Tuesday, April 23, 2013
107 Wonders of the Ancient World
Colossi of Memnon
The Colossi of Memnon are just a couple of many ancient wonders that haven't been fully explained; in fact efforts to prove that they have been moved with ancient technology have actually done the opposite indicating that the leading experts clearly have no idea how these and many other ancient wonders happened at all. They weigh 720 tons and were transported 420 miles across land. Many experiments to move megaliths using ancient technology have been done and practically all of them were below ten tons and they only succeeded with and enormous amount of effort and coordination.
A couple of them have gone over ten tons including one that experimented with moving a 25 ton megalith and another that involved a 40 ton megalith and as far as I can tell both these had very limited success and apparently they didn't even include getting the megaliths onto the sledges. The one that involved a forty ton megalith didn't do a good job describing many of the details as far as I was able to find and quite frankly it appeared as if they were confusing the issue without addressing many of the simple question. This enabled them to present in a manner that they claimed was a partial success although it didn't seem very successful to me at all. Even if I did accept their explanation they didn't try to claim they moved it a large distance at all and they still didn't attempt to explain how they got it on the sledge.
The one involving a twenty five tone megalith was done in a little clearer manner although it wasn't presented as well as they could have. However this may have done more to raise additional unanswered questions and it ignored or down played several problems they had. In a video for PBS Roger Hopkins, who was the lead organizer of the experiment, along with Mark Lehner, made a passing comment about how he wasn't there when they put the megalith on the sledge but they made no attempt to explain how they did this. They had a major problem with broken ropes and they didn't move it forward more than an inch or two at a time and they probably didn't even move it more than ten feet although they attempted to imply that they might have moved it up to twenty feet.
There are many more megaliths that have been moved a long distance listed on Wikipedia at a List of largest monoliths in the world. This also includes a list of the efforts to move the megaliths and an explanation on how to calculate the density and weight of the megaliths since there are many exaggerations and misrepresentation of them this enables people to confirm the most reliable estimates. The vast majority of them are backed up by sources from traditional archaeology sources and I confirmed them personally a few years back; actually I put most of them there myself and others have had plenty of time to confirm them by now, including a few skeptics.
The other wonders of the ancient world include the columns of Karnak, many obelisks in Egypt as well as some in Axum Sudan and columns that had to be erected in ancient Rome as well as India. They also includes some megalithic burial chambers that weigh over a hundred tons and had to be lowered into extremely tight openings for them that only hasd a small fraction of an inch clearance; this means that not only did they have the ability to move these large megaliths but they lowered them in a very tight area which would be extremely difficult and yet they hardly even considered this when doing experiments to replicate these past wonders.
If you add to that the enormous amount of temples and the megaliths within them it must easily come to well over a hundred million tons of stone that they carved and towed anywhere from a few hundred yards to hundreds of miles. this includes dozens if not hundreds of megaliths that were over a hundred tons and it almost certainly includes thousands of megaliths over fifty tons which is bigger than the largest one that was barely moved in modern experiments. On top of that they did an enormous amount of detailed stone carving which hasn't been replicated today either and many of their joints, whether they are in the temples or the pyramids are incredibly precise. It appears that some of the carving may have been done on stucco that is covering the stones but a lot of it was directly on the stone itself. Either way it is far more than we could come close to doing today with much better technology.
This is of course not limited to Egypt, the Romans and many other sites throughout Europe Asia have also moved an enormous amount of megaliths including Angkor Wat and many of the other Angkor temples. This was done out of Sandstone that had to be hauled twenty-five miles through winding rivers that were tough to navigate. Experiments to replicate this were done and they were successful; however they had an enormous amount of difficulty and they couldn't do it nearly as fast as the ancient civilizations did. In this case they didn't use megaliths as big but they allegedly hauled and carved as much stone in in forty years as there was in the pyramid of Khafre, over five million tons. These are all installed dry without any mortar, which is virtually unheard of today in buildings that tall or even close; this type of construction is almost always reserved for paving stones or relatively low retaining walls that taper back.
Moai at Easter Island
One of the greatest mysteries is of course Easter Island. This isn't because they carried as much stone as either the Egyptians or the Angkor's; although they did carve and enormous amount and the largest ones were over eighty tons. However the island is only thirteen square miles and it could only support a relatively small population that would have had enough trouble just providing enough food and water to support themselves under the circumstances let alone find the time and energy to carve and haul these megaliths. One source claims that at their peak they had up to a hundred thousand people on the Island but this is almost certainly an exaggeration since that would mean seven thousand and seven hundred people per square mile; and they had a very limited supply of fresh water to support these people. A large portion of their diet was presumably seafood but they would have needed some vegetables to and this would only provide about 3,600 square feet (and area 60 x 60 feet) to grow food for each person and part of this was rough terrain and not useful for farming. Wikipedia lists the peak population at 15,000 which is more reasonable but it is still high considering the resources and low when you consider how many people they would need to support themselves and make these monuments. The fresh water that they had available was primarily from three crater lakes on the island which couldn't have been too large. The climate seems to include a significant amount of rain year round so droughts are rare but there are no streams to flow into these crater lakes so they only collect the rain that falls directly into them.
There have been numerous high profile attempts to explain these wonders; however as far as I can tell all the most popular ones have some serious flaws in them and they don't add up in their entirety. These range from God to Aliens or Atlanteans and more. Efforts to attribute them to all of these cases have many flaws especially when they attempt to attribute it to a higher intelligence that is benevolent. If this was done with the help of benevolent aliens or gods then they would have kept an open line of communication and explained what they were doing and why; also they would have provided better advice on how to avoid the wars and corruption that led to the destruction of these societies; and instead of encouraging indoctrination they would have encouraged education and peer review. These explanations are also routinely accompanied by blunders so obvious that they fall apart as soon as anyone thinks about it like one individual who cited as evidence the fact that his lighter wouldn't work due to lack of oxygen in one of the Egyptian tunnels. If this was what caused his lighter to stop it would have also caused his own death since he wouldn't have been able to breathe. Amazingly though the explanations of the so called scientific or rational skeptics also include many blunders and they don't explain how these monuments were built.
This leaves an unsolved mystery.
Regardless of they were built this is commonly cited as an example where the local people destroyed their own environment and became extinct as a result of that. This makes sense to a large degree although some of the explanations that are related to this may be false. Any society that destroys their own environment will inevitably have to pay the price eventually although in many cases it can be put off for a significant amount of time; but eventually it becomes unavoidable. This has happened many times throughout history although most of them have been forgotten. This includes major problems with an enormous amount of garbage piling up in ancient Athens, throughout Europe during numerous plagues which they contributed to and at the end of the nineteenth century when the Tammany Hall political machine was in power.
Thanks to globalization this is now happening once again on a scale that is unprecedented; however by setting up a system that protects a relatively small percentage of the planet where the most powerful people live and declining to report on the vast majority of the public many people may not be fully aware of the scope of it.
This is also being accompanied by many of the other problems that faced all these ancient civilization. The records of most of these societies are very limited but some of them provide an enormous amount of detail and many of the others provide a more limited amount of evidence to indicate that they all declined for very similar reason. Most if not all were involved in an enormous of escalating amounts of corruption, war and income inequality; and they were all involved in an enormous amount of activities that does absolutely nothing to maintain their societies at all, the monuments themselves. We look on these monuments with awe and presumably so did the people that built them but they didn't actually provide any benefit to the majority of the people that did the work to build them at all. In many of these societies the people that built them weren't even allowed on the premises once they were built. This includes Egypt and Angkor where only the royalty were allowed in these vast temples; the only exceptions were the servants that served them and they weren't allowed to stay there in there free time assuming they had much of it.
As much as we admire these temples they were a complete waste of time from the point of view of the people that built them assuming they thought about it rationally, which they almost certainly didn't. This is why I described them as cult structures. These were almost certainly used as part of a control process to keep their people following their leaders blindly but the leaders weren't making rational decisions and inevitably their societies collapsed.
This is in the process of happening again. Our leaders aren't taking care of a growing number of people and they're obsessed with fighting a war on terrorism that they can't win because they refuse to acknowledge inconvenient facts that contradict their ideology. They're unwilling to acknowledge that an enormous percentage of this terrorism problems is a result of blow-back from their own activities abroad or the fact that they're not addressing social problems in the US either.
Large portions of the rain forest have already been destroyed there is more environmental devastation in many oil regions around the world and it is even happening in the United States although not in the back yards of those with power. West Virginia has largely been destroyed because of coal mining many other areas throughout rural America where there isn't as much population or wealth have also been destroyed due to fracking or other activities by the energy companies; many of the largest industrial cities have been devastated as a result of outsourcing that shipped all the manufacturing jobs over seas and left them with little or nothing. A sample of these have been described in "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt."
A few years back I compiled a long list of these wonders along with some other related material including why I consider them cult structures and explanations about how to sort though the exaggerations so that people can recognize which weight estimates are more reliable and compiled them at 107 Wonders of the Ancient World if anyone is interested. The following is an excerpt from it.
If there is an exception to whether or not all these monuments might be worthwhile it might be the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial; however I am even skeptical of this.
Martin Luther King Jr. was protesting for equality and that has eroded enormously since his death and until the "Days of Revolt" described by Chris Hedges a stunning segment of the public has been largely complacent while this has been happening. While they were putting a lot of effort into building this monument they weren't putting that effort into increasing equality as Martin Luther King Jr. might have wanted. One of the sponsors was apparently the Tommy Hilfiger which has a history of relying on sweatshop labor and has been involved in an enormous amount of deceptive marketing to promote his product and make it seem like it is worth much more than it actually is. He is almost certainly trying to target the African American community for his over priced products. Barack Obama also attended and used the opening for political purposes but regardless of what color he is he hasn't done much if anything to address the inequality that is currently continuing for blacks or any other minority.
The monument is up now so we might as well make the best of it but caution should be taken not to adopt it as an object of worship while the issues that Martin Luther King Jr. attempted to address are swept under the rug by the politicians and sponsors who are attempting to use this for their own purposes. If this is used as an object of worship instead of a reminder that there is more that needs to be done then it could serve the opposite purpose that many people intended for it.
If on the other hand these monuments are reserved only for a modest amount of our efforts while we put other more important priorities ahead then the destruction of past societies does not have be replicated by ours; but this will almost certainly involve reform from below since the current establishment has clearly indicated that they aren't going to do it. If they wanted to do so they could have and would have already done so.