Marvel | Perplexing Feats of Engineering from the Oldest Human Civilizations

Marvel | Perplexing Feats of Engineering from the Oldest Human Civilizations

Have you ever tried to break apart an interesting looking rock?

Personally, I remember attempting this on multiple occasions during my early years after coming across certain curious rocks that looked to be made of many different, eye-catching components. These sorts of “rocks”, as I later learned, were simply common conglomerates; a variety of rocks and minerals which had been fused together. But, at the time, they were mysterious and fascinating. The shimmering sheets of mica and chunks of quartz embedded about their surfaces had me desperate to break them apart to access their beautiful treasures—at least for awhile. Several attempts to remove those curious materials quickly killed my interest. Trying to patiently chisel out a component was horribly frustrating, as you could hardly ever notice any progress. Yet, trying to break it apart with a sledgehammer only ever resulted in a sloppy mess.

It’s been a couple decades since that bit of trial and error, though a message from that time has ever-since resounded with me: stone is very frustrating to work with. I hadn’t even been struggling with, what might be called, true stone; a single piece of granite, for instance, as opposed to the loosely-joined amalgamations of rock I battled with—which, comparatively, would be like breaking a 2×4 as opposed to a wine glass. Still, that understanding became clear, truly in retrospect, how particularly hard it is to manipulate stone, especially if you want to do so to even the slightest degree of precision and quality, and even more so if you have only the most basic tools.

And that’s what leads us in to this article.

Below, you’ll see engineering examples from some of the oldest known civilizations on Earth, many of which are supposed to be the first to have arisen in their respective regions out of traveling hunter-gatherers. These civilizations are said to have used stone tools and other primitive means of engineering, yet what they’ve left behind would seem to strongly suggest otherwise.


The Khafre Temple

Even considering the mind-boggling stone technique used to construct the corners of this mysterious temple, the most amazing aspect still seems to be the fact that the much later additions, which would still be thousands of years old, look to be of a substantially lower-degree of craftsmanship—you can see the different periods of building above.


The Wari Culture of Peru

Much of what you find that’s attributed to the Wari culture is nothing short of baffling. The purpose of the cuts seen above is completely unknown, as to how they possibly could have managed to achieve them. As well, the city-structure imaged shows a remarkable degree of precision and complexity that doesn’t at all seem to fit the Wari; though, just to note, it doesn’t even seem to resemble any sort of community structure, but a city is still the best guess, and the Wari look to be the most suitable known candidates.


The Old Stones of Baalbek

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The “Old Stones of Baalbek” are called as such because they appear to be from a much earlier period of construction than the majority of the stones you can now see at the site; making for a very typical example of an ancient site being repurposed or built upon by a later culture—in this case the Romans. But what makes these “old stones” special is that the sheer magnitude of the engineering prowess that would have been required to create the structure they were once a part of dwarfs anything comparable from the Roman empire, or any known empire, in regards to the raw size of the building components. Three particularly identical stones, known as the trilithon, partially pictured above, weight at least 750-tons a piece and were moved miles then lifted into the air and set together so precisely that it’s almost impossible to fit a needle anywhere between them. Back at the quarry, a 1250-ton block can be found as well as a 1600 ton block; both fully shaped though left due to imperfections. And, just to be clear, you can’t roll a 750-ton block on tree trunks: they would immediately fracture and be destroyed.


The Baffling Sayhuite Creations

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Go ahead and take your best guess regarding the who, what, and why of the Sayhuite constructions—as they’ll be about as good as anyone else’s. Such bizarre, yet incredibly sophisticated, creations are scattered about a mountainous region in southern Peru without any clear purpose. The only thing that can be said for sure is that an unbelievable degree of craftsmanship would have been needed to achieve some of the cuts that can be found; as seen above, blocks with perfect sides, angles, and rounded corners look as if they were just plucked out of sheer rock walls.


Sonic Perfection of the Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni

Here lies a site that would fit snugly in place on a show about modern engineering marvels. Three underground levels, each with numerous rooms, along with one auditorium where, if someone were to speak, their voice would be heard clearly all throughout the entire massive complex. As mentioned, it would humble a modern engineer, yet this site in Malta is at least 5000 years old. Studies have shown that the baffling auditory properties worked into the complex have the ability to change the state of mind of those inside due to its resonant properties. Still, much more incredible claims have also been made by research teams, though the sheer facts alone leave this as one of the most incredible examples of ancient sophistication.


The Ruins of Sacsayhuaman

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What you find at Sacsayhuaman is nothing short of odd. High up in the Andes mountains of Peru are works of stone that would look far-more comfortable in some alien-world video game. Looking at the images, you’ll see enormous stones that look as if they’ve been melted together; a feature found in nearly all the stonework throughout the site. You’ll also see a perfect grid etched, for no apparent reason, into hard rock. And that grid also happens to be in a neatly cut, right-angle enclosure. As well, you can see circular bore holes, also created for no apparent reason. Additionally, there are four 100+ ton blocks that were carried up through the mountains to the place where they now sit.

[Part 1 of 3]

One thought on “Marvel | Perplexing Feats of Engineering from the Oldest Human Civilizations

  1. Great article, looking forward to the next installments!

    Another interesting thing about Ba’albek is, were we to attempt to do something similar in modern times, we could probably do it, but in order to move the blocks from the quarry to the site, we would construct an enormous pathway, a road engineered specifically for the purpose of moving objects of such immense weights. There would probably be a specially designed elevated crane system on rails above, and an embedded hydraulic platform below. And ten thousand years later when all of that was rusted completely away, the roadway would still be evident from the vast amount of landmoving and shaping we would have done to make it.
    But no such road ever existed between the quarry and the site that we can see. In fact, there are images of a trilithon-sized block that was in the process of being moved from the quarry to the site, and it rests in a very rugged looking area where no road is apparent.

    So how were they moving the blocks?

    The Sayhuite stuff has always looked almost whimsical to me. I think of a child who swipes a power tool from dad’s garage and goes out into the woods, making random cuts in trees and logs and stuff. The cuts have no coherent purpose, yet would be smooth and uniform in width and depth, simply because of the nature of the tool.

    Oh and, I think there’s a couple of images of Ollantaytambo in the Sacsayhuaman slide show 😀

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