Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Mysterious Gigantic Megaliths of Baalbeck Temples

Temple of Bacchus - Baalbeck, Lebanon

If you are fascinated by the massive stone structures of Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, the temple ruins of Baalbeck will put you at your wits’ end. A part of these ruins next to the Litani River in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon belong to the Roman period but major portions of the ruins are believed to hail from a much older pre-historic civilization. These ruins are hailed as one of the most intriguing wonders of the world. The temples attributed to the Roman deities like Mercury, Jupiter and Venus count among the best-preserved Roman treasures. However, expert eyes can detect indigenous influences in the temple ruins as well that shows that these temples were meant for local deities like Hadad and Atargatis.

Layout of the temple complex of Baalbek
Baalbeck, Lebanon

But what holds the center of mystery about these stone structures are the massive megalithic platform upon which the Roman temples sit. You could identify three such stone blocks that could weigh something close to 350 tons (772,000 lbs). It is a mystery how these blocks were extracted, shaped and carried over miles and lifted to the height of 22 feet to rest atop smaller blocks. Dating of these gigantic blocks has revealed them to be far older than the Roman age. Historical records of Balbeck show it to be only 2,000 years old when Alexander the Great had conquered Baalbeck and turned it into the pilgrim city of Heliopolis.

“The largest stone in the world”, Baalbek, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

The Stone of the Pregnant Woman

Moreover, the stone blocks put up by the Romans (never exceeding 70 tones) were far lighter in comparison to the massive stones. If you explore the quarry site 3 miles away from the temples, you can still find an unmoved stone block called ‘the stone of the pregnant woman’ there, which is estimated to be of 1500 tons. It is stunning how these stone blocks, dating back to prehistoric times could be cut into such accurate shapes and fitted together without a single hair-gap precision! These are undoubtedly the largest stone blocks of the earth and should set you wondering what kind of engineering went behind the fit and alignment of these massive structures.

The Temple of Jupiter was the largest temple ever constructed by the Roman empire, by quite some margin. It’s far bigger than any temple which was ever built in Rome

Bonfils, ca. 1870. Negative inscribed “468. Mur Cyclopeen a Balbek.” Albumen. Unmounted. 11 x 9 inches. © 1996 Middle East Section. Joseph Regenstein Library. The University of Chicago

There are 24 such blocks altogether in the temple complex, the smallest of them close to 300 tones and measuring 68 x 14 x 14 feet. A fascinating ‘trilithon’ consisting of a row of three megaliths lies at the western end of the Bal-Jupiter temple, each of which is no less than 750 tones. This raised platform called ‘tel’ was probably deemed a sacred site by both the Romans and the Canaanites though many suggest this could be the remnant of some medieval fortress as well. What will appear grossly incongruous to your eyes is the lack of architectural mastery in the setting of the Roman temple blocks. These appear rather haphazard in comparison to the neatly set monoliths belonging to the unknown culture.

Temple of Jupiter

That these stones are different from the Roman building becomes obvious when you find the perimeter of the Jupiter temple not covering the entire width of the underlying monolith. The temple basically stands upon three such blocks, leaving an unused tier of megaliths to jut out at the sides of the temple foundation. If you study the back wall of the temple, you can see for yourself its ill-fitting stone configuration that was probably the result of Arabs, Turks and Crusaders installing Roman temple ruins as a fort, with gaps in between as provisions for canon firing.

Mortals left door, Gods right door - Roman Temple of Bacchus. Looking through the grand doorway into the main hall. Have a look at the regular size door at the left.

What is even more startling is that these huge blocks are not the foundation layer. The original edifice seems to be made up of smaller blocks upon which these giants are laid. That way, the structure seems to be strangely inverted in style, with excavations revealing 3 tiers of stones beneath, increasingly smaller in size. This brings into play an interesting evolution of stonework - with a backward development pattern.

Inside of Temple of Bacchus

What still stands unimaginable to modern technology was achieved years ago by people belonging to anonymous cultures. However, what was the purpose of building these gigantic structures will remain a matter of speculation for years to come.


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