So I had Understanding on in the background. It's an episode about archaeology. I loves me some archaeology. I'd been looking forward to this one. But I deleted it twenty minutes in.
One can only take so much omigod those rocks were heavy how could primitive people possibly move them?!11!!!???!1!! before one gives up. Especially when not once, but twice, they suggest that supernatural explanations can't be discounted.
You only wish I was kidding. First, they said that scientists couldn't rule out a myth about wizards flying rocks through the air to build some temple. I hadn't been paying close attention. Maybe they were being tongue-in-cheek, I told myself.
Then they suggested, in all seriousness, that the pyramids, the statues of Easter Island, and Stonehenge had been built by magic. Magic.
That's when I lunged for the remote and hit "Delete." I can only take so much.
Allow me to help Understanding achieve some understanding.
A major problem facing the builders of the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids, was that of getting the Large stone blocks to the height they required. the method shown at left, is the only one proven to have been used. The ramps were built on inclined planes of mud brick and rubble. They then dragged the blocks on sledges to the needed height. As the pyramid grew taller, the ramp had to be extended in length, and its base was widened, else it would collapse. It is likely that for the construction of each pyramid, several ramps were probably used.
The arrangement of the ramps used for building is in much dispute. Assuming that the step pyramid was built before the outer structure, and then the packing blocks were laid on top, the ramps could have run from one step to another rather than approaching the pyramid face at right angles.
Science Daily has a good one on this, too:
Teams of oxen or manpower were used to drag the stones on a prepared slipway that was lubricated with oil. Said Redford, a scene from a 19th century B.C. tomb in Middle Egypt depicts "an alabaster statue 20 feet high pulled by 173 men on four ropes with a man lubricating the slipway as the pulling went on."
Once the stones were at the construction site, ramps were built to get them into place on the pyramid, said Redford. These ramps were made of mud brick and coated with chips of plaster to harden the surface. "If they consistently raised the ramp course by course as the teams dragged their blocks up, they could have gotten them into place fairly easily," he noted. At least one such ramp still exists, he said.
When answering to skepticism about how such heavy stones could have been moved without machinery, Redford says, "I usually show the skeptic a picture of 20 of my workers at an archaeological dig site pulling up a two-and-a-half ton granite block." He added, "I know it's possible because I was on the ropes too."
Look, Ma, no magic!
That may or may not have been how they built it, but if one middle-aged dude can move 19,000 pound chunks of concrete with a few boards, some rope, some weights, and a couple of smaller rocks, I think the ancients could've figured out how to do this with several dudes. Oh, and even the guy from Spinal Tap knows a few ways.
As for Easter Island's statues, let's just say it's been done. In many ways. None of them involving magicians. Just because we don't know the precise technique employed just yet doesn't mean it's fucking magic.
I'm starting to think that the Science Channel is tragically misnamed.