The Trilithon and Transport of the Baalbek Foundation Stones


Any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object.    — Archimedes of Syracuse

The Trilithon and Transport of the Baalbek Foundation Stones

The transport of heavy stone blocks with human power in ancient times

By Henk J. Koens


A 1000 tons foundation stone. The people in the picture show the massive size of the stone block.

The foundation stones

These three collosal stones are situated in the wall and the remainings of the great acropolis of Baalbek, the Temple of Jupiter, in the Libanon built by the Romans.

The so called Trilithon composed of three stones each measuring 19 metres long x 4.2 metres high x 3.6 metres wide, hewn from crystalline limestone, weighing 870 tons each. They were transported from the quarry to the  building site 1 km away and have been precisely positioned on a layer of 19 similar blocks weighing between 350 and 400 tons each.

The transportation weight of the foundation stones was even higher than 870 tons and went up to 1000 and 1200 tons. This has to do with the fact that the stones were redressed to a smaller dimension when they were placed in the wall, which was essential for a precise alignment.

What is not understood ?

It is still an unanswered question how the ancient Romans transported these huge megaliths because the technological ability to accomplish this is far beyond our comprehension, even in our time.

Scientists and archaeologists have proposed many methods based on ancient techniques but most of these methods were impractical or insufficient due to local circumstances or the enormous weight of the stones.

The French archaeologist Jean-Pierre Adam suggested in 1977 that the Romans used a set of 14 capstans with 448 laborers combined with pulleys and rollers to move the stones.
But calculations show us that in this case the total pulling force of about 200 tons will not be large enough to drag the 1000 tons stone on the base foundation.
And above all, the rollers would have crunched under this heavy burden.

And how was the stone block quarried?

Was there a simple method of transport ?

It is possible that the Romans have used a forgotten technology to solve this transport problem.
We know that the Romans were very capable designers of watersystems, canals, high and long aquaducts. Running water was coming down from the hills in the Libanon and was at many places available. The question rises if the Romans may have used a waterway to transport these heavy stone blocks, perhaps with the aid of a ponton system, which could carry an extremely heavy load. 

The geographical situation and an unique possibility for a canal

For the construction of the temple there was a unique situation. The building site of the temple and the quarry were located at the same altitude.
[Google map coordinates: Jupiter Temple (34.0068 N, 36.2035 E), and the quarry of the Trilithon blocks (33.9985 N, 36.1988 E) .

The terrain map with altitude lines gives a value of 1140m for these two places].
The fact that these two sites were located at the same height made it possible to construct a canal. By laying dikes which follow the hill at an altitude of 1140m, a canal could be created. This waterway started in the quarry and went to the building site of the temple and had a length of about 1000 m. This canal was closed on both ends by a floating ponton (caisson), which made it possible to gradually flood the quarry or the building site. Both areas could be emptied afterwards by opening the outlets (see next picture).


How were the stones quarried and where was the pontoon  system installed ?

The workers started making a galery, large enough to accommodate the first ponton. Therefore they removed the bedrock on one side of the stone block, the material on the front, at the end and underneath. Four support blocks were placed under the stone block. Then they made a deep carve on the top backside of the stone block and placed wedges in the carve.
After a procedure of controled hammering on the wedges the stone block splitted and rested on the support blocks.
Then the galery for the second ponton could be made by removing the material on the other side of the stone block. Thereafter two pre-built pontons were positioned on both sides of the stone block.
Next a system of beams, ropes and iron bars in Lewis holes, strong enough to carry the heavy load, was installed. Now the stone block was ready for transport (see next pictures


How was the stone block lifted and transported ?

Hereafter the quarry area was flooded by gradually opening the water gate on the quarry side. The pontoon system was able to lift the huge foundation stone as soon as the water level was high enough and the whole assembly  became a floating object. In this way it was easy to transport the stone block through the opened water-gate over the canal to the flooded building site at the end.
Easy navigation made it possible to reach the destination with great precision. By opening the valves in the pontoon, the foundation stone was sunk at the right place and the foundation stone came to rest on the lower  foundation layer. The ropes were removed and the pontoon was returned to the canal. After closing the water-gate the building site was emptied by opening the outlet.
A perfect alignment could be reached by afterwards redressing the stone blocks and the Lewis holes are no longer present (see next pictures).


Positioning the stone block on the lower foundation layer by sinking it in the flooded area


-The unique geographical situation of the same level of the quarry and the building site, made it possible to construct a canal.
-The pontoon system could lift extremely heavy loads.
-The Romans had the knowledge about canals and aqua-ducts and they could build boats and pontoons.

So there is a good possibility that the Romans have used a canal to transport the foundation stones and perhaps also the other heavy stone blocks.

Last word

We will probably never know if the former ideas represent the real situation but it is clear that there is no mystery and that there existed technical methods to solve the transport problem.
The Romans were good architects and engineers and they will not have had too many difficulties to find the right solutions. Simple  engineering techniques, human power, craftsmanship and a good management were the components. However, there is one special effect. The unique geographical situation that the quarry and building site were located on the same level made it possible that the Romans moved the world’s weightiest monoliths.


The Romans used “Lewis holes” to lift heavy stone blocks

Copyright 2012 by Henk J. Koens
All Rights Reserved.
Presented with author’s permission.

PS Archimedes’ Principle

Archimedes’ principle (or Archimedes’s principle) is a law of physics stating that the upward buoyant force exerted on a body immersed in a fluid is equal to the weight of the fluid the body displaces. In other words, an immersed object is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid it actually displaces. Archimedes’ principle is an important and underlying concept in the field of fluid mechanics. This principle is named after its discoverer, Archimedes of Syracuse.

If we manage to place very large stone block in water, force to keep it floating will be much smaller than force required to lift it and move it on land. In addition, horizontal movement of such a block will also require very small force (since there is practically no friction).

Density of  water (at +20 Co  ) is  998 kg/m3 (nearly 1000 kg/m3)
Density of natural limestone has range from 2,100 to 2,900 kg/m3

So heavy stone block 1m x 1m x1 m instead of  having weight of 1,000 kg appears to weigh only 500 kg when submerged in water.

If we add a buoyancy device  made of  seasoned & dry wood, for example  Cedar of Lebanon with density 581 kg /m3  we can float 1,000 kg block of limestone using just 1.2 m3 of the wood !

This was the method most likely used to transport via Nile stone blocks from remote quarries  for the Giza Pyramids, although ancient Egyptians  probably used more efficient floatation devices made of much more buoyant  papyrus.

Papyrus boats with the stones tided up underneath, waiting for high level of the Nile’s.
Copyright 2005-2006 by Andrzej Bochnacki.

Pyramids of Egypt are located near the shoreline of the ancient bed of the Nile. This image is based on information from David Jeffreys, Institute of Archeology, University College, London; Oriental Institute Computer Laboratory, University of Chicago and Archeological Graphic Services. NOTE: Vertical scale exaggerated to show ancient Nile river channel (on the left).



  1. says

    You might be interested.

    Secret megaliths

    It is slightly disappointing that even in the 21st century in our era, when mankind has unveiled most principles that govern both micro and macro-space, we still do not know what was – here on Earth – the real reason of building tens of thousands of rocking stones, menhirs, mounds and other types of megalithic structures.
    Millions of scientists from the whole world have been trying to unsolved the mystery what was the reason – and mainly – in what way did our ancestors transport stones that had tens, often even hundreds of tons of weight. The heaviest blocks of stones in our history that have been mined, surfaced and transported are Baalbek Trilithons. They weigh 800 tons and formed a nickname under Jupiter’s temple in Baalbek.
    Jupiter’s temple was built 2000 years ago. Archeological research has however shown that the underpinning with inbuilt gigantic trilithons is much more moldered and hence much older than the ruins of Jupiter’s temple. Who were those that could manipulate with the gigantic stone blocks when even we marvel at their size and weight?
    The scientific literature still states that the transport of these unbelievably heave megaliths was done only by using human force and ropes. This “cheap explanation” satisfies the general scientific community only because even the most respected scientists cannot explain this problem in any more realistic way. It is our natural human reaction that when we cannot find a solution of some problem in our history, we rather go to hypotheses and conclusions that we believe are not correct, they however enable us to avoid a frustrating answer that we do not even know the correct answer at present.
    The mining of trilithons could have been done only in a way that there was a square drawn on a flat surface of the rock. Then the rock around its circumference must have been taken away to free the surfaces around its perimeter. After this, 5 of the squares of the block were optically visible and the remaining thing to do was detach the bottom part of the block from the rock below. This piece of work was somehow performed thousands of years ago. However, even today’s stone industry would not be able to perform this. It’s not even realistically possible to explain how was the almost thousand tons in weight block of stone transported out of the mine to the surrounding terrain and then how it was transported almost 2km away and then lifted again and finally placed into the base of the terrace walls.
    It is necessary to realize that 800 tons is the same weight as that of twenty 40-tonne tanks or 800 cars or 10 locomotives. Therefore, if someone keeps saying that the manipulation with 800tons block of stone was realized only by the use of human force and ropes, then he unfortunately compromises himself by saying what is unrealistic in the same way as those that believe such statements.
    If some asked any major transport company to perform a transport of a block weighing more than 800 tons, every company in the world would refuse such order, because they would not be able to perform such a task. And if anyone asked the building company to perform such a task only by the use of human force, the company would probably not even respond as the employees would very likely think that they communicate with someone who is not totally healthy regarding his mentality.
    However, anyone brave enough to state at present that these cultures were able to influence gravity or other laws of nature still unknown to us will at present be in a similar situation.
    But there is another secret hidden in the thousand tons block of stone. Why did the ancient constructers not split the block into more pieces of smaller size? It would have been easier to manipulate smaller blocks. Could it have been that the ancient constructors wanted to avoid some kind of vibration?
    The most probable explanation of the unanswered questions could probably by related to the perfect alignment of other megalithic structures where it is not possible to even slide a piece of paper between the stones. This however directs us to many other unknown connections and it is not possible to use the knowledge of our present time.
    At some scientists may find a certain clue to answer the question to the answer why some megalithic structures were built.

    Miroslav Provod

  2. says

    The mind set of those who transported these massive cut blocks, was one in which they could obviously neutralise gravity. it must not be forgotten that the beings responsible were also able to lift such blocks 30 odd feet into the air. What of the 200 tonne blocks that make up the so-called Valley Temple in Egypt,, and the estimated 20,000 tonne cut block (that is turned upside down!) that is at Sacsahuaman. they were clearly more intelligent than modern man (so called!). They did not possess this idiotic “ropes and rollers” mindset that we inferiors think they possessed!

  3. j.a. says

    Ignorant building theories are very counter-productive understand your concern what shall we do about the hoax for one give them no aclaim.

  4. says

    I agree that water could have been used to transport megalithic blocks, though the Ba’albek stones are enormous. I think, though, that the Romans had nothing to do with the Trilithons or the quarry block. The original foundation is clearly pre-cataclysmic. Many legends testify to some form of levitation having been used. The evidence of ancient machining, use of cement and casting, and of stone softening indicates that technology of an advanced form was formerly used. What we don’t know about ancient history far exceeds–and often contradicts–what we think we know.

  5. mi502 says

    Does anyone can tell me which company can cut and transport such massive stone like this in the present time?
    If no one can, then we have to ask why and how.

    • says

      Its because we have lost the ability to neutralise gravity. No wonder they would have no use for the worthless wheel. A horrible thought comes to mind: it appears we have regressed. But what I would really like to know is what were they actually getting up at all of these prehistoric sites? What was their social development like? Who knows what they were taught at their type of “schools”?

      • GordonP says

        gravity can be neutralized just using simple wooden levers and a simple wooden fulcrum! And the levers don’t even need to be that big maybe 13ft long and no more than 4in in diameter easily handled by one man with such a lever one man can lift and move as much as 1ton. Need to lift and move 1000 ton use 1000 men each with a lever.

        Want to know how? visit my website click on early experiments on the home page for an experiment I conducted for NatGeo channel some years ago.

        Read the blog and also click on Raising an Obelisk.

  6. says

    I worked for the Highway Department of Engineers and was offered a four year scholarship at Texas A&M in Engineering so I know a little about how things are built and developed. I see nothing in the universe that can account for the examples of the ancients and their works. We have been hoodwinked in regard/s to their accomplishments for eons. We cannot touch that technology now and to see it reflected so nonchalantly back in our faces makes me want to puke. Our ancestors were indeed highly advanced and there is no getting around it. Wake up folks.

    • Gary Schoenung says

      Just think Ron, there may come a time when some damned fool comes along with a theory about how all of the material in what’s left of the Hoover dam was quarried and set in place so perfectly. And it won’t be any more ridiculous then some of the things that we think are true today for the same reasons.

  7. Starheater says

    Hi Mister Koens
    (I am french, so excuse my english wrinting)

    All the huge block that you have seen in various city, haven’t been made by Roman, Greek or Egyptian, they didn’t have de technology to do those gigantic construction. You can see the same type of construction in Jerusalem, in this city the Temple was made before Roman technology exist. In fact, they were only one race that could made those constructions, the Hebrew with the Ark of Covenant. This Ark could do multiple tasks, like destroy the rampart of Jericho, could also break the law of gravity. The Ark could contain 70,000 volts, that is enought to make electic tools work, saw, sandblast, drill, even pump (oil pump). This knowledge have been acquire from The Angel of God that guide the Hebrew to the Promise Land. The Romain have thought that the were responsible for those huge construction, but this is an error that is due to time, Egyptian have made the same error. Taking about Egyptian, they have made a fresque showing how the Pyramids of Egypt was made, we can see on the picture that ropes was used to deplace block that weight between 2.5 to over 100 tons. Even Babylonian did not know how to make those constructions, they use mod brick to make their ziggourat. The Hebrew had not only the Ark to do such contructions, they had a technic to levitate blocs by joining hands whit a certain number of mans. You know the magic trick that show a table who enter in levitation by joining fingers to fingers of 4 person, when the force that accumulate and mutiply is grand, the table start to levitate. Hope that those information will help you in some way. Maurice Smith


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