Against Gravity

Klaus Rheidt

Large Stones- Big Challenge?
Production and far more transportation of very large stones was always a show off in preindustrial times. The obelisks of Egypt in Rome as well as the “thunderstone” of St. Petersburg are outstanding examples of spectacular efforts against gravity undertaken by the Roman Emperors or by Tsar Katharina the Great to demonstrate that imperial power and skilled engineering was at its summit. The largest ashlar ever placed into a wall were set up in Baalbek. To move those megalith stones 500 to 1000 tons in weight and to put them into place needed highly experienced stone masons and complex machinery – a big technical challenge with spectacular scenes of transportation. Are they as well witnesses of Roman power in the Levant? Or follows the use of very large stones merely upon structural rationality? The paper aims to discuss the Megalithism in Baalbek between design and construction, between skilled workmanship, architectural expression, and imperial power.