List of largest monoliths in the world

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People on Nias Island in Indonesia move monoliths to a construction site, circa 1915

This is a list of monoliths organized according to the size of the largest block of stone on the site. A monolith is a large stone which has been used to build 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 stones (see List of ancient monoliths).

Documented in recent times, there is a list of efforts to move colossal stones that used technology that wasn't more advanced than the technology the ancient civilizations used.

Most of these weights are based on estimates by published scholars; however, there have been numerous false estimates of many of these stones presented as facts. To help recognize exaggerations, an introductory description shows how to calculate the weight of colossal stones by calculating volume and density.

Calculating the weight of monoliths[edit]

In the cases of the smaller monoliths it may be possible to weigh them. However in most cases the monoliths were too large or they may have been part of an ancient structure so this method could not be used. The weight of a stone can be calculated by multiplying its volume and density. The density of most stones is between two and three tons per cubic meter. Basalt weighs about 2.8 to 3.0 tons per cubic meter; granite averages about 2.75 metric tons per cubic meter; limestone, 2.3 metric tons per cubic meter; sandstone or marble, 2.5 tons per cubic meter.[1][2][3][4][5] Some softer stones may be lighter than 2 tons per cubic meter, like volcanic tuff, which weighs about 1.9 tons per cubic meter.[6][7] Since the density of most of these stones fluctuates it is necessary to know the source for the stone and volume to obtain accurate measurements.[8][9]

Rock density[edit]

The discussion above is accurate as far as it goes, which is only to the first significant figure. To go any further one needs to be relatively sophisticated about surveying the monolith (including realistic and explicit assessment of the shapes of inaccessible portions of the monolith), then about calculating the volume (and volumetric errors, which vary crudely as the cube of linear uncertainties). Finally and crucially the rock density needs to be measured with appropriate precision. Identifying the rock type is not going to be sufficient as this table (from[10]) illustrates:

Densities of common rocks
in g/cm3 / tonne/m3
MaterialDensity
Sediments1.7–2.3
Sandstone2.0–2.6
Shale2.0–2.7
Limestone2.5–2.8
Granite2.5–2.8
Metamorphic Rock2.6–3.0
Basalts2.7–3.1

Simply identifying the monolith as being "sandstone" would allow a reasonable ± 15% uncertainty in the weight estimate. In practice, one would measure the density of the monolith itself, and preferably document any variation in density within the monolith as they are made of natural materials, which have not been engineered for homogeneous parameters. Non-destructive methods of density measurements are available (e.g. electron back-scatter); alternatively the site may contain already-separated fragments of the monolith which can be used for laboratory measurements or on-site techniques. At the crudest, a weighing device and a bucket can obtain two significant figures for a density value.

Quarried monoliths[edit]

The Unfinished obelisk of Aswan

This list includes only quarried, but not moved monoliths.

WeightName/SiteTypeLocationBuilderComment
~1,242 t[11]Unnamed monolithBlockBaalbek, LebanonRoman Empire19.5–20.5 m long, 4.34–56 m wide, 4.5 m high
~1,100 t[12]Unfinished obeliskObeliskAswan, EgyptAncient Egypt41.75 m long, 2.5–4.4 m wide
~1,000.12 t[13]Stone of the SouthBlockBaalbek, LebanonRoman Empire20.31–76 m long, 4–5.29 m wide, 4.21–32 m high
~1,207 t[14]Granite columnColumnMons Claudianus, EgyptRoman EmpireCa. 17.7 m (59 feet) long[15]

Moved monoliths[edit]

The 1,250 t heavy Thunder Stone in Saint Petersburg. On top an equestrian statue of Peter the Great
The 53.3 t heavy capital block (the rectangular platform fitted with a railing) of Trajan's Column was lifted by Roman cranes to a record height of about 34 m.
The Western Stone of the Western Wall in Jerusalem weighs 517 t.

This list includes only quarried and moved monoliths.

WeightName/SiteTypeLocationBuilderComment
1,250 t[16]Thunder StoneBoulder, Statue pedestalSaint Petersburg, RussiaRussian Empire, 1770Moved 6 km overland for shipment,[16] and cut from 1,500 t to current size while on transport[17]
1,000 t[18][19]RamesseumStatueThebes, EgyptAncient EgyptTransported 170 miles (270 km) by ship from Aswan
800 t each[20]Trilithon (3x)BlocksBaalbek, LebanonRoman EmpirePlus about 24 blocks 300 tons each[21]
700 t eachColossi of Memnon (2x)StatuesThebes, EgyptAncient EgyptTransported 420 miles (680 km) from el-Gabal el-Ahmar (near modern-day Cairo) over land without using the Nile.[18][19][22]
550 to 600 t[23][24]Western Stone, Jewish Holy TempleBlockJerusalem, Israel [25]Herod, King of the Jews during the Second Temple period
520 tons, 170 tons and 160 tonsGreat Stele, King Ezana's Stele, Obelisk of AxumStelaeAxum, EthiopiaThe stelae were moved about 2.6 miles (4.2 km).[18]
400-600 tGomateshwaraStatueHassan district of Karnataka state, India60 feet (18 m) tall over 30 feet (9 m) wide
400 t[26]Temple in complex for Khafre's PyramidGiza, Egypt
300-500 t[27]Masuda no iwafuneAsuka, Nara, Japanlarge stone structure approximately 11 meters in length, 8 meters in width, and 4.7 meters In height
340 t[28]Levitated MassLos Angeles, California, United StatesMoved 106 miles.[29]
300 t[18]Broken Menhir of Er GrahBrittany, FranceMoved 7.5 miles (12.1 km).
285 t[30]Pompey's PillarColumnAlexandria, EgyptRoman Empire
230 t[31]Mausoleum of TheodoricRoof slabRavenna, ItalyOstrogothic Kingdom
220 t[32]Menkaure's PyramidGiza, Egyptlargest stones in mortuary temple
200 t[33]Sahure's pyramidSaqqara, Egyptlargest stones over king's chamber
200 t[34]Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen SitesKorealargest stone
WeightName/SiteTypeLocationBuilderComment


Lifted monoliths[edit]

Luxor Obelisk's erection on the Place de la Concorde, Paris (1836)

These lists include only quarried, moved and lifted monoliths.

Erected in upright position[edit]

Monoliths known or assumed to have been lifted by cranes into an upright position:

WeightName/SiteTypeLocationBuilderComment
600 t[72]Alexander ColumnColumnSaint Petersburg, RussiaRussian EmpireLifted in upright position in 1832
361 t[73]Vatican ObeliskObeliskRome, ItalyPope Sixtus VRelocated and lifted in upright position by Domenico Fontana in 1586
250 tLuxor ObeliskObeliskParis, FranceLouis-Philippe IRelocated and lifted in upright position by Apollinaire Lebas in 1836

Lifted clear off the ground[edit]

Monoliths known or assumed to have been lifted clear off the ground by cranes into their position:

WeightHeightName/SiteTypeLocationBuilderComment
108 t[74]~19 mJupiter templeCornice blockBaalbek, LebanonRoman Empire
163 t[74]~19 mJupiter templeArchitrave-frieze blockBaalbek, LebanonRoman Empire
153.3 t[75]~34 mTrajan's ColumnCapital blockRome, ItalyRoman EmpireDedicated in 113 AD

List of efforts to move and install stones[edit]

These are listed with the largest experiments first; for additional details of most experiments see related pages.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Sources[edit]