Two mysteries that have baffled historians, archeologists, tourists, engineers and anyone who has tried to move a couch is how ancient Egyptians and Bronze Age Brits managed to move the massive stones used to build the pyramids and Stonehenge. A Welsh carpet-fitter with experience in moving huge, heavy carpet rolls and an interest in Egypt and Stonehenge thinks he has the answer and has demonstrated his “long-forgotten machine” which impressed an Egyptologist enough to invite him to speak on the design. It might impress you as well – especially if you’re a fan of the biblical prophet Ezekiel.
"It was an out of the box experiment and when I made it I filmed it with all the mistakes. At the end of the video when I greased the machine up for a speed test I couldn't believe how easy it worked."
“It” is a scale model of a stone-moving machine built by Steven Tasker, a 66-year-old carpet fitter from Llanrhaeadr, Denbighshire, North Wales. As he explained to WalesOnline, he was confident enough in his “machine” to record its construction – warts and all. Tasker describes himself as an amateur history buff with enough of an interest in Egyptology that he visited the country and its pyramids in 2004. That trip included seeing artifacts that he envisioned could have been multipurpose – he thought eye makeup jars looked like rollers and what appeared to be sled runners used for pulling stones could have been rockers for pivoting instead. Upon returning, he worked on a prototype but never completed it until 2018 when he described his design to Dr. Campbell Price, curator of one of the UK's largest Egyptology collections at Manchester Museum, who invited him to speak on it.
Tasker explains that the initial machine consisted of a circular board balanced on planks that sits on rockers and wooden feet. (Illustrations, photos and the video can be seen here.) The idea was to tie a massive stone to the plank off-center, and then spin it around – thus moving it forward to be placed on another machine which repeated the process. The challenge was figuring out how to swing the plank around. That’s where Ezekiel gave him an inspiration.
“The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings, and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.”
Instead of one plank, Ezekiel inspired Tasker to use two – one on top of the other. With a round circle in the middle of each, they look like four wings. To make the top one swing around, he drilled a circular groove and inserted a ring holding a circle of metal balls – a primate ball-bearing mechanism. The ‘feet of a calf’ gave him the design for the shape of the feet under the rockers. (Take a look at his pictures and video and it will make sense.) The end result was a ‘machine’ that allowed him to move a 60kg (132 pounds) roll of carpet. One can easily see a bigger ‘machine being used to pivot and move Stonehenge stones, Egyptian stone statues and even pyramid blocks. Tasker estimates a full-sized machine could travel 1.5 miles (2.4km) a day and move stones from the Preseli mountains to Avebury in just a few months.
Is this really how they were moved? And who had the idea first?
"However, Steven's theories on how massive objects could have been moved demonstrate a very creative and practical engineering mind."
Engineer Shaun Whitehead, who led the Djedi robotic exploration of the Great Pyramid, told the BBC he liked the idea. On the other hand, University College London Institute of Archaeology's Mike Parker Pearson, professor of British later prehistory, disagrees.
"One of the huge misunderstandings [about Stonehenge] is how could you do something with a minimum of effort and maximum efficiency? That is a very 21st Century idea. There are no limits to 21st Century human ingenuity. It's a failure to understand megalith builders past and present used vast amounts of [human] labour. One of my researchers has actually calculated the amount of person power it would take to move the stones from Wales to Stonehenge. It's not as much as you might think."
That’s an intriguing counterpoint. Tasker had the benefit of being exposed to modern engineering. Based on the timeframe, Ancient Egyptians and Bronze Age Brits didn’t even have Ezekial.
The mystery of Stonehenge and the pyramids continues.