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The Engineering Mystery of the Baalbek Stones

July 13th, 2012

Everyone talks about Stonehenge and the Coliseum being some of the great accomplishments of the ancient world, but the Baalbek Stones in Baalbek, Lebanon are one of the great engineering and architectural mysteries in history.

The ancient Romans built some of their most impressive works in the remote area of Beqaa Valley. Roman emperors would travel over 1,500 miles to make offerings to their gods at the Temple of Jupiter—the largest and grandest to scale temple that the Romans ever constructed.

Several stones of extreme weight have been found in the ruins of this temple. The largest dressed stone block in the world, Stone of the South, weighs 1,000 tons—the equivalent of THREE Boeing 747 aircraft. The Stone also holds own mystery, as it seems abandoned, by just laying on its own, away from the other structures.

Three stones, “smaller” in comparison, weigh 800 tons each and fit together to form a wall of 20 feet.

In modern engineering, we have all sorts of tools to allow for the ease of movement of large materials. Even then, it is a calculated process with many calculations and equipment involved.

How exactly did the ancient Romans build such magnificent structures with only manpower and simple machinery? Also, not only erecting, but transporting the materials to such a remote location, remains one of the greatest engineering mysteries.

Topography: This may have changed over the thousands of years since the structures were built, but the terrain was full of terraces and valleys, and still is surrounded by numerous mountain ranges.

Manpower: The stones do show work gang inscriptions, but it is uncertain who exactly these work gangs were. No one is sure if it was the Romans that did the grunt work, or other indigenous peoples. Archeologists say that the Stone of the South itself would have taken over 40,000 men to move.

Movement: The stones would have had to be dragged to the site, and cut. It is more than likely that the Romans used their ancient wooden tools of rollers and lifting frames, as well as ropes and simple manpower. However, the simple size of the stones would have more than likely crushed any wooden tool.

The Baalbek Stones are truly one of history’s greatest architectural and engineering mysteries. For more information and photos of the site, check out

Navigate the mysteries of engineering recruiting with The Talley Group today!

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