Archaeologists discover the largest stone block of antiquity

Limestone block should be used for temple construction in Baalbek

The newly discovered giant stone block in the quarry of Baalbek. © DAI Orient Department
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Limestone giant: In the ancient quarry of Baalbek in Lebanon, archaeologists have discovered the largest stone block of the ancient world. The huge, neatly carved block is 20 meters long, six meters wide and at least 5.50 meters high. It was still puzzling how the quarry workers wanted to transport the 1, 650 tonne stone back then.

In ancient times, Baalbek in Lebanon was one of the largest religious complexes in the Roman Empire. The ruins of several large temples, among them the sanctuary of the god Jupiter Optimus Maximus Heliopolitanus, testify to its importance to this day. Its column-crowned pedestal houses some of the largest monolithic ashlar stones of antiquity.

Limestone blocks of superlatives

These stones come from a limestone quarry not far from the facilities - and there is also one of the largest known building blocks in the world, the Hajjar al-Hibla or the stone of the pregnant woman. It is nearly 20 meters long and about four times four meters high and wide. How these gigantic blocks were transported at that time and why exactly this block remained lying in the quarry, was so far unclear.

To find out more about this stone and the mining techniques of antiquity, researchers from the Orient Department of the German Archaeological Institute conducted excavations in the summer of 2014 in this quarry. They analyzed traces of this process and searched the old waste dumps created by the quarry work for datable and stratifiable pottery shards and small finds.

The slightly smaller Hajjar al-Hibla or stone of the pregnant woman was once lying because of defects. © Ralph Ellis / CC-by-sa 4.0

The biggest stone of antiquity

They made a surprising discovery: in the stone layer under the Hajjar al-Hibla and right next to it, was another megalithic stone block and this was even larger than his neighbor: He is indeed like this almost 20 meters long, but six meters wide and at least 5.50 meters high. The archaeologists did not reach the lower edge of the stone during their excavation, so it can be much higher. And the weight of the newly discovered limestone block is also considerable: it brings about 1, 650 tonnes on the scale 650 more than the Hajjar al-Hibla. display

According to the researchers, this block represents the world's largest monolithic stone block of antiquity. Since a narrow side of the block is smoothed very well and also on the L diengsseite the preparations for a Gltttung are obtained, this stone was probably not a mere blank, the later still should be divided. Instead, the quarry workers must then have planned to deliver the block as a whole and transport it to one of the temple construction sites like, remains puzzling.

Crack and inferior rock

And the reason why the stone block Hajjar al-Hibla remained lying in the quarry, the archaeologists have now revealed: Studies of the stone revealed that this cuboid was probably singled out because of its inadequate quality, For in addition to a long-known crack in the upper third of the rock in a corner is inferior, as investigations showed. Both of these would probably have caused the stone to break during transport, according to archologists.

Why the newly discovered giant stone remained in the quarry and was not completed, the archaeologists want to continue exploring in the next season. Then they want to solve the riddle, as the R mer then these limestone giants managed to about 900 meters far away temple sites.

(German Archological Institute, 24.11.2014 - NPO)