Chapter 2. Monumental Methodology
There are some 2,500,000 limestone blocks comprising the visible external form of the Great Pyramid at Giza. Each of these exterior blocks weighs from one to three tons. Inside the pyramid are some granite slabs weighing up to seventy tons that form the walls of the Grand Gallery, the King’s and Queen’s chambers and the so-called "relieving" chambers above them. Altogether, there is enough stone in the Great Pyramid to build a wall three feet high and one and one-half feet thick all around France. Herodotus, who visited the Giza site about 450 BC, repeated the then-current story that it had been built in twenty years. Assuming that work was done only in daylight, this means that an average two-ton block was moved about every three minutes. Engineers and archaeologists tell us that all this stone was moved by gangs of slaves hauling the stones up an inclined ramp.
5. The Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt.
This is highly improbable, as any reasonable person can immediately perceive, if not totally impossible. A long inclined ramp with a grade gentle enough to haul stones up, and high enough to reach the top of the Great Pyramid, would contain much more volume than the pyramid itself. Then, the ever-diminishing working area of the pyramid, as it grew in height, would not have left room for the stones to have been placed in position with the precision they exhibit today. There would be decreasing room for the gangs of slaves to move. And then there is the fact that the Great Pyramid at Giza is not the only pyramid in Egypt. There are about thirty others, not to mention additional massive temples. Therefore, conventional explanations of Ancient Egyptian construction techniques are tentatively accepted on faith by informed people only because so-called experts make these statements. And also, of course, because most of us would prefer not to fall back on UFOs. We can at least imagine all these ramps and immense gangs of slaves toiling on the hot, flat sands beside the Nile.
But the case of Machu Picchu in the Andes Mountains is not even imaginable for sledge-hauling huge stones up an inclined ramp. The path leading four thousand feet up to the citadel is only three feet wide in places, but the smallest dimension of some stones carried up to Machu Picchu is four feet. The paved path clings to the sheer side of a mountain, a vertical slope to one side and a drop into an abyss on the other. There is no room for more than two people abreast for most of its length. In about twenty different places, the path is too steep for ordinary walking and the Andean builders were forced to cut long flights of steps into mountain rock. Some of these staircases curve around outcroppings of rock and huge buttresses of the mountain. At the worst places, the steps could be only three feet wide.
No one with vertigo lasted very long in these parts, certainly not long enough to hand any errant vertigo genes down to children. Relays of picked Inca runners carried quipu messages from citadel to citadel along these paths at the rate of 150 miles per day. This alone seems incredible.
However, we know absolutely that Machu Picchu was built by ordinary-sized humans and not by anthropological giants or Cyclops as Michael A. Cremo and Richard L. Thompson have suggested in their very popular, but equally spurious, Forbidden Archaeology. If ancient and now-extinct human giants had constructed Machu Picchu, then why are the individual steps of those stone stairways only as high as our own steps today?
These Andean stone stairways also suggest that we can forget about advanced-technology UFO aliens as the builders. Surely they would have built in some material other than the laborious quarrying of ordinary mountain rock. Even we have steel and pre-cast concrete. And surely they could have built escalators instead of stone-cut stairways of earth-normal human size.
6. Photo of Machu Picchu. Note the mountainside path up to
the citadel at the right centre of this photo.
Engineers have long suspected, and I heartily agree because of geology reports, that the very largest foundation stone blocks of Machu Picchu, of about fifty to fifteen tons in weight, were probably cut out of the mountaintop rock on the spot. However, geologists have also shown that many hundreds of the smaller blocks up to about five tons were cut in a quarry down in the valley and were hauled up to the citadel.
Almost as awesome as the feat of carrying five-ton stone blocks up to Machu Picchu is the method of Andean construction itself. Because of the frequent earthquakes in South America, Andean stone walls were composed of polygonal blocks instead of regular rectangular blocks as is the case with the Egyptian Great Pyramid. This was so that the irregular angles could lock the blocks into position. But this means that each block was accurately cut to fit into just one place in the walls. It means that thousands of huge stones were pre-cut down in the valley quarry and then hauled up to the mountaintop to be placed precisely in proper position and in precisely the proper order. The original design, not to mention the ongoing administration during construction, boggles modern engineering minds. And we have not yet begun to answer how the many-sided five-ton stone blocks were cut and polished down in the quarry, never mind how they got up to Machu Picchu.
A long string of two-by-two slaves would not work for sledge-hauling stones up to Machu Picchu. The friction of hauling a cable over the uneven and undulating pavement of the path would absorb much of the available power. On curves, friction of the cable against the mountainside would absorb even more. A cable long enough to accommodate the necessary number of slaves on a two-by-two basis, given materials available to Incas for rope-making, would itself be a crushing weight to carry up. And, obviously, a longer cable with even more slaves to compensate for friction losses and cable weight would only have made things worse. But finally, how could 5-ton stones have been carried up those staircases?
And, in addition to Machu Picchu, there were several other "Inca" mountaintop citadels, such as Cuzco and Ollataytambo, which were just as impossible to construct. We know that the so-called "Incas" occupied all of these sites between about AD 1200 and 1530, but we do not know for certain whether they actually built any of them.
But, whoever built Machu Picchu, it simply cannot have been built using the conventional ideas of sledge-hauling. Engineers know it – and conventional archaeologists themselves really knew it all along. As just another minor addition to the accumulating impossibilities, archaeologists also know that ancient Andean agriculture in the case of Machu Picchu, or Ancient Egyptian agriculture in the case of the Great Pyramid, could not have fed the required number of slaves during the time of construction. Nor could this number of people have been spared from the normal food-producing work force. The replications offered on respected so-called "educational television" series like Ancient Mysteries and Secrets of Lost Empires are really only an imposition on public credulity based on general ignorance of the relevant facts.
Such presentations on educational television are no better, but they are no worse either, than explanations of ancient technology offered in popular New Age books by some fairly prominent people. Let’s take a somewhat minor ancient wonder as an example – Andean suspension bridges. Actress Shirley MacLaine, author of Out On A Limb about her Andean adventures and spiritual insights, speculated that the "mathematical" secret of the bridges had been given to Incas by extraterrestrial flying saucer occupants. The curve was too subtle for Incas to figure out. Shirley MacLaine had learned this on good authority from someone who had supposedly encountered UFOs in a remote Peruvian valley. UFO aliens had spiritually guided the Inca civilization.
Out On A Limb was an entertaining read. I was also interested in possible precursors of the Inca
civilization, including even flying saucer occupants if they were unavoidable. But all this aside, ever since seeing The Apartment I’d been having a secret love affair with Shirley MacLaine – along with several million other men. Being sometimes on the fringe of the film business, I was able to cajole a meeting with her when she came to Toronto on a film shoot.
Over lunch at the Sutton Place hotel, gorgeous Miss MacLaine told me about the UFOnaut and extraterrestrial inspiration for Inca suspension bridges and her other Peruvian insights. As she ate daintily and talked enthusiastically, her famous Cymric bow mouth had plenty of opportunity to curve, flex and dimple exquisitely. It let fly tiny invisible arrows in all directions, to judge by the number of stricken men in the hotel’s Stop 33 restaurant. I was mesmerized, and was naturally tempted to believe every entrancing word she uttered – at the time.
8. Photo: Shirley MacLaine.
I confessed to her that I had always been sympathetic to the belief that Ancient Egyptian stone blocks could be made to fly by special sound tones produced by priests with trumpets. I was rewarded with a beguiling smile...and I was hardly guilty at all that I had meant the observation in a much different way than she had taken it.
But to return momentarily to the Andean suspension bridges that were allegedly made with UFOnaut assistance.
As it happened, Andean suspension bridge replication was chosen for presentation on an episode in the Ancient Empires series along with the more usual attempt to haul an ancient Inca stone block with ropes. Both the stone-hauling and the bridge-building were done on-location in Peru with actual Andean villagers. The stone-dragging was the usual slapstick comedy, but the bridge-building was another matter.
Immensely long rope bridges are a feature of the less popularly known ancient Andes civilizations, and accordingly some readers may not have heard about these marvels of ingenuity. Incas built wispy suspension bridges out of rope across river gorges of awesome depth. Spans could be up to two hundred feet in length. Given the rugged mountainous domain of the Incas, these bridges were an absolutely essential part of their road and communication system.
Not having any suitable draft animals, and their nearly-vertical country rendering wheeled vehicles useless for most practical work, these suspension bridges only had to carry people and loaded llamas. They were foot-bridges. Nonetheless, it is difficult to see how they could have been built, raised and then anchored securely enough on both ends. The construction skill required seems incredible for a rudimentary technology, and the calculations of stresses involved would daunt a modern engineer. These bridges have provoked almost as much speculation as Inca stonework.
That is precisely why these two subjects were chosen together for replication on the Ancient Empires television documentary. For conventional experts, these bridges were not quite so troubling as Inca stonework because their construction was not absolutely impossible to imagine. Never the less, they were impressive feats of engineering and building skill.
The televised building of the rope bridge was done in four days. It was done the Inca way. Twenty-five village women converged toward a grassy hillside and sat down. They deftly and swiftly began to finger-twist 2-ply twine from intermixed tufts of grass as they plucked them from around wherever they had chosen to sit. They gossiped happily as they settled down to their work.
Without a word, laughing children scurried to nearby mountain meadows and began to pick handfuls of grass. They collected bundles of grass and brought them to the women who were quickly exhausting the herbal resources in their immediate vicinities. Within two days there was seven thousand feet of this 2-ply twine, and it was weak-looking stuff.
This sounds like a lot, but it works out to just 17.5 feet of 2-ply twine per woman-hour figured at 8 working hours a day -- and then, the women's and children's contribution to bridge building was over. Each woman braided an average of 280 feet of 2-ply twine over two days.
As it was being produced, ten village men, the acknowledged village rope-making experts, then braided this 2-ply twine into lengths of 3-ply rope, which didn’t look so flimsy. These men then "wrestle- braided" (there’s no other description) six 160-foot cables consisting of three plies of the 3-ply rope, and these cables looked monstrously strong. They were about ten inches in diameter.
During this time, the other village men -- including presumably fifteen husbands of the twenty-five women who were braiding twine -- took over the cooking and other domestic chores. At bridge-building time, this included the extra chore of tending celebratory clay pots full of bubbling corn mash.
On the morning of the fourth day, two good swimmers found a somewhat calmer place far downstream in which to take one end of a very long and well-made hemp rope across the river. Both ends were taken back upstream to the bridge site. One by one, the six cables were pulled across the span by tying them to the middle of the long hemp rope. The rope was returned for succeeding lengths of cable. This was long and tiring work for all the village men on the river banks. It was done in six hours. All six cables spanned the river by noon.
Four cables were lashed together with 2-ply twine to form the load-bearing "floor" of the bridge, and two cables formed higher hand-rails flanking the floor and lashed down to it with 2-ply twine. The cables were anchored into channels cut into living mountain rock on each side of the gorge – "Inca", or more correctly, Andean stonemasons had cut these grooves at least five hundred years earlier.
The final result was a suspended bridge made only of grass – in grassy increments made possible by skill and organization. The finished bridge, spanning a 100-foot-wide gorge on the upper Apurimac River, would bear the weight of one adult and a loaded llama. It had consumed a total of four days work by all of the population, including children, some of the time, and some of the population all the time – but without totally disrupting necessary domestic activities at any time during the four days. No slaves were used. And no aliens supervised the work with their mathematics or helped out by hauling ropes across the gorge with their hovering UFOs.
The bridge was an enthusiastic community effort, and a necessary one. One of the social activities that was not interrupted by bridge-building was the frequent consumption of large amounts of alcohol in order to solicit spiritual guidance and approval of any work. And the television cameras showed that the corn spirits were unarguably present. Bridge-building was hard work, but also fun.
This impressive 100-foot span was made by ordinary Andean people. Their only spiritual contact caused liquid stains and that subtle curve was caused by natural gravity acting on the weight of the bridge cables. The men tightened the cables as tautly as they could possibly manage with muscle-power and levers, and left it at that. No mathematics, earthly or extraterrestrial, was used in the design. There was engineering involved. Trial and error engineering. Undoubtedly, many tragedies had finally taught the necessary cable length, diameter and safe longevity for any given span. This information was stored in the memories of village rope experts, and it was passed down. Shirley MacLaine’s ideas about UFO inspiration for the suspension bridges had come from an unreliable source.
But, if Andean villagers could make a suspension bridge of rope so quickly and deftly, why could they not just as easily haul a stone block up to Machu Picchu with ropes? The answer to this is that the people who built these Ancient Wonders, from Central America and the Andes to Baalbek and Ancient Egypt, had hauled stones by brute force as seldom as possible.
It had to be done on occasion, of course, but stone-hauling by large numbers of people was avoided as the primary method of construction for ancient wonders. And, believe me, when they had to haul stones over the ground they didn't use our modern archaeological and engineering sledges that would only plow up the dirt and only increase the friction.
They used greased cobblestones. That is why, quite obviously, the stone-builders of now-quaint medieval European towns left cobblestoned streets for modern tourists to photograph. Even at the time, these cobblestoned streets made for bumpy cartage transportation. They could break the ankles of unwary medieval pedestrians, and they now make the braking of modern automobiles problematical at best. But the slippery cobblestones allowed for the much easier construction of the all-important protective local castle up on the hill. This was not only the case in Europe, but also in places like Chunking in China, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Harappa and Mohenjo-daro in the Indus River highlands, even on Easter Island and in "Inca" Ollataytambo and Cuzco high up in the Andes.
But for truly major and massive projects, what we term "Ancient Wonders" as opposed to the normal expansion of living by an ever-increasing population, the relevant (and possibly religious) authorities specified land-haulage of stone as infrequently as possible.