's Column weighs 53.3 tons.
Rameses IV reopened the stone quarries of Wadi Hammamat and had stones dragged 60 miles (97 km) across land to the Nile, then barged to Temples and his tomb in Thebes. Some of these weighed over 40 tons.
Plain of Jars. Over 400 monolithic jars weighing from 5 to 15 tons, ranging from the Khorat Plateau in Thailand in the south, through Laos and to the North Cachar Hills of Dima Hasao district, Northerneastern India.
Gallardet dolmen or Pouget dolmen in Languedoc, France. Consists of a 12 metre long alley within a large tumulus. The main chamber is still covered by three large capstones, and entry is made through a superb "oven door" entrance stone.
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, -?) 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Other reports claim that Chevier's experiment required three men to pull each ton.
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).
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.
Maxfield, Valerie A. (2001), "Stone Quarrying in the Eastern Desert with Particular Reference to Mons Claudianus and Mons Porphyrites", in Mattingly, David J.; Salmon, John (eds.), Economies Beyond Agriculture in the Classical World, Leicester-Nottingham Studies in Ancient Society, 9, London: Routledge, pp. 143-170, ISBN0-415-21253-7
Ruprechtsberger, Erwin M. (1999), "Vom Steinbruch zum Jupitertempel von Heliopolis/Baalbek (Libanon)", Linzer Archäologische Forschungen, 30: 7-56