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Five largest moved monoliths in the world

A monolith is a large stone which has been used to construct 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 stone.

The Thunder Stone 1,250 t

For the pedestal, an enormous boulder known as the Thunder Stone was found at Lakhta, 6 km inland from the Gulf of Finland in 1768. The Thunder stone gained its name from a local legend that thunder split a piece off it. Falconet wanted to work on it in its original location, but Catherine ordered it be moved before being cut. Embedded half its depth in marshy terrain, new methods needed to be developed to move it. A Greek gentleman from the Island of Kefallonia, then part of the Republic of Venice, named Marinos Carburis, lieutenant-colonel in the Russian Army offered to undertake the project.

Thunder Stone Five largest moved monoliths in the world

The Transportation of the Thunder-stone

After waiting for winter, when the ground was frozen, it was then dragged across the countryside. This was done by means of a metallic sledge which slid over bronze spheres about 13.5 cm in diameter, over a track, a process similar to the later invention of ball bearings. Making the feat even more impressive was that the labour was done entirely by humans; no animals or machines were used in bringing it from the original site to the Senate Square. Once a method to move it was devised, it took 400 men nine months to move the stone, during which time master stonecutters continuously shaped the enormous granite monolith. Catherine periodically visited the effort to oversee their progress. The larger capstans took 32 men at once to turn, this just barely moving the rock. Further complicating the issue was the availability of only 100 m of track, which had to be constantly relaid. Nevertheless, the workers made over 150 m of progress a day while on level ground. Upon arrival at the sea an enormous barge was constructed exclusively for the Thunder Stone. The vessel had to be supported on either side by additional two full-size warships. After a short maritime voyage, it arrived at its destination in 1770, nearly two years after efforts to move it began. A commemorative medal was issued for its arrival, with the legend ‘Close to Daring’

Bronze Horseman Five largest moved monoliths in the world

The Bronze Horseman

Ramesseum 1,000 t

The Ramesseum is the memorial temple of Pharaoh Ramesses II. It is located in the Theban necropolis in Upper Egypt, across the River Nile from the modern city of Luxor. Ramesses II modified, usurped, or constructed many buildings from the ground up, and the most splendid of these, in accordance with New Kingdom Royal burial practices, would have been his memorial temple: a place of worship dedicated to pharaoh, god on earth, where his memory would have been kept alive after his passing from this world. Surviving records indicate that work on the project began shortly after the start of his reign and continued for 20 years.

RamsesII Five largest moved monoliths in the world

Aerial View of Thebes' Ramesseum

The design of Ramesses’s mortuary temple adheres to the standard canons of New Kingdom temple architecture. Oriented northwest and southeast, the temple itself comprised two stone pylons (gateways, some 60 m wide), one after the other, each leading into a courtyard. Beyond the second courtyard, at the centre of the complex, was a covered 48-column hypostyle hall, surrounding the inner sanctuary.

Temple of Ramesses II Five largest moved monoliths in the world

Temple of Ramesses II, Luxor

Only fragments of the base and torso remain of the syenite statue of the enthroned pharaoh, 62 feet (19 metres) high and weighing more than 1000 tons. This was alleged to have been transported 170 miles over land. This is the largest remaining colossal statue (except statues done in situ) in the world. However fragments of 4 granite Colossi of Ramses were found in Tanis (northern Egypt). Estimated height is 69 to 92 feet (21 to 28 meters). Like four of the six colossi of Amenhotep III (Colossi of Memnon) there are no longer complete remains so it is based partly on unconfirmed estimates.

Trilithon  800 t

A trilithon is a structure consisting of two large vertical stones (posts) supporting a third stone set horizontally across the top (lintel). Commonly used in the context of megalithic monuments. The most famous trilithons are those of Stonehenge in England and those found in the Megalithic temples of Malta.

Trilith Stonehenge Five largest moved monoliths in the world

Trilith in Stonehenge

The word trilithon is derived from the Greek “having three stones” (τρι- – tri- “three”, λίθος – lithos’ “stone”) and was first used by William Stukeley. The term also describes the groups of three stones in the Hunebed tombs of the Netherlands and the three massive stones forming part of the wall of the Roman Temple of Jupiter at Baalbek, Lebanon.

Malta Five largest moved monoliths in the world

Trilithon entrance, Mnajdra temple, Malta

A group of three horizontally lying giant stones which form part of the podium of the Roman Jupiter temple of Baalbek, Lebanon, go by the name “trilithon”. Weighing ca. 800 tons each, they are among the largest ancient monoliths and even of the whole of history. The supporting stone layer beneath features a number of stones which are still in the order of 350 t. In the quarry nearby, two Roman building blocks, which were intended for the same podium, even surpass 1,000 t, lying there unused since their extraction in ancient times.

Colossi of Memnon 700 t

The Colossi of Memnon are two massive stone statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. For the past 3400 years (since 1350 BC) they have stood in the Theban necropolis, across the River Nile from the modern city of Luxor. The twin statues depict Amenhotep III (fl. 14th century BC) in a seated position, his hands resting on his knees and his gaze facing eastwards towards the river.

Egypt Colossi Memnon Five largest moved monoliths in the world

The Colossi of Memnon

The statues are made from blocks of quartzite sandstone which was stone quarried at el-Gabal el-Ahmar and transported 675 km (420 miles) overland to Thebes. (They are too heavy to have been transported upstream on the Nile.) The blocks used by later Roman engineers to reconstruct the eastern colossus may have come from Edfu. Including the stone platforms on which they stand (about 4 metres (13 ft) themselves), the colossi reach a towering 18 metres (approx. 60 ft) in height and weigh an estimated 700 tons each. The two figures are about 15 metres apart.

Colossi of Memnon Five largest moved monoliths in the world

Amenhotep III's Sitting Colossi

The original function of the Colossi was to stand guard at the entrance to Amenhotep’s memorial temple (or mortuary temple): a massive cult centre built during the pharaoh’s lifetime, where he was worshipped as a god-on-earth both before and after his departure from this world.

Alexander Column 600 t

The Alexander Column also known as Alexandrian Column, is the focal point of Palace Square in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The monument was erected after the Russian victory in the war with Napoleon’s France. Named after Emperor Alexander I, who ruled Russia between 1801 and 1825, the column is an interesting piece of architecture and engineering.

Alexander Column in the Palace Square Five largest moved monoliths in the world

The Alexander Column in the Palace Square

The Alexander Column was designed by the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand, built between 1830 and 1834, and unveiled on August 30, 1834. The monument — the tallest of its kind in the world — is 47.5 m (155 ft 8 in) tall and is topped with a statue of an angel holding a cross. The statue of the angel was designed by the Russian sculptor Boris Orlovsky. The face of the angel bears great similarity to the face of Emperor Alexander I.

Alexander Column in scaffolds Five largest moved monoliths in the world

The Alexander Column in scaffolds

The column is a single piece of red granite, 25.45 m long and about 3.5 m in diameter. The granite monolith was obtained from Virolahti, Finland and in 1832 transported by sea to Saint Petersburg, on a barge specially designed for this purpose, where it underwent further working. Without the aid of modern cranes and engineering machines, the column, weighing 600 tonnes (661 tons), was erected by 3,000 men under the guidance of William Handyside in less than 2 hours. It is set so neatly that no attachment to the base is needed.

33 Comments

  1. b0mb3rman

    A monolith is a single large stone. Although a couple of the examples fit the criteria most do not as they are talking about the weight of the overall structure and not any single stone.

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