Jeff Koostra asks, in his January 1998 article, "Big Rocks": "Why? Why would the ancients build with such big stones?" That Jeff, a native of Michigan, would ask such a question astonishes me. Michigan is the place where cow tossing was first introduced. It is also one of several states where truck bowling is rising in popularity.
You are probably wondering what cow tossing and truck bowling have to do with archeology, engineering and the subject of large stones or, in Jeff's techinical parlance, "Big Rocks." All three of these activities belong to a class of phenomena known as Guy Things. (1)
Just as cow tossing, whose technical objective is to see how far a fully grown cow, preferably deceased, can be thrown using simple mechanical devices such as catapults, most wives, when told of the cow tossing endeavors of their husbands, ask -- like Jeff -- "Why?" Most guys, on the other hand, say only, "Hey cool!", instantly understanding the meaning of such an enterprise as they imagine pulling the lever to release the flying bossie.
So, given that human nature hasn't changed all that much -- as Jeff himself pointed out -- it is easy to imagine several ancient guys hauling rocks and thinking "I wonder just how big a rock we could move?" And, before you could say "Creeping Cheops," hundreds of guys all over the ancient world are out there busting their chops to move larger and larger rocks around -- and sometimes even standing them on end (a great fraternity trick of the Britons who lacked cows to tip, which is another guy sport). Any wimp can build something with lots of little rocks but it takes a real guy to move a really big stone!
Oh yeah, truck bowling involves taking bowling balls up in airplanes and seeing if you can hit one or several target trucks. This has several advantages as a guy thing -- it's expensive, involves lots of noisy equipment, has a high damage component, and, best of all, is a complete mystery to women. Say, would that apply to most of these ancient structures as well?
John C. Sparhawk, Jr.
(1) Numerous learned articles on the Guy Thing phenomenon have been published in D. Barry's weekly columns.
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