Middle East Wonders of The Ancient World

Middle East


"The great mystery of the ruins of Baalbek, and indeed one of the greatest mysteries of the ancient world, concerns the massive foundation stones beneath the Roman Temple of Jupiter. The courtyard of the Jupiter temple is situated upon a platform, called the Grand Terrace, which consists of a huge outer wall and a filling of massive stones. The lower courses of the outer wall are formed of huge, finely crafted and precisely positioned blocks. They range in size from thirty to thirty three feet in length, fourteen feet in height and ten feet in depth, and weigh approximately 450 tons each. Nine of these blocks are visible on the north side of the temple, nine on the south, and six on the west (others may exist but archaeological excavations have thus far not dug beneath all the sections of the Grand Terrace). Above the six blocks on the western side are three even larger stones, called the Trilithon, whose weight is about 1000 tons each. These great stones vary in size between sixty-three and sixty-five feet in length, with a height of fourteen feet six inches and a depth of twelve feet." source: Sacred Sites

Several other sources have confirmed the 1,000 ton estimate of the Trilithon stones. At least one other estimate of the Trilithon stone is over 800 tons.

However based on the assumption that the dimensions that Sacred Sites are correct I calculated the weight of the stones. If they are made out of limestone they are about 700 tons. According to Michael Alouf the trilithon stones weigh an estimated 750 tons. This is within the density range with 290 tons therefore I assume this is the most credible weight estimate for Baalbek available. source: Alouf, Michael M., 1944: History of Baalbek. American Press. p. 129 The lower courses that he estimates are 450 tons are only 300 tons if they are limestone assuming his measurements are correct.

For more on how I came to this conclusion see the calculating the size of stones section above.

It is not uncommon for one source to trust another source Sacred Sites almost certainly relied on their source and others in turn have used Sacred Sites for their source sometimes copying word for word without checking. Another source writes the following:

"Imagine an architect's specification that called for the foundation of a massive platform to be built of limestone blocks in sizes between 63 and 65 feet long, 14 feet 6 inches high and 12 feet deep and weighing in the neighborhood of 1,000 tons each."

"The stereobate or platform that once held the Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek, Lebanon called for such a specification, but the architects and engineers who built it in the first century BC left no indication of how they accomplished such a massive construction challenge. The limestone blocks were quarried about a quarter of a mile away from the construction site and made up the lower course of the foundation." source: "Baalbek keeps its secrets" by Pennie Sabel www.stoneworld.com September 1, 2002

This would translate into 19.5Mx4.33Mx3.6M=304 cubic meters. That is 730 tons assuming it is average limestone weighing 2.4 tons. They made a reference to high density limestone elsewhere on there site weighing 2.9 tons per cubic meter. They didn't say whether this was what the Baalbek stone was made out of but if it was it would be 882 tons. This is still short of the 1,000 ton estimate that is most common for the Trilithon stones. It appears as if it may have been exaggerated and then repeated multiple times without being checked. Which means that the revised estimate should be 700 to 900 tons. this is still enormous and I can't imagine how it could have been transported up the hill which is supposed to be rough terrain although it is possible for a ramp of dirt or sand to have been built and dismantled without leaving a trace.

There are also 6 colossal granite columns almost 19 meters tall and 3 meters diameter. These weigh an estimated 400 tons. they appear to be made out of 5 huge drums each this would be an estimated 80 tons per drum. The architraves are probably between 70 and 100 tons each.


Alexander’s siege and bridge at Tyre

According to the history channel show "Man Moment Machine" Alexander had to build a land bridge twice before he could defeat the Tyrians. The Tyrians were able to ruin his first bridge. Building this bridge probably would have involved using well over 10,000 (perhaps over 20-30,000) cubic meters of rock ruble dirt etc. He would have done this while maintaining a siege and he would have been under fire. this would be a monumental task even under normal circumstances but to do it under fire is truly astounding. He would have also had to deal with the currents which is part of the reason the first bridge failed. Since the tides come in and out from the Atlantic in the west; The currents on the eastern Mediterranean wouldn't have been as strong as on the west near the pillars of Hercules; but they would still be strong enough to make this monumental task even tougher.

New discoveries indicates that Alexander may have made long term alteration in the coast of Tyre according to Archeology.org.
http://en.wikisource.org/ Alexanders seige and bridge at Tyre

Herod's Temple Mount

"Huge stone "bricks" were laid – the largest measuring 44.6 feet by 11 feet and weighing 628 tons , while most were in the range of 2.5 by 3.5 by 15 feet." source: Wikipedia

The history channel cites similar measurements for this colossal stone they claim it is 44.6 feet by 11.25 feet by 16.5 feet and weighs about 567 tons. I have heard that there may be more colossal foundation stones although not as big as the 500 plus ton stone. The stones in the wall that is visible to the public are mostly 10 to 30 tons as far as I know.


The Harbor at Caesarea

The Harbor at Caesarea was built by King Herod between 22 BCE and 9 BCE. It was one of the greatest engineering wonders of it's time. It was the first major construction project to use concrete that would set under water. The length of the southern break water is 500 meters. The length of the northern break water is 200 meters. The largest stone block measures 5.5 meters by 1.25 meters by 1.25 meters (over 20 tons). The largest concrete block measures 11.5 meters by 15 meters by 2.4 meters. The concrete blocks were created by floating a form on the water and filling it with concrete, as it filled up it would sink into place and the concrete would set under water. These would have weighed over 1,000 tons. There would be no second chance if they didn't get it right the first time. source: "The Seventy Wonders of the Ancient World", edited by Chris Scarre (1999) Thames & Hudson, London

Dome of the Rock Jerusalem

Masada Israel

The Monastery at Petra Jordon

The most famous and best preserved tomb at Petra is the Treasury of Pharaoh which is 39.1 meters tall and 25.3 meters wide. this tomb and many others were carved out of sandstone.

The Urn tomb was 26 meters high by 16.5 meters wide.
The Corintian tomb was 28 meters high by 27.5 meters wide.
The Deir tomb was 48.3 meters high by 46.8 meters wide.
The Palace tomb was over 46 meters high by 49 meters wide.
Few if any records of the construction of these tombs were preserved from the first century BCE.

Great Ziggurat of Ur Iraq

The size of first level is 62.5 meters wide by 43 meters deep by 11 meters high.
The size of second level is 36 meters wide by 26 meters deep by 5.7 meters high.
The size of third level is unknown width and depth by 2.9 meters high.
source: "Seventy Wonders of the Ancient World" edited by Chris Scarre 1999


Nineveh, Nimrud and Khorsabad Iraq


The Palaces of Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III include many statues carvings etc. There were at least 12 colossal lions or bulls weighing 10-30 tons.

King Arshurnasirpal II who reigned from 883-859 BCE built a new capital at Nimrud. Thousands of men worked to build a 5 mile long wall surrounding the city and a grand palace. There were many inscriptions carved into limestone including one that said "The palace of cedar, cypress, juniper, boxwood, mulberry, pistachio wood, and tamarisk, for my royal dwelling and for my lordly pleasure for all time, I founded therein. Beasts of the mountains and of the seas, of white limestone and alabaster I fashioned and set them up on its gates." The inscriptions also described plunder stored at the palace. "Silver, gold, lead, copper and iron, the spoil of my hand from the lands in which I had brought under my sway, in great quantities I took and placed therein." The inscriptions also described great feasts he had to celebrate his conquests. However his victims were horrified by his conquests. The text also said "Many of the captives I have taken and burned in a fire. Many I took alive from some I cut off their hands to the wrists, from others I cut off their noses, ears and fingers; I put out the eyes of many of the soldiers. I burned their young men women and children to death." About a conquest in another vanquished city he wrote "I flayed the nobles as many as many as rebelled and spread their skins out on the piles." These shock tactics brought success in 877 BCE after a march to the Mediterranean he announced "I cleaned my weapons in the deep sea and performed sheep-offerings to the gods."

His son Shalmaneser III picked up where he left off. He spent 31 of his 35 year reign waging war. After a battle near the river Orentes with the Syrians he boasted "I slew 14,000 of their warriors with the sword. I rained destruction on them. The plain was to small for their bodies to fall; the wide countryside was used to bury them. With their corpses I spanned the Orontes as with a bridge." At Nimrud he built a palace that far surpassed his fathers, it was twice the size and it covered an area of about 12 acres and included more than 200 rooms.

In 828 BCE his own son rebelled against him and was joined by 27 Assyrian cities including Ninevah and Assur. This conflict lasted until 821 BCE 3 years after Shalmaneser's death.

In 1847 after discovering more than half a dozen winged pair of Colossi Statues of Lions and Bulls weighing up to 30 tons in Nimrud Henry Layard set out to bring 2 of the colossi weighing 10 tons each including 1 lion and 1 bull to London. After 18 months and several near disasters he succeeded in bringing them to a British museum. This was a monumental task that involved loading them onto a wheeled cart. It was lowered with a complex system of pulleys and levers operated by dozens of men. The cart was towed by 300 men in a procession lead by Layard on horseback. He initially tried to hook the cart up to a team of buffalo and have them haul it. However the Buffalo stubbornly refused to move. Then it was loaded onto a barge which required 600 goatskins and sheepskins to keep it afloat. To build this barge Layard hired a debt ridden raft maker to do what other people said couldn't be done. After arriving in London a ramp was built to haul them up the steps and into the museum on rollers.

Assyria had more warlike Kings including Tiglath-Pileser and Sargon II who established a new capital at Dur Sharrukin now known as Khorsabad.


Sargon II ruled from 722-705 BCE

The Palace of Sargon the second in Khorsabad includes statues weighing 10-40 tons. Sargon supposedly lost at least one of these in the river.

Sargon II brought the Assyrian empire to the height of it's power before he was killed in 705 BCE while putting down an uprising at Tabal in the Taurus mountains.

Paul Emile Botta and Victor Place attempted to move 2 additional 30 ton colossi to Paris from Khorsabad by 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 river into the Tigris never to be retrieved. The other made it to Paris. They made a plaster replica to replace the lost one in 1957. I don't know how much work a stone one would have been but apparently they thought it was to much.

In 1928 Edward Chiera unearthed a colossal Bull estimated to weigh 40 tons In Khorsabad. This was split into three large fragments. the torso alone weighed about 20 tons. this was shipped to Chicago. It was to big to fit through the tunnels and had to be rerouted from New York to Chicago via New Orleans.

The Palace of Sennacherib in Ninevah was built approximately 702-693 BCE

The citadel walls surrounding the palace were about 12 kilometers long. The wall system consisted of an ashlar stone retaining wall about 6 m. high surmounted by a mud brick wall about 10 m. high and 15 m. thick. The stone retaining wall had projecting stone towers spaced about every 18 m. The stone wall and towers were topped by three-step merlons.

The Palace was approximately 503 by 242 meters. The solid foundation was made out of limestone blocks and mud bricks; it was 22 meters tall. This is a total of about 2.68 million cubic meters (about 160 million bricks). The walls on top were made out of mud brick they were an additional 20 meters tall. It included 120 colossal door figures weighing up to 30 tons. These include many Winged lions or Bulls with a mans head. These were transported 30 miles from Quarries at Balatai and they had to be lifted up 65 feet once they arrived at the site presumably by a ramp. There are also 9880 feet of carved stone panels. Carved stone reliefs include a drawings of them moving one of the colossal statues. They include picture records every step including carving the statues and transporting them on a barge. one picture show 44 men towing a colossal statue. The carving shows 3 men directing the operation while standing on the Colossus. Once the statues arrived at there final destination the final carving was done. Most of the statue weigh between 10 and 30 tons. A modern experiment required 180 men to tow a 10 ton colossus on Easter Island in the 1950's
The stone carvings in the walls include many battle scenes, impalings and scenes showing his men parading the spoils of war before Sennacherib. He also bragged about his conquests, He wrote the following about Babylon "It's inhabitants, young and old, I did not spare, and with their corpses I filled the streets of the city." He later wrote about a battle in Lachish "And Hezekiah of Judah who had not submitted to my yoke...him I shut up in Jerusalem his royal city like a caged bird. Earthworks I threw up against him, and anyone coming out of his city gate I made pay for his crime. His cities which I had plundered I had cut off from his land."
In January 681 He came to a sudden death. 1 version of his death claims he was killed by his own son another claims he was killed when a colossal statue fell on him and it was interpreted by some that the gods sought divine retribution.

Sennacherib was succeeded by Esarhaddon and then Ashurbanipal who continued waging wars and boasting about conquests. source: Time Life Lost Civilizations series: Mesopotamia: The Mighty Kings.
http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/assyria.htm Ninevah

The Great Walls of Babylon Iraq
http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/assyria.htm Ninevah

Arch of Ctesiphon Iraq

Persepolis Iran

Persepolis also has a large number of colossal stones probably some that may have weighed over 40 tons when they were moved but I don't have exact figures. If you look at the pictures you can tell that there were a lot of colossal stones. Unfortunately Alexander destroyed a lot of the monuments so we may never know how spectacular it once was.

The Apadana was a total of 12,100 square meters. It included 36 columns 20 meters tall, in the great hall and additional 36 columns in the facades. The terrace was 450 meters wide by 280 meters deep by 14 meters high. It included 872 columns. There are many wall carvings and other statues including the Gate of All Nations which appears similar to the colossal statues in Ninevah, Khorsabad and Nimrud. If this was carved out of a single stone it would weigh 30 - 40 tons.

source: "The Seventy Wonders of the Ancient World" edited by Chris Scarre 1999 (Thames and Hudson)


Cliff tombs at Naqsh-i-Rustam and Naqsh-i-Rajab Iran

Marib Dam Yemen

Madain Salih Saudi Arabia

The Fortress of Van

The Buddhas of Bamiyan Afganistan

These colossal statues and caves were carved out of sandstone.

Height of statue is 55 meters, the height of the niche is 58 meters the width at base of the niche is 24 meters, the width at summit is 16 meters rough guess of volume of sandstone excavated is 10,000 cubic meters for this statue alone more for surrounding caves and at least one other colossal statue (37 meters tall). source: "The Seventy Wonders of the Ancient World" edited by Chris scarre 1999 (Thames and Hudson)

Ai-Khanoum Afganistan

107 Wonders of the Ancient World (Blog entry)

One Hundred and Seven Wonders of The Ancient World: Introduction

Middle East Wonders of The Ancient World

African Wonders of The Ancient World

European Wonders of The Ancient World

South American Wonders of The Ancient World

North American Wonders of The Ancient World

Asian Wonders of The Ancient World

Preliminary Conclusions For One Hundred and Seven Wonders of The Ancient World

Prophets and Mystics

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