List of megalithic sites

List of megalithic sites

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 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. The average weight of granite is about 2.75 metric tons per cubic meter, limestone 2.3 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 or basalt 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 density

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 monoliths

This list includes only quarried, but not moved monoliths.

Weight Name/Site Type Location Builder Comment
~16,250 t[11] Stele Base in
the Yangshan Quarry
Block Nanjing, China Ming Empire 30.35 m long, 13 m wide, 16 m high[12]
~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 Assuan, 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
~1,207 t[16] Granite column Column Mons Claudianus, Egypt Roman Empire Ca. 17.7 m (59 feet) long[17]

Moved monoliths

This list includes only quarried and moved monoliths.

Weight Name/Site Type Location Builder Comment
1,500 t[18] Thunder Stone Boulder Saint Petersburg, Russia Russian Empire, 1770 Moved 6 km overland for shipment, then cut to 1250 t[19]
1,000 t[20][21] Ramesseum Statue Thebes, Egypt Ancient Egypt Transported 170 miles (270 km) by ship from Aswan
800 t each[22] Trilithon (3x) Blocks Baalbek, Lebanon Roman Empire Plus about 24 blocks 300 tons each[23]
700 t each Colossi of Memnon (2x) 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.[20][21][24]
600 t Alexander Column Column Saint Petersburg, Russia Russian Empire, 1832 Transported 100 km by ship
550 to 600 t[25][26] Western Stone, Jewish Holy Temple Block Jerusalem, Israel Herod, King of the Jews during the Second Temple period
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).[20]
400-600 t Gomateshwara Statue Hassan district of Karnataka state, India 60 feet (18 m) tall over 30 feet (9 m) wide
400 t[27] Temple in complex for Khafre's Pyramid Giza, Egypt
400 t Alexander Column Block Saint Petersburg, Russia Russian Empire, 1832 Transported 100 km by ship. The base of Alexander Column.
300-500 t[28] 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[29] Levitated Mass Los Angeles, California, United States Large stone intended for a work of art, Moved 106 miles.[30]
300 t[20] Broken Menhir of Er Grah Brittany, France Moved 7.5 miles (12.1 km).
285 t[31] Pompey's Pillar Column Alexandria, Egypt Roman Empire
230 t[32] Mausoleum of Theodoric Roof slab Ravenna, Italy Ostrogothic Kingdom
220 t[33] Menkaure's Pyramid Giza, Egypt largest stones in mortuary temple
200 t[34] Sahure's pyramid Saqqara, Egypt largest stones over king's chamber
200 t[35] Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites Korea largest stone
Weight Name/Site Type Location Builder Comment

Lifted monoliths

These lists include only quarried, moved and lifted monoliths.

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

Erected in upright position

Weight Name/Site Type Location Builder Comment
600 t[72] Alexander Column Column Saint Petersburg, Russia Russian Empire Relocated and lifted in upright position in 1832
361 t[73] Vatican Obelisk Obelisk Rome, Italy 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

= | Architrave-frieze block | Baalbek, Lebanon | Roman Empire | |- | 153.3 t[74] | ~34 m | Trajan's Column | Capital block | Rome, Italy | Roman Empire | Dedicated in 113 AD |}

List of efforts to move and install stones

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

  • Marinos Carburis, 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.[75]
  • 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.[76]
  • 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.[77][78][79]
  • 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.[80][81][82]
  • 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.[83]
  • 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.[84]
  • 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.[84]
  • 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.[85]
  • 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.[86] Other reports claim that Chevier's experiment required three men to pull each ton.[87]
  • 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.[88]
  • 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).[89]
  • 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.[90]
  • 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.[91]
  • Vince Lee participated in experiments to test his theories about how the walls of Sacsayhuamán were built.[91]

See also



  • ru:Список мегалитических памятников Европы