Baalbek, situated in the Bekka Valley in Lebanon, undoubtedly presents us with what I consider to be one of the greatest mysteries of the ancient world. It was the site of a most impressive Roman temple complex dedicated to Jupiter. However, the very name Baalbek suggests an earlier connection with the Caananite/Phoenician god Baal.
Velikovsky(i) and others have supported the idea that Baakbek was in fact the location of the biblical Dan, recorded as the most northern city of ancient Israel.
One commentator has suggested a link with Indian yogis!(t)
Although the Roman remains are still impressive, it is some blocks in the lower and presumably earlier courses(d), that have continued to stump archaeologists, three of which are of cut limestone and are estimated to weigh up to 800 tons(c). (compare with content of link(k))
An article(q) by Gian J. Quasara regarding this strange masonry is worth a read.
Even more disturbing is a block still lying in a nearby quarry, where it was cut, and which has been calculated to exceed 1000 tons and named The Stone of the Pregnant Woman. Another block, in the same quarry, was only discovered in the 1990’s and is thought to be even heavier at 1200 tons(g).
Hugh Newman, a self-described ‘megalithomaniac’(r), has produced a paper(s) on the enormous Baalbek monoliths, in which he cites Graham Hancock speculatively dating the Baalbek megaliths at 12,000 years or more old.
In March 2014, it was widely reported(e) that even heavier megaliths had been identified on Siberia’s Mount Shoria. However, the images I have seen suggest to me a natural origin(f). A short video clip is available(j).
We do not know how such huge objects were made or moved in ancient times. I often think that the bigger question is why did they bother to cut such large blocks! An online article(b) tells how the ingenuity of our ancestors produced the most powerful hand crane in history which multiplied the force of its operator 632 times. However, just because we do not yet know precisely how the Baalbek blocks were manipulated, does not justify wild claims that they were moved by high-tech Atlanteans or extraterrestrials. I may not know how stage magicians saw ladies in half, but that does not compel me to label them Atlantean or alien.
The most persistent question relating to all megalithic structures is “how did they manage to build them using such large heavy rocks and blocks”? Many ingenious solutions are on offer, but perhaps the most remarkable is that proposed by W. T. Wallington who has demonstrated that using basic materials, which were available to the Egyptians, one individual can manipulate a 4500kg stone block. His website includes a remarkable video clip of his method. A review(n) of this video is worth a read. Another or comparable technology may have been used by Edward Leedskainin when he single-handedly built Coral Castle in Florida City(o). What is certain is that Leedskainin had no help from intergalactic visitors.
December 2014 found the latest estimate for the weight of the largest dressed stone found at Baalbek calculated to be 1650 tons(h).It is clear that some explanation is required, hopefully, something better than the implication of extraterrestrial intervention. I would like to think that if we had alien visitors that their technology would be in advance of the ‘stone’ age. Surely they would have something better to produce than enormous foundation stones, which to my puny mind does not smack of the best that a civilisation capable of travelling across the cosmos would have to offer! I find the claims of Graham Hancock or Erich von Dániken equally unconvincing in this instance.
A sober well-referenced article outlining the arguments in favour of identifying the megaliths as Roman is available online(k) as well as supportive blogs from Frank Dörnenburg(m).
A UNESCO sponsored hitech survey of the Baalbek site as part of a Risk Preparedness Strategy is now proposed so that the most appropriate remedial action can be taken in the event of natural deterioration or even war damage(l).
Brian Foerster’s website(p) has some remarkable images of the Baalbek masonry.
(a) http://www.eridu.co.uk/Author/Mysteries_of_the_World/Baalbek/baalbek2.html (7 parts) (link broken June 2018) See: Archive 3414
(k) See: Archive 2653
*(s) See: Archive 3409*
The Voyage of Hanno, the Carthaginian navigator, was undertaken around 500 BC. The general consensus is that his journey took him through the Strait of Gibraltar and along part of the west coast of Africa. A record, or periplus, of the voyage was inscribed on tablets and displayed in the Temple of Baal at Carthage. Richard Hennig speculated that the contents of the periplus were copied by the Greek historian, Polybius, after the Romans captured Carthage. It did not surface again until the 10th century when a copy, in Greek, was discovered (Codex Heildelbergensis 398) and was not widely published until the 16th century.
The 1797 English translation of the periplus by Thomas Falconer along with the original Greek text can be downloaded or read online(h).
Edmund Marsden Goldsmid (1849-?) published a translation of A Treatise On Foreign Languages and Unknown Islands by Peter Albinus. In footnotes on page 39 he describes Hanno’s periplus as ‘apocryphal’. A number of other commentators(c)(d) have also cast doubts on the authenticity of the Hanno text.
Three years after Ignatius Donnelly published Atlantis, Lord Arundell of Wardour published The Secret of Plato’s Atlantis intended as a rebuttal of Donnelly’s groundbreaking book. The ‘secret’ referred to in the title is that Plato’s Atlantis story is based on the account we have of the Voyage of Hanno.
Nicolai Zhirov speculated that Hanno may have witnessed ‘the destruction of the southern remnants of Atlantis’, based on some of his descriptions.
Rhys Carpenter commented that ”The modern literature about his (Hanno’s) voyage is unexpectedly large. But it is so filled with disagreement that to summarize it with any thoroughness would be to annul its effectiveness, as the variant opinions would cancel each other out”[221.86].
Further discussion of the text and topography encountered by Hanno can be read in a paper by Duane W. Roller.
What I find interesting is that so much attention was given to Hanno’s voyage as if it was unique and not what you would expect if Atlantic travel was as commonplace at that time, as many ‘alternative’ history writers claim.
However, even more questionable is the description of Hanno sailing off “with a fleet of sixty fifty-oared ships, and a large number of men and women to the number of thirty thousand, and with wheat and other provisions.” The problem with this is that the 50-oared ships would have been penteconters, which had limited room for much more than the oarsmen. If we include the crew, an additional 450 persons per ship would have been impossible, in fact it, is unlikely that even the provisions for 500 hundred people could have been accommodated!
Lionel Casson, the author of The Ancient Mariners commented that “if the whole expedition had been put aboard sixty penteconters, the ships would have quietly settled on the harbour bottom instead of leaving Carthage: a penteconter barely had room to carry a few days’ provisions for its crew, to say nothing of a load of passengers with all the equipment they needed to start a life in a colony.“
The American writer, William H. Russeth, commented(f) on the various interpretations of Hanno’s route, noting that “It is hard for modern scholars to figure out exactly where Hanno traveled, because descriptions changed with each version of the original document and place names change as different cultures exert their influence over the various regions. Even Pliny the Elder, the famous Roman Historian, complained of writers committing errors and adding their own descriptions concerning Hanno’s journey, a bit ironic considering that Romans levelled the temple of Ba’al losing the famous plaque forever.”
George Sarantitis has a more radical interpretation of Hanno’s journey, proposing
(e) that instead of taking a route along the North African coast and then out into the Atlantic, he proposes that Hanno travelled inland along waterways that no longer exist. He insists that the location of the Pillars of Heracles, as referred to in the narrative, matches the Gulf of Gabes.
The most recent commentary on Hanno’s voyage is on offer from Antonio Usai in his 2014 The Pillars of Hercules in Aristotle’s Ecumene. He also has a controversial view of Hanno’s account, claiming that in the “second part, Hanno makes up everything because he does not want to continue that voyage.” (p.24) However, the main objective of Usai’s essays is to demonstrate that the Pillars of Hercules were originally situated in the Central Mediterranean between eastern Tunisia and its Kerkennah Islands.
A 1912 English translation of the text can be read online(a).
Another Carthaginian voyager, Himilco, is also thought to have travelled northward in the Atlantic and possibly reached Ireland, referred to as ‘isola sacra’. Unfortunately, his account is no longer available(g).
The livius.org website offers three articles(i) on the text, history and credibility of the surviving periplus together with a commentary.
(i) http://www.livius.org/articles/person/hanno-1-the-navigator/ (link broken Jan 2019) See: https://web.archive.org/web/20180323080221/http://www.livius.org/articles/person/hanno-1-the-navigator/