Nova (1974–…): Season 27, Episode 5 - Secrets of Lost Empires: Pharaoh's Obelisk - full transcript

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Narrator:
EGYPT IS LITTERED
WITH FANTASTIC RUINS

ALL CREATED
TO PRESERVE PHARAOH'S NAME

AND GLORIFY THE ANCIENT GODS.

FOR NEARLY 2,000 YEARS

ANCIENT BUILDERS WERE PUSHED
TO THEIR LIMITS

TO CREATE THE MOST DRAMATIC

THE MOST IMPRESSIVE TEMPLES
AND PALACES EVER KNOWN.

PERHAPS THE MOST DIFFICULT
CHALLENGE OF ALL

WAS TO RAISE AN OBELISK.

CARVED FROM
A SINGLE PIECE OF GRANITE

AN OBELISK COULD RISE
OVER A HUNDRED FEET



AND WEIGH UP TO 500 TONS.

HOW DID THEY DO IT?

IN 1994, A TEAM OF EXPERTS
TRAVELED TO EGYPT

TO TACKLE THE PROBLEM.

BUT THEIR ATTEMPT TO ERECT

AN OBELISK JUST A FRACTION
OF THE SIZE OF THE ANCIENT ONES

FELL SHORT.

TONIGHT, NOVA RETURNS
TO THE LAND OF THE PHARAOHS.

NO, IT SHOULD BE DOWN HERE.

Narrator:
MODERN ENGINEERS TAKE
ANOTHER LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE

AND TRY OUT A RADICAL NEW
SOLUTION TO AN AGE-OLD MYSTERY.

WELL, YOU WANTED
THE POSITION
CHANGED.

NO, I WANT IT TO WORK.

I KNOW, I WANT IT
TO WORK AS WELL



WHICH IS WHY I GAVE YOU
WHAT I GAVE YOU.

Narrator:
ROPES AND NERVES
WILL BE STRAINED

AS ANOTHER TEAM STRUGGLES

TO RECREATE THE AMAZING DEEDS
OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE.

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by PARK FOUNDATION, CNET

NORTHWESTERN MUTUAL LIFE

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FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING

Narrator:
4,500 YEARS AGO

WHEN EGYPT'S OLD KINGDOM
WAS IN ITS FIRST BLOOM

PHARAOH WAS GOD.

ALL THE COUNTRY'S RICHES
WERE PILED INTO HIS TOMB...

A MANMADE MOUNTAIN
FOR AN IMMORTAL KING.

BUT A THOUSAND YEARS LATER...
TIMES HAD CHANGED.

A NEW GOD RULED THE LAND;
HIS NAME WAS AMUN.

NEW KINGDOM PHARAOHS
LIKE RAMSES...

THUTMOSE...

AND TUTANKHAMEN STILL PROCLAIMED
THEIR OWN DIVINITY

YET THEY WERE ALL BEHOLDEN
TO THE KING OF GODS.

SO THEY BUILT
MAGNIFICENT TEMPLES TO HIM

FILLED WITH COLOSSAL STATUES

AND GIANT NEEDLES OF STONE...
THE OBELISKS.

HIEROGLYPHS PROCLAIMED
THE PHARAOH'S LOYALTY.

AT THE PINNACLE
WAS A SMALL PYRAMID

SHEATHED IN SILVER AND GOLD.

DEDICATED TO AMUN-RA,
THE SUN GOD

THE OBELISKS WERE
SPARKLING SHAFTS OF SUNLIGHT

RENDERED IN STONE.

FOR THE PHARAOHS' SUBJECTS,
THE EFFECT WAS AWESOME.

Man:
IT WAS A SPECIAL EFFECT

BUT THEY REALLY BELIEVED
IN THIS SPECIAL EFFECT.

IT WASN'T LIKE
LAS VEGAS OR HOLLYWOOD.

IT WAS AN EFFECT
THAT REALLY HAPPENED FOR THEM.

Keach:
FOR OVER 25 YEARS, ARCHAEOLOGIST
MARK LEHNER HAS BEEN PROBING

THE MEANING
OF EGYPT'S MONUMENTS.

HE BELIEVES THAT COLOSSAL
STATUES AND OBELISKS

HELPED PHARAOH MAINTAIN HIS
POWER OVER THE EGYPTIAN PEOPLE.

Lehner:
IT WAS A WAY OF CONTROLLING
PEOPLE'S PERCEPTION.

IT WAS IMPORTANT
FOR THE PHARAOH TO HAVE

GIGANTIC STATUES,
GIGANTIC OBELISKS

WHERE HE MINGLED
WITH THE HEAVENS.

BECAUSE IT WAS THE PERCEPTION
OF PHARAOH'S POWER

AT THE PINNACLE OF SOCIETY

THAT HELD EGYPTIAN
CIVILIZATION TOGETHER.

Keach:
3,500 YEARS AGO,
ALONG THE BANKS OF THE NILE

MONUMENTAL CONSTRUCTION
WAS ROUTINE.

BUT NOW IT SEEMS INCREDIBLE.

HOW DID EGYPT MANAGE TO BUILD SO
MUCH ON SUCH A COLOSSAL SCALE?

HOW COULD PHARAOH'S BUILDERS
TRANSPORT AND ERECT

STONES WEIGHING HUNDREDS OF TONS

IN AN AGE WITHOUT
CRANES OR STEEL CABLES?

A TEAM OF EXPERTS WILL TRY
TO SOLVE THE MYSTERY.

Man:
OKAY, HOLD IT, HOLD IT.

Keach:
THEY HAVE THREE WEEKS
TO LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE

AND RECREATE THE EGYPTIANS'
REMARKABLE ACHIEVEMENTS.

THE BOAT TAKES SHAPE.

Keach:
THE FIRST MAJOR CHALLENGE
OUR TEAM WILL FACE

IS HOW THE
ANCIENT BUILDERS MOVED

GIANT, MULTI-TON
BLOCKS OF GRANITE.

ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT
CLUES WAS FOUND

IN THE TOMB OF AN OFFICIAL WHO
LIVED ALMOST 4,000 YEARS AGO.

Lehner:
THERE'S ONE TOMB SCENE
IN ALL OF ANCIENT EGYPT

SHOWING THEM TRANSPORTING
A COLOSSAL STATUE

AND YOU SEE THE COLOSSAL STATUE
MOUNTED ON A SLEDGE

BEING PULLED OVERLAND.

AND THERE ARE ABOUT
FOUR LINES OF ROPE GOING OUT

WITH TEAMS OF YOUNG MEN
DRAGGING THE STATUE ALONG.

MOST OF THE EVIDENCE...

AND THERE IS SOME
OTHER EVIDENCE AS WELL...

SUGGESTS THAT THESE THINGS
WERE PULLED OVER LAND

ON LUBRICATED SURFACES,
MOUNTED ON A SLEDGE.

Keach:
TO BRING THE ANCIENT SCENE
TO LIFE

STONEMASON ROGER HOPKINS
JOINS MARK LEHNER

AND A LARGE EGYPTIAN CREW

IN AN ATTEMPT TO DRAG A 25-TON
BLOCK SET ON A WOODEN SLED.

DIRECTING THE EFFORT
WILL BE RAIS ABDEL ALEEM.

THE EGYPTIAN FOREMAN
HAS BUILT A ROADBED

WITH WOODEN TIMBERS
SET INTO THE EARTH.

TO REDUCE FRICTION, THE WOOD
IS SMEARED WITH ANIMAL FAT.

ABDEL ALEEM HAS A LOT OF
EXPERIENCE MOVING HEAVY WEIGHTS.

Keach:
BUT HE USUALLY RELIES
ON CRANES AND FLATBED TRUCKS

NOT DOZENS OF MEN.

THE STONE SHOULD MOVE EASILY

WITH LESS
THAN A HUNDRED PULLERS...

AT LEAST
THAT'S WHAT ROGER HOPES.

Hopkins:
I WOULD THINK
75 WOULD BE SUFFICIENT

ONCE YOU GET
THAT INITIAL MOTION GOING.

ONCE YOU GET
THE BLOCK IN MOTION

THEN IT, YOU KNOW, DECREASES
THE AMOUNT OF FRICTION

AND IT SHOULD PULL RIGHT ALONG.

Keach:
TO BREAK THE STATIC FRICTION

ABDEL ALEEM ORDERS TEAMS
OF MEN TO BOUNCE THE STONE

WITH LARGE LEVERS.

BUT WITH MORE
THAN A HUNDRED PULLERS

THE ONLY THING MOVING
SEEMS TO BE THE ROPE

WHICH STRETCHES
MORE THAN ANYONE EXPECTED.

WHAT, DID THEY CEMENT
THIS THING DOWN?

I WASN'T HERE WHEN THEY PUT
THIS THING ON THE TRACK.

Keach:
PART OF THE PROBLEM IS

THAT THE MEN ON THE ROPES
ARE NOT PULLING TOGETHER.

Hopkins:
WELL, WE DON'T HAVE

A UNIFIED JERKING MOVEMENT
TO GET IT GOING QUITE YET.

Keach:
ROGER DECIDES THAT THE MEN NEED
A LITTLE EXTRA MOTIVATION.

Hopkins:
ALLAHU AKBAR!

GO! GO! GO!

Keach:
FINALLY, WITH ROGER SHOUTING
"GOD IS GREAT!" IN ARABIC

THE STONE LURCHES FORWARD.

ACCORDING TO ANCIENT ACCOUNTS,
THE PHARAOHS HAD NO PROBLEM

GATHERING WORK FORCES
THAT NUMBERED IN THE THOUSANDS.

SOME WERE SLAVES,
OTHERS PRISONERS OF WAR

BUT MANY WERE EGYPTIAN SOLDIERS

FULFILLING THEIR DUTY
TO THEIR KING AND THEIR GOD.

OUR CREW REMAINED ENTHUSIASTIC

EVEN THOUGH AFTER SEVERAL HOURS
OF HARD WORK

THEY MOVED THE STONE
ONLY ABOUT 20 FEET.

DRAGGING GIGANTIC MONUMENTS

IS EXTREMELY SLOW
AND LABOR-INTENSIVE.

YET, THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS
MANAGED TO TRANSPORT

HUGE OBELISKS AND STATUES
HUNDREDS OF MILES

FROM GRANITE QUARRIES
IN THE SOUTH

TO THE CAPITAL IN THEBES

AND FURTHER NORTH
TO MEMPHIS AND HELIOPOLIS.

LUCKILY,
FOR THESE LONG JOURNEYS

THE EGYPTIANS HAD A UNIQUE
HIGHWAY AT THEIR DISPOSAL:

THE NILE.

BUT FOR THE RIVER,
EGYPT WOULD BE A WASTELAND.

THE NILE'S LIFE-GIVING WATERS
FLOW NORTHWARD

FROM THE ETHIOPIAN HIGHLANDS

TRANSFORMING THE AFRICAN DESERT
INTO LUSH, VERDANT FARMLAND.

ALL LIFE REVOLVED
AROUND THE RIVER

SO ONE FORM OF TRANSPORTATION
WAS VALUED ABOVE ALL OTHERS.

Lehner:
THE COUNTRY OF EGYPT BASICALLY
WAS THE BANKS OF THE NILE.

PEOPLE WERE TOTALLY TIED
TO THE RIVER.

DURING THE INUNDATION SEASON

FROM THE MIDDLE OF AUGUST
TO ABOUT NOVEMBER

THE NILE VALLEY WAS
ONE BIG, LONG LAKE

AND THE VILLAGES
WERE LITTLE ISLANDS

APPEARING WITHIN THIS LAKE

SO THE ONLY WAY
TO GET ABOUT WAS BY BOAT.

AND THAT MEANT
THAT THERE WERE BOAT BUILDERS

ALL UP AND DOWN THE NILE

BUILDING SMALL
FISHERMAN'S BOATS.

THERE WERE PEOPLE BUILDING
MEDIUM-SIZED BOATS

AND YACHTS FOR NOBLEMEN.

EVERYBODY HAD TO HAVE
A BOAT TO GET ALONG.

Keach:
THANKS TO THE NILE, THE
EGYPTIANS WERE EARLY PIONEERS

OF BOAT CONSTRUCTION AND DESIGN.

BUT WAS THEIR NAUTICAL EXPERTISE
SO GREAT

THAT THEY COULD PRODUCE
VESSELS STRONG ENOUGH

TO CARRY OBELISKS WEIGHING
HUNDREDS OF TONS?

ONE PHARAOH LEFT COMPELLING
EVIDENCE THAT THEY COULD.

HER NAME WAS HATSHEPSUT,
AND SHE SEIZED THE THRONE

FROM HER YOUNG STEPSON
AROUND 1470 B.C.

ONE OF THE FEW WOMEN
EVER TO RULE EGYPT

HATSHEPSUT DISPLAYED
A PHARAONIC BEARD

AND CELEBRATED HER REIGN BY
RAISING FOUR GIGANTIC OBELISKS

AT THE GREAT HOUSE OF AMUN
IN THEBES.

ACROSS THE NILE,
AT HER MORTUARY TEMPLE

HATSHEPSUT BRAGGED
OF TRANSPORTING

TWO OF THESE MONOLITHS
DOWN THE RIVER FROM ASWAN.

TO HELP INTERPRET THE EVIDENCE

MARK WELCOMES ON BOARD
NAUTICAL EXPERT OWAIN ROBERTS.

A LIFELONG SAILOR
AND BOATBUILDER

OWAIN SPECIALIZES IN
RECONSTRUCTING ANCIENT VESSELS.

WELL, THIS IS ONE

OF ONLY TWO SCENES
THAT I KNOW OF

THAT SHOWS MOVING A WEIGHT
OF MANY TONS BY BOAT.

Keach:
ON THE WALL OF HATSHEPSUT'S
TEMPLE IS A CARVED RELIEF.

WE'RE EXTRAORDINARILY
FORTUNATE TO HAVE THIS.

IT DOES LOOK
RATHER HIGH

OUT OF THE WATER,
DOESN'T SHE?

Keach:
ALTHOUGH MUCH OF THE WALL
IS DAMAGED AFTER 3,500 YEARS

MARK AND OWAIN CAN
JUST MAKE OUT AN IMAGE:

TWO OBELISKS LYING
ON THE DECK OF A BOAT.

BUT HOW WAS SUCH
A VESSEL CONSTRUCTED?

THE EGYPTIANS LEFT BEHIND
SOME INTRIGUING CLUES.

TOMB AND TEMPLE WALLS ARE
COVERED WITH IMAGES OF BOATS.

NOBLEMEN AND KINGS WERE BURIED

WITH MINIATURE REPLICAS OF THE
FLEETS THEY CAPTAINED IN LIFE.

BUT PERHAPS THE MOST AMAZING
EVIDENCE WAS FOUND HERE

AT THE FOOT
OF THE GREAT PYRAMID OF KHUFU.

ZAHI HAWASS, DIRECTOR OF GIZA,
NOW OVERSEES ALL EXCAVATIONS

ON THE FAMOUS PYRAMID PLATEAU.

Hawass:
AND THIS DISCOVERY... NO ONE
CAN BELIEVE THAT IT CAN HAPPEN.

IT HAPPENED
IN THE SUMMER OF 1954

THAT KING FAISAL OF SAUDI ARABIA
WAS VISITING THE PYRAMIDS

AND THEY FOUND THERE IS
A BIG MOUND OF SAND

LOCATED ON THE SOUTH
OF KHUFU PYRAMID.

Keach:
IN 1954, ONE OF ZAHI'S
PREDECESSORS, KAMAL EL MALACH

WAS IN CHARGE OF THE SITE.

Hawass:
THEY BEGAN TO CLEAR THE SAND.

THEN DURING THAT, HE FOUND THERE
ARE 60 LARGE LIMESTONE BLOCKS.

EACH ONE WEIGHED ABOUT 16 TONS.

THEN KAMAL EL MALACH
OPENED A HOLE

AND HE SAID
WHEN HE LOOKED AT THE HOLE

HE COULD SMELL HISTORY.

WHEN HE DID THAT, HE SMELLED
HISTORY FROM 4,600 YEARS AGO.

Keach:
THE SMELL CAME FROM HUNDREDS
OF PLANKS OF CEDARWOOD

LYING AT THE BOTTOM
OF A LIMESTONE PIT.

THE PIECES FIT TOGETHER
LIKE A GIANT JIGSAW PUZZLE.

WHEN THE PUZZLE WAS COMPLETE,
IT LOOKED LIKE THIS.

THIS IS ONE OF THE OLDEST BOATS
IN THE WORLD.

BUILT FOR THE PHARAOH KHUFU
4,500 YEARS AGO

IT WAS CAREFULLY DISMANTLED AND
BURIED NEXT TO HIS PYRAMID TOMB

SO HE COULD USE IT
IN THE AFTERLIFE.

FOR A BOAT LOVER LIKE OWAIN
ROBERTS, IT'S AN INSPIRATION.

Roberts:
THE BOAT IS A VERY IMPRESSIVE
PIECE OF ENGINEERING.

THEY KNEW ALL THE TRICKS.

THEY KNEW ABOUT
STABILITY OF A BOAT.

THEY KNEW ABOUT
LOCKING THE TIMBERS TOGETHER

TO REDUCE MOVEMENT, BECAUSE
MOVEMENT DESTROYS A BOAT.

THEY KNEW ABOUT
HOW TO USE ROPE IN TENSION

TO BIND THE VESSEL TOGETHER.

ALL THE TRICKS WERE KNOWN.

ALL THAT RESTRICTED THEM

WAS THE FACT THAT THEY HAD ONLY
WOOD AND ROPE TO DO IT WITH.

Keach:
TODAY, BUILDERS RELY ON NAILS

AND MODERN BOATS ARE
ALMOST ALWAYS CONSTRUCTED

AROUND A SKELETAL FRAMEWORK.

BUT ANCIENT BOATS LIKE KHUFU'S
WERE BUILT SKIN FIRST...

BY WEAVING TOGETHER
THICK OUTER PLANKS.

SO, THIS IS
A SAMPLE OF SKIN?

YEAH, JUST
A SAMPLE OF IT

AND NOTICE HOW THICK
IT IS FOR ITS WIDTH.

THE PLANKS ARE
VERY MASSIVE.

I NOTICE
THERE ARE HOLES...

Keach:
THIS IS A REPLICA OF AN ANCIENT
PLANK FROM KHUFU'S BOAT.

AND THESE TENONS ARE
KNOCKED INTO PLACE...

SO NO NAILS?

NO, NOT MUCH
OF A HAMMER EITHER,
I'M AFRAID.

Keach:
THE HOLES ALONG THE EDGE

WERE MADE
FOR MORTISE-AND-TENON JOINTS.

GETTING HEAVIER NOW.

SLOWLY THE BOAT
TAKES SHAPE.

YES... WATCH
YOUR FINGERS.

ARE YOU GOING
TO HOOK THERE?

Keach:
ADDITIONAL HOLES
ALLOWED THE EGYPTIANS

TO WEAVE THE PLANKS TOGETHER.

YEP, THAT IS
PRETTY TIGHT.

YOU GET A LOT
OF TENSION ON THAT.

Keach:
AS AN EXTRA PRECAUTION, REEDS
WERE STUFFED INTO THE SEAMS.

NOW, THIS IS
INSTEAD OF CAULKING?

THE PRESSURE ON THIS

WAS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT
STOPPED THE WATER COMING IN.

Keach:
FINALLY, CROSSBEAMS WERE ADDED
TO PROVIDE INTERNAL SUPPORT.

I SEE WHAT YOU MEAN.

YOU PUT ON THE SKIN FIRST.

YOU BUILD THE SKIN

THEN YOU BUILD
THE SKELETON.

THAT'S RIGHT,
THAT'S RIGHT.

THAT'S QUITE REMARKABLE.

Keach:
WITH JUST WOOD AND ROPE

THE EGYPTIANS CREATED
SEAGOING SHIPS

AND BARGES BIG AND STRONG
ENOUGH TO CARRY OBELISKS.

BUT HOW WAS SUCH A TREMENDOUS
WEIGHT LOADED ONTO A BOAT

WITHOUT TIPPING IT OVER?

OWAIN ROBERTS HAS COME UP
WITH A BOAT DESIGN

THAT WOULD MAKE THE JOB EASIER.

Roberts:
IN ORDER
TO CARRY THE WEIGHT

AND TO HAVE IT HIGH
AS IN HATSHEPSUT

OF COURSE WE HAD TO
GO FOR A GREAT BEAM.

WHOA, THAT IS WIDE!

A REAL WIDE-BODIED BARGE.

SHE IS, INDEED.

Keach:
TO PREVENT CAPSIZING

A BARGE CAPABLE OF CARRYING
HATSHEPSUT'S OBELISKS

HAD TO BE EXTREMELY WIDE

WITH A LENGTH-TO-WIDTH RATIO
OF PERHAPS TWO TO ONE.

YES, THAT'S RIGHT.

THIS IS THE WAY
YOU GET STABILITY

IN A SINGLE HULL.

Keach:
OWAIN WILL TRY OUT HIS IDEA
ON A SCALE MODEL.

HE BEACHES THE FRONT END

SECURING IT TO A RAMP THAT
LEADS SMOOTHLY UP TO THE DECK.

ROPES RUN FROM THE OBELISK
UP THE RAMP, ACROSS THE DECK

AND THROUGH TWO WOODEN BLOCKS

WHICH TURN THE ROPES
BACK TOWARD THE BANK.

Keach:
IN THIS WAY, THE PULLERS CAN
STAY HIGH AND DRY ON THE BEACH

AND DON'T HAVE TO WADE OUT
INTO THE RIVER.

Workers:
HEY-A... HO!

Roberts:
RIGHT!

STOP THERE!

Lehner:
I THINK OWAIN'S EXPERIMENT
WAS VERY SUCCESSFUL.

IT'S VERY FEASIBLE

THAT THE EGYPTIANS
SIMPLY CONSTRUCTED A RAMP

RIGHT ONTO ONE END OF THAT BOAT

AND DRAGGED NOT ONE, I ACTUALLY
THINK TWO LARGE OBELISKS

ONTO IT.

Keach:
AFTER HER OBELISKS WERE LOADED

HATSHEPSUT'S BARGE WAS TOWED
DOWNSTREAM, TO THEBES

AND THE GREAT HOUSE OF AMUN,
NOW KNOWN AS KARNAK TEMPLE.

SPRAWLING ACROSS
HUNDREDS OF ACRES

THE VAST COMPLEX WAS EXPANDED
BY A SUCCESSION OF PHARAOHS

OVER THE COURSE
OF SEVERAL CENTURIES.

THE GOD HIMSELF WAS BELIEVED
TO RESIDE IN A STATUE

KEPT UNDER LOCK AND KEY IN
THE DARK HEART OF THE TEMPLE...

THE HOLY OF HOLIES.

THE STATUE IS NOW GONE

BUT ANCIENT INSCRIPTIONS
DESCRIBE THE RITUAL

THAT AMUN'S PRIESTS ENACTED
WITHIN THESE WALLS.

Lehner:
THEY WOULD GO IN, AND WITH
GREAT RITUAL AND CEREMONY

THEY WOULD BRING OUT
THE STATUE OF THE GOD.

THEY WOULD GIVE IT
A SYMBOLIC MEAL.

THEY WOULD FEED THE GOD AMUN,
THAT IS TO GIVE HIM OFFERINGS.

THEY WOULD GIVE HIM INCENSE

AND THEY WOULD
BATHE HIM RITUALLY;

THEY WOULD GIVE HIM CLOTHES.

Keach:
SOMETIMES, THE PRIESTS
WOULD TAKE THE STATUE OF AMUN

ACROSS THE NILE
TO THE WEST BANK OF THEBES

TO VISIT THE TOMBS
OF KINGS AND NOBLES.

Lehner:
THE FAMILY MEMBERS
OF THOSE DECEASED

WOULD BE HAVING BARBECUES
OUT IN FRONT OF THEIR TOMBS...

LITERALLY PICNICS,
TO HAVE A COMMUNAL MEAL

WITH AMUN
AND ALL THE ANCESTORS.

ALL THE STATUES
OF THE DECEASED KINGS...

WHO WERE GODS
IN THEIR OWN RIGHT...

WOULD BE BROUGHT OUT OF
THEIR TEMPLES TO GREET AMUN.

AND THEN, OF COURSE

AMUN WOULD BE BROUGHT BACK INTO
KARNAK TEMPLE, DOWN THAT AXIS

PUT INTO HIS LITTLE INNER HOUSE

AT THE BACK PART
OF THE KARNAK TEMPLE

AND HE WOULD BE,
IN EFFECT, PUT TO BED.

THE DOORS WOULD BE RESEALED
WITH GREAT CEREMONY

AND THEN AMUN WOULD BE
AT REST AGAIN.

Keach:
AS TIME WENT ON, THE QUEST
TO PLEASE AND IMPRESS AMUN

DROVE PHARAOHS TO ERECT
BIGGER AND BIGGER OBELISKS.

WEIGHING UP TO 500 TONS

THESE WERE SOME OF THE LARGEST
SINGLE STONES EVER QUARRIED

ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.

THEY WERE CARVED BY HAND

AND ADORNED
WITH INTRICATE HIEROGLYPHS.

SOMEHOW, THE EGYPTIANS
MANAGED TO STAND THEM ON END

WITHOUT BREAKING THEM.

EACH BALANCED UPON
A SMALL STONE PEDESTAL

WITH NO SUPPORT OTHER
THAN ITS OWN ENORMOUS WEIGHT.

ONLY A HANDFUL OF ANCIENT
OBELISKS SURVIVE INTACT

IN THEIR ORIGINAL POSITIONS.

ALL PHYSICAL EVIDENCE
OF HOW THEY WERE RAISED

HAS DISAPPEARED...

EXCEPT FOR ONE TANTALIZING CLUE.

Lehner:
THIS GROOVE

IS ONE OF THE ONLY DIRECT
PIECES OF EVIDENCE WE HAVE

AS TO HOW THEY ACTUALLY
ERECTED THE OBELISKS.

Keach:
ON EVERY PEDESTAL STONE, A DEEP
GROOVE IS CARVED IN ONE SIDE.

WITHOUT THIS GROOVE, THE OBELISK
MIGHT SLIP ACROSS ITS BASE.

BUT THE GROOVE ACTS AS A BRAKE

AND IT HELPS KEEP
THE OBELISK ALIGNED

WHEN IT'S PULLED TO VERTICAL.

THE TRICK IS GETTING

ONE EDGE OF A STONE
WEIGHING HUNDREDS OF TONS

SAFELY INTO THE TURNING GROOVE.

IT LITERALLY
JUST MOVES FROM THERE

ONTO THE ROLLER POINT HERE.

Keach:
MARK WHITBY IS ONE
OF BRITAIN'S LEADING ENGINEERS.

AND SO WE START
APPLYING LOAD...

Keach:
HE'S DEVISED A UNIQUE THEORY

OF HOW THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS
MIGHT HAVE RAISED

THEIR OBELISKS.

INSPIRED BY THE COMPLEX WOOD-
AND ROPEWORK ON EGYPTIAN SHIPS

MARK HAS DESIGNED
AN ELABORATE SYSTEM

TO ROTATE THE OBELISK SLOWLY
DOWN ONTO ITS PEDESTAL STONE.

PULL IT TO VERTICAL

AND PUT IT INTO POSITION MUCH
AS IT REALLY IS IN REAL LIFE.

Keach:
HE HOPES TO TRY OUT HIS IDEA
IN A QUARRY IN ASWAN.

A 30-TON GRANITE OBELISK
HAS BEEN PLACED

ATOP AN EARTHEN RAMP,
AND PREPARATIONS ARE UNDER WAY

TO LOWER IT 12 FEET
INTO A TURNING GROOVE.

Keach:
THE FIRST TASK IS TO ASSEMBLE
A LARGE WOODEN FRAMEWORK

THAT WILL PROVIDE
THE MECHANICAL ADVANTAGE

TO ROTATE THE OBELISK SAFELY.

IN THIS SUPPORTING ROLE
IS RICK BROWN

A SCULPTOR AND TIMBER FRAMER
FROM MASSACHUSETTS.

AT THE MOMENT, HE HAS NO IDEA
THAT EVENTS WILL SOON PROPEL HIM

TO CENTER STAGE
IN THE OBELISK DRAMA.

MEANWHILE, OWAIN ROBERTS
AND HIS SON IOLO ARE IN CHARGE

OF RIGGING NEARLY
A MILE'S WORTH OF ROPE.

WITH ALL THIS ROPE AND WOOD

MARK WHITBY HOPES
TO HARNESS THE GIANT STONE

AND CAREFULLY
CONTROL ITS DESCENT.

CHECK IT OUT NOW.

Keach:
WHILE THE ENGINEER AND
HIS SMALL ARMY OF ASSISTANTS

SCRAMBLE TO BUILD THEIR
COMPLICATED CONTRAPTION

ROGER HOPKINS IS PURSUING
A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT APPROACH.

WITH THE LARGE-SCALE OBELISK
ALREADY SPOKEN FOR

ROGER IS LEFT TO EXPERIMENT
WITH A MINI TWO-TON BLOCK.

AND HE'S NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT.

Hopkins:
IF THEY EVER GIVE ME

A DECENT OBELISK TO WORK WITH

THEN WE CAN DO SOMETHING

BUT NO, I ALWAYS END UP
IN DOGPATCH!

WITH THE PUNIEST LITTLE...

YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

Keach:
EVEN THOUGH
HIS OBELISK IS SMALL

ROGER STILL HAS
TO LOWER IT WITH CARE.

UP ON THE RAMP.

Keach:
BUT INSTEAD OF RELYING ON ROPES

HE PREFERS A METHOD
THAT IS MORE LOW-TECH.

THIS IS MORE LIKE

AN ANCIENT
ELEVATOR OF SORTS.

SO YOU'RE GOING
TO PUT IT OUT

ONTO THIS SAND

AND THEN TAKE
THE SAND AWAY

TO LOWER IT
DOWN TO ITS BASE.

YEAH, WE'RE GOING
TO DRAG IT OUT

DROP IT ON THIS PILE OF SAND...

Keach:
BURIED UNDER 21 TONS OF SAND

IS ROGER'S MINIATURE
PEDESTAL STONE

COMPLETE WITH TURNING GROOVE.

Hopkins:
THIS BLOCK OF WOOD GOES
ALL THE WAY DOWN

TO THE TURNING GROOVE
OF MY PEDESTAL STONE.

LIKEWISE, I HAVE A TIMBER HERE

AND ANOTHER ONE
ON THE OTHER SIDE

WHICH WILL HELP GUIDE ME
WHEN I'M TAKING...

REMOVING THE SAND OUT
FROM UNDERNEATH THE OBELISK.

Keach:
ROGER'S HOMESPUN TECHNIQUE
DOESN'T IMPRESS MARK WHITBY.

Whitby:
WHAT YOU'VE GOT TO DO

WHEN YOU'RE MOVING
THESE HEAVY STONES AROUND

AND WANTING
TO PUT THEM SOMEWHERE

IS YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE
ABSOLUTE CONTROL OVER THEM.

IMAGINE THIS FOR REAL
WITH A 300-TON OBELISK

AND LOOK AT THE SORT OF CONTROL

ROGER'S GOT RIGHT NOW
WITH HIS SLEDGE.

I WANT... YOU KNOW,
WE'VE GOT TO COME...

IT'S STARTING
TO SHIFT OVER THAT WAY.

Whitby:
THERE'S A THING CALLED PLANNING;

YOU HAVE TO PLAN
EVERY SINGLE STEP IN ADVANCE.

AND IT'S NOT APPROPRIATE,
NECESSARILY

TO GET THE CHAIN SAW
AND SLICE OFF BITS OF SLEDGE

BECAUSE YOU HAVEN'T THOUGHT
ABOUT HOW LONG IT NEEDED TO BE

TO BEGIN WITH.

Hopkins:
THAT'S IT... KHALLAS!

Keach:
IN SPITE OF MARK'S CRITICISMS

ROGER IS NOT ALONE IN HIS
SUPPORT FOR THE SANDPIT METHOD.

Lehner:
WE HAVE A NUMBER
OF PIECES OF EVIDENCE

THAT SAND WAS USED IN THIS WAY

FOR LOWERING COLOSSAL SARCOPHAGI
DOWN TOMB SHAFTS

AND FOR RAISING MONUMENTS
LIKE OBELISKS.

THERE'S ACTUALLY
AN ANCIENT PAPYRUS

WHERE ONE SCRIBE
TAUNTS ANOTHER ONE

CHALLENGING HIM TO DESIGN

"A WAY TO ERECT
A MONUMENT OF THY LORD"

NAMELY THE PHARAOH...

COULD BE AN OBELISK,
MAYBE A STATUE.

Keach:
THE 3,000-YEAR-OLD
DOCUMENT READS

"EMPTY THE SPACE THAT
HAS BEEN FILLED WITH SAND

"BENEATH THE MONUMENT
OF THY LORD

SO THAT THE MONUMENT MAY BE
ESTABLISHED IN ITS PLACE."

Hopkins:
THERE IT GOES.

THERE IT GOES.

Keach:
MANY SCHOLARS BELIEVE
THE EGYPTIANS USED SAND

BUT OTHERS ARGUE THAT
IT'S DIFFICULT TO CONTROL.

BUT I ALSO WANT IT
TO COME FORWARD

AND OVER THIS WAY
A LITTLE.

Keach:
REMOVING IT FROM AROUND THE BASE
OF A 300- OR 400-TON OBELISK

COULD BE DANGEROUS.

Hopkins:
YOU KNOW, WE'VE COME
QUITE A WAY SO FAR.

YEAH, WE GOT IT
PRETTY LEVEL FOR YOU.

YEAH.

A LITTLE BIT HERE
AND A LITTLE BIT THERE.

Keach:
AFTER A COUPLE OF HOURS

THE OBELISK IS REACHING
THE BOTTOM OF THE SANDPIT

AND ROGER IS NOW REMOVING
THE SAND WITH HIS BARE HANDS.

Lehner:
ROGER, DO YOU THINK

THEY WOULD
EVER HAVE BEEN

LITERALLY DOING IT
BY HAND

WITH A 400-TONNER,
LIKE YOU ARE?

YEP.

I'M ASKING...
YOU THINK SO?

YEAH, WHY NOT?

NOW, YOU'RE
IN CHARGE

AND YOU'RE DOING THIS...
WATCH OUT!

WHY? WATCH OUT WHAT?

WELL, IT MOVED.

IT JUST MOVED
EVER SO SLOWLY.

WELL, IT LOOKED
FREAKY FROM HERE...

WITH YOUR HAND UNDER THERE.

I COULD SEE
IT MOVING.

I COULD EVEN
FEEL IT MOVING.

NOW, DO YOU THINK
THAT IN ANCIENT EGYPT

THE GUY IN CHARGE

WOULD LITERALLY BE STICKING
HIS HAND UNDER THERE?

IF HE FAILED, HIS HEAD
WOULD BE ROLLING.

HE'D STICK HIS HAND
UNDER THERE.

HE'D STICK HIS HAND
UNDER THERE.

HE'D WANT
TO MAKE SURE

THIS THING
WAS GOING TO GO

EXACTLY THE WAY
HE WANTED IT.

IT'S LITERALLY MOVING
BY MILLIMETERS.

Keach:
MILLIMETER BY MILLIMETER,
THE OBELISK SINKS LOWER. C

THERE'S THE TURNING GROOVE
RIGHT THERE.

AND I'VE GOT MY OBELISK
POSED RIGHT OVER IT.

LOOK AT THAT.

LOOK AT THAT,
WILL YOU?

I'M CLEANING IT OUT
FOR THE REST OF THE WAY.

THERE IT GOES.

WOW, THAT WAS
ITS FINAL ADJUSTMENT.

YEAH.

I'M GLAD MY FINGERS
WEREN'T UNDER THERE.

Keach:
ROGER'S OBELISK CAME TO REST
AT AN ANGLE OF ABOUT 60 DEGREES.

Keach:
WEIGHING ONLY TWO TONS

IT'S NOT DIFFICULT
TO PULL THE STONE TO VERTICAL.

Workers:
ROGER! ROGER! ROGER!

Keach:
BUT THE ANCIENT OBELISKS
WERE UP TO 500 TONS

AND PULLING THEM UPRIGHT
WAS NOT SO SIMPLE.

TO MAKE THE JOB EASIER,
MARK WHITBY THINKS

THE EGYPTIANS WOULD HAVE LOWERED
THEIR OBELISKS

TO A MUCH STEEPER ANGLE,
LIKE 80 DEGREES.

OUR GOAL WITH THIS METHOD

IS TO GET THE OBELISK INTO
AS STEEP AN ANGLE AS POSSIBLE...

ACTUALLY TO GET IT TO VERTICAL
WITH NOT A LOT OF EFFORT.

WE'RE TRYING TO CONTROL IT
VERY PRECISELY

IN THE WAY IT COMES FORWARD.

Keach:
TO MAKE THE OBELISK GO FORWARD

GANGS OF MEN WILL PULL ON ROPES
SUSPENDED FROM THE WOODEN FRAME.

MARK HOPES THAT
AS THESE ROPES TIGHTEN

THE OBELISK WILL TILT DOWNWARDS

AND EVENTUALLY ROTATE
AROUND THE LARGE PIVOT LOG.

Whitby:
THIS MECHANISM IS A BIT
OF AN INGENIOUS DEVICE

BUT ACTUALLY, I'M AN ENGINEER

AND THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT ENGINEER
MEANS, AN INGENIOUS PERSON.

YOU KNOW, AS AN ENGINEER

IT MEANS WE'VE ACTUALLY
PLANNED THE PROCESS.

WE'VE DONE LOTS OF CALCULATIONS:

WE'VE CALCULATED DIMENSIONS,
WE'VE CALCULATED WEIGHTS

WE'RE CALCULATING
HOW THE WEIGHTS MOVE

AS THE OBELISK ROTATES.

I'M HAPPY OUR SUMS ARE RIGHT

BUT EQUALLY,
ONE HAS TO DOUBLE-DOUBLE-CHECK

AND WE'RE GOING
TO FIND OUT SHORTLY.

Lehner:
MARK HAS USED
A LOT OF CALCULATIONS

AND, OF COURSE, WE KNOW THE
EGYPTIANS HAD MATHEMATICS...

THEY HAD FRACTIONS

THEY CALCULATED SLOPES
BY RISE AND RUN...

BUT THEY PROBABLY DIDN'T USE

THE CALCULATIONS
THAT MARK HAS USED

IN ORDER TO DESIGN THIS SYSTEM
OF RAISING AN OBELISK.

THE EGYPTIANS WOULD HAVE
APPROACHED IT

MORE BY EXPERIENCE.

THE FIRST THING TO DO

IS TO ACTUALLY
APPLY SOME TENSION

TO THE ROPES PULLING DOWN HERE
AND TO ROTATE IT...

Lehner:
MARK'S METHOD HAS A NUMBER
OF THINGS GOING FOR IT:

IT ASSUMES THAT THE OBELISK WAS
TIPPED, WHICH IS VERY LIKELY.

AND THEN IT ALSO USES OUTRIGGERS
OF A SORT LIKE THEY USED

IN THEIR NAUTICAL TECHNOLOGY...
THEIR BOATS AND THEIR SHIPS.

IT PLACES GREAT RELIANCE
ON THE USE OF ROPES

TO PULL THE OBELISK DOWN
IN A VERY CONTROLLED WAY

AND WE KNOW THEY WOULD HAVE DONE
THIS IN A VERY CONTROLLED WAY.

Keach:
60 MEN ARE BROUGHT IN

TO PULL ON THE ROPES ATTACHED
TO THE GIANT WOODEN FRAME.

Whitby:
NOBODY IN FRONT OF HERE, OKAY?

Keach:
THE TIME HAS COME
TO TEST MARK WHITBY'S METHOD

AND SEE HOW WELL
HE CAN CONTROL THE OBELISK.

NO, BEHIND HERE,
BEHIND HERE.

Keach:
EVERYONE IS WARNED
TO STAND BACK

JUST IN CASE THE 30-TON OBELISK
TILTS TOO FAR

AND TOPPLES OFF THE PLATFORM.

WITH EACH TUG, THE GIANT STONE
TEETERS PRECARIOUSLY.

Whitby:
HOLD!

GENTLY.

GET THE BLOCKS IN,
BLOCKS IN!

Keach:
RICK BROWN PLACES WOODEN CHOCKS
BENEATH THE RISING OBELISK.

Brown:
I THINK MAYBE

IT'LL BE TWO OR THREE PULLS,
I BELIEVE

BEFORE IT ACTUALLY COMES
DOWN ONTO THIS BEARING.

SO I THINK WE'RE DOING
QUITE WELL IN THAT SENSE.

IT'S NOT A BAD SYSTEM.

Keach:
MARK'S FIRST GOAL IS
TO TILT THE OBELISK DOWN

SO THAT THE PIVOT LOG
MAKES SECURE CONTACT

WITH THE TOP OF THE PLATFORM.

THIS LOG IS THEN SUPPOSED
TO ROTATE RIGHT UP TO THE EDGE

GUIDING THE OBELISK
PRECISELY TOWARD ITS PEDESTAL

12 FEET BELOW.

BUT THE JERKY ROCKING
OF THE OBELISK

CREATES A PROBLEM
THAT MARK DID NOT ANTICIPATE.

Whitby:
HOLD... GET THE BEARING IN.

Keach:
THE GIANT LOG HAS SLIPPED OUT
OF ITS INTENDED POSITION

AND IS MOVING DANGEROUSLY
CLOSE TO THE EDGE.

WE'VE COME DOWN ON THE BEARING

SLIGHTLY IN FRONT
OF WHERE WE EXPECTED

BECAUSE THE BEARING
SLIPPED FORWARD.

YEAH, WE'RE ABOUT...

Brown:
AS IT ROTATES FORWARD,
IT GETS VERY, VERY CLOSE

TO THAT EDGE.

NOW, THAT'S NOT
NECESSARILY A PROBLEM

AS LONG AS IT DOESN'T
COME OVER THE EDGE.

Keach:
THE RIGGING TEAM STRUGGLES TO
POUND THE LOG BACK INTO PLACE.

FEARING THAT THE HUMAN PULLERS

MAY JERK THE OBELISK
OFF THE LEDGE

MARK DECIDES TO SUPPLEMENT
THE PULL WITH A COUNTERWEIGHT...

A 3½-TON BLOCK OF STONE.

Whitby:
DOWN, PULL... COME ON.

Keach:
WHEN ITS TIMBER SUPPORTS
ARE REMOVED

MARK HOPES THE WEIGHT
OF THE STONE

WILL APPLY A STEADY
DOWNWARD PRESSURE ON THE ROPES

DOING THE WORK OF A HUNDRED MEN.

BUT AS THE STONE
IS LOWERED TO THE GROUND

MARK FINDS THAT THE ROPES
HOLDING THE COUNTERWEIGHT

HAVE SIMPLY STRETCHED...

Keach:
AND THE OBELISK
HASN'T MOVED AN INCH.

Whitby:
THERE'S MORE STRETCH DOWN HERE,
RICK, THAN ANYTHING ELSE.

Keach:
IN SPITE OF ALL HIS PLANS
AND CALCULATIONS

MARK'S METHOD IS NOT WORKING.

I'M GOING TO BE
VERY DISAPPOINTED

IF I'M GOING TO HAVE
TO REBUILD THE WHOLE LOT.

Keach:
DESPERATE TO MAKE SOME PROGRESS

MARK DECIDES TO TAKE
A MODERN SHORTCUT

SUSPENDING THE COUNTERWEIGHT
IN MIDAIR WITH A CRANE.

BUT THIS RISKY MOVE
JUST CAUSES MORE PROBLEMS.

MARK'S QUICKLY CHANGING PLANS

ARE TAKING THEIR TOLL
ON THE RIGGING CREW.

ARE YOU WITH ME, IOLO?

I'M SLIPPING OUT
OF YOUR GRASP
A BIT, MATE.

WELL, WHAT I'M SAYING
IS THE KNOT...

WE'VE GOT TO FIND
A KNOT THAT WORKS

OR WE'VE GOT TO FIND
ANOTHER WAY OF DOING IT.

WELL, THE SYSTEM
I GAVE YOU BEFORE

SEEMED TO BE
WORKING OKAY.

NOW YOU CHANGED IT
TO WHAT YOU WANT NOW...

WHAT I'M SAYING

IS THAT DISTANCE
IS NOW... IS BIGGER.

Keach:
WITH MORALE PLUMMETING

MARK WHITBY MUST GIVE UP
ON THE COUNTERWEIGHT.

Lehner:
WELL, IT'S
A VERY FRUSTRATING DAY.

AND MOST OF THE DAY WAS TAKEN UP
WITH THE COUNTERWEIGHT

WHICH, IN FACT, WAS
JUST A SUBSTITUTE

FOR A WORK FORCE THAT WE
DIDN'T FEEL WE COULD HANDLE.

THE MACHINES HAVEN'T WORKED

SO NOW WE'RE JUST
GOING TO TRY THE PEOPLE

THAT WE'D INTENDED TO TRY
IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Keach:
OVER 200 MEN ARE PUT
ON THE ROPES.

EVERYONE SENSES
THIS IS MARK'S LAST CHANCE

TO MAKE HIS METHOD WORK.

Whitby:
LOOSEN THOSE ROPES!

LOOSEN THOSE ROPES, RICK!

LOOSEN THE ROPES!

KEEP THOSE ROPES LOOSE!

KEEP THOSE ROPES LOOSE!

HOLD! HOLD!

Keach:
MARK'S OLD PROBLEM
WITH THE PIVOT LOG

HAS RETURNED TO HAUNT HIM:

ONCE AGAIN, THE GIANT LOG
HAS CREPT FORWARD.

AND THIS TIME,
IT HAS GONE TOO FAR.

WHAT'S HAPPENED
IS ACTUALLY

THE... THE LOG, AS THEY PULL,
HAS WALKED FORWARD.

THE DESIGN IS ON THE BASIS

THAT AS IT ROTATES,
IT ACTUALLY COMES TO THE EDGE.

WE'RE NOW SO NEAR THE EDGE

THAT AS IT ROTATES,
IT MAY COME OFF THE EDGE.

AND THAT'S... NOT NICE.

Keach:
THE PIVOT LOG HAS SLID RIGHT UP
TO THE EDGE OF THE RAMP

AND NOW THE CHANCES
OF THE OBELISK CRASHING DOWN

HAVE BECOME TOO GREAT.

DEFEATED, MARK
IS FORCED TO ADMIT

THE SITUATION IS TOO DANGEROUS

AND DECIDES
TO ABANDON THE ATTEMPT.

Whitby:
WELL, RIGHT NOW
I FEEL GUTTED PERSONALLY

AND FOR THE WHOLE TEAM.

WE'VE GOT TO THIS POINT

WHERE WE REALIZE THAT TO GO
FORWARD WOULD NOT BE A GOOD IDEA

AND IS POSSIBLY NEGLIGENT

IN THE SENSE THAT WE'RE PUTTING
AT RISK PEOPLE'S LIVES.

Lehner:
I THINK WE ALL MADE A CRITICAL
MISTAKE, NOT JUST MARK.

WE WONDERED WHAT WAS THE MOST
COMPLICATED TECHNOLOGY THEY HAD

AND WE SAID IT WAS IN BOATS.

AND THEN WE SAID, "WELL, HOW
WOULD THEY HAVE APPLIED THAT

TO A JOB
LIKE RAISING THE OBELISK?"

BUT IN TRANSLATING
BOAT TECHNOLOGY

TO THE PARTICULAR SITUATION
OF THE OBELISK

WE DEVELOPED THIS... MONSTER.

AND I THINK THAT WAS
THE WRONG WAY TO GO ABOUT IT.

Whitby:
HOLD! HOLD!

HOLD!

Keach:
ANOTHER OBELISK-RAISING ATTEMPT
HAS ENDED IN FAILURE.

MOST OF THE TEAM
IS COMPLETELY DEMORALIZED.

TIMBER FRAMER RICK BROWN
IS THE EXCEPTION.

Brown:
WE KNOW IT CAN BE DONE...

JUST HOW FAR.. HOW FAR
WE WANT TO GO WITH THE ATTEMPTS.

AND I THINK
WE CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN.

I REALLY THINK
IF WE STAYED HERE A WEEK

WE COULD RAISE THIS OBELISK.

Keach:
BUT UNFORTUNATELY, NOVA'S TIME
IN EGYPT HAS COME TO AN END.

BACK AT HOME,
JOBS AND FAMILIES BECKON.

THE SEARCH FOR ANSWERS WILL HAVE
TO CONTINUE SOMEWHERE ELSE.

6,000 MILES FROM ASWAN

AT A GRANITE QUARRY
IN MASSACHUSETTS

A NEW PLAN IS BEING HATCHED

THAT MAY SOLVE THE OBELISK
PUZZLE ONCE AND FOR ALL.

SEE IF IT'LL DO WITHOUT IT.

Keach:
RICK BROWN IS THE ONE MEMBER OF
THE TEAM WHO COULDN'T GIVE UP.

Brown:
I'M A SCULPTOR, AND I LIVE
IN THE WORLD OF MAKING THINGS.

I HAVE A PASSION
FOR MAKING THINGS

AND THE IDEA OF WALKING AWAY
WAS JUST... I COULDN'T...

I JUST COULDN'T IMAGINE
NOT SOLVING THIS PROBLEM.

Keach:
IN EGYPT, RICK WAS ENTHUSIASTIC
ABOUT MARK WHITBY'S PLAN

BUT NOW HE DECIDES TO TAKE
ANOTHER LOOK AT THE SANDPIT.

SO CHECK
YOUR ALIGNMENT.

Keach:
RICK LIKED THE SIMPLICITY
OF ROGER'S METHOD

BUT ONE THING WORRIED HIM...

Brown:
THERE IT GOES!

Keach:
ROGER USED SAND
THAT WAS SLIGHTLY DAMP;

IT DIDN'T FLOW WELL,
AND HAD TO BE DUG OUT

FROM DIRECTLY
UNDER THE OBELISK...

POTENTIALLY VERY DANGEROUS.

WE WANT TO MAKE SURE

THIS THING WAS GOING
TO GO EXACTLY THE WAY
HE WANTED IT.

Keach:
RICK DECIDES TO USE DRY SAND

ABUNDANT IN EGYPT'S
ARID CLIMATE.

WITH THE HELP OF HIS WIFE
AND FELLOW SCULPTOR, LAURA

RICK BEGINS PLANNING
A NEW KIND OF SANDBOX.

Lehner:
OKAY... WOW, LOOK AT IT GO.

OKAY, THE...

THIS IS GREAT SAND
YOU GOT.

Brown:
THIS IS DRY SAND...
THAT'S IMPORTANT.

THE SANDPIT IS SET UP SO
NOBODY EVER HAS TO GO INSIDE.

IT'S PERFECTLY SAFE.

Lehner:
IS THAT THE MAIN ADVANTAGE
BETWEEN THIS METHOD

AND DOING IT
THE WAY ROGER DID IT

WHERE HE WAS INSIDE
THE BOX DIGGING?

WELL, THAT WAY NOBODY
IS GOING TO GET HURT.

WELL, I DIDN'T
GET HURT.

Lehner:
SO IT ALL DEPENDS ON THE FLOW.

YOU USE THE FLOW
INSTEAD OF DIGGERS.

WITH DRY SAND,
THE SAND WILL FLOW.

AND WITH WET SAND, WE GO HOME.

Keach:
THE MAIN FORCE AT WORK
IN THE SANDPIT IS GRAVITY...

THE OBELISK SINKS
UNDER ITS OWN WEIGHT.

BUT HOW IS IT STEERED
INTO THE TURNING GROOVE?

RICK WILL TRY TO CONTROL THE
STONE WITH SEVERAL BRAKE ROPES.

IN ADDITION, THE BACK WALL
OF THE BOX IS A SERIES OF STEPS

CAREFULLY ALIGNED
WITH THE TURNING GROOVE.

AFTER PERFECTING HIS METHOD
WITH SCALE MODELS

RICK IS ABOUT TO GET HIS TURN
WITH A 36-FOOT OBELISK.

WELL, ROGER,
WE HAVE A RAMP.

WE HAVE A 25-TON
OBELISK SITTING ON TOP.

Lehner:
MAYBE 30 TONS.

MAYBE 30 TONS.

Hopkins:
I DOUBT IT.

WE HAVE A SANDBOX.

THE SANDBOX IS FILLED
TO THE TOP WITH SAND

AND IF YOU'LL
COME UP HERE

YOU CAN SEE THIS OPENING...
THAT'S OUR PORTAL.

THE SAND WILL FLOW
RIGHT OUT OF THE PORTAL.

RIGHT NOW IT'S CHOKED OFF.

WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO IS

WE'RE GOING TO TAKE THAT OUT
BY HAND WITH HOES

AND PULL ALL THE SAND OUT

AND AS WE DO THAT,
THE OBELISK WILL ROTATE AROUND

AND FALL RIGHT INTO THE CENTER
OF THE TURNING GROOVE.

Keach:
ALL THE DETAILS OF RICK'S MODEL

HAVE BEEN SCALED UP
FOR THE 25-TON STONE

INCLUDING THREE GIGANTIC ROPES

THAT RUN THE LENGTH
OF THE OBELISK

AND ARE SECURED
TO TWO LARGE BRAKE LOGS.

ASSISTING RICK ARE FRIENDS
FROM THE TIMBER FRAMERS GUILD...

A GROUP DEDICATED TO TRADITIONAL
BUILDING TECHNIQUES.

WITH EVERYTHING IN PLACE,
THE TEAM IS READY TO BEGIN.

Brown:
OKAY...

LET'S POINT THIS
THING TO THE SKY.

Man:
LOOKS GOOD... LET'S GO.

Man:
ALL RIGHT, WE'RE GETTING
MOVEMENT OVER HERE.

THERE YOU GO,
THERE YOU GO.

Brown:
IF THEY'LL HOLD,
WE'LL CATCH UP.

Man:
YEAH, THEY'RE HOLDING.

WE SHOULD GET MOVEMENT
SOON, THEY SAY.

Laura:
THERE YOU GO!

Keach:
AT FIRST, THE MOVEMENT OF THE
OBELISK IS ALMOST IMPERCEPTIBLE.

Man:
THERE WE GO!

Laura:
WHOA!

Keach:
BUT SLOWLY, THE POINT
OF THE STONE BEGINS TO RISE.

WHOA, THERE WE GO!

Lehner:
WHAT WE ARE DOING HERE TODAY
FEELS VERY EGYPTIAN TO ME.

THE RAMP, THE BOX,
LOOKS VERY ARCHAIC.

THE COLOSSAL ROPES,
THE BIG LOGS, THE SAND.

IT'S BIG AND IT'S MASSIVE

BUT IT'S USING
VERY SIMPLE FORCES...

SIMPLY THE FORCE
OF FLOWING SAND.

THEY HAD NO PROBLEMS THROWING
THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE AT THE JOB.

THIS IS THE APPROACH THE
EGYPTIANS WOULD HAVE TAKEN.

Keach:
THE APPROACH TAKES TIME.

AFTER HALF A DAY OF DIGGING,
THE OBELISK HAS ONLY ROTATED

A THIRD OF THE WAY
TOWARD THE TURNING GROOVE.

AS THE HOURS PASS

AND THE OBELISK SINKS
DEEPER INTO THE PIT

RICK'S METHOD IS TRULY
PUT TO THE TEST

WHEN MORE AND MORE PRESSURE
FALLS ON THE BRAKE ROPES.

Woman:
WHOO!

HOW MUCH HAVE THE ROPES
STRETCHED SO FAR?

WELL, THE ROPES
HAVE STRETCHED

AROUND SEVEN
TO EIGHT INCHES.

WOW, REALLY?

YEAH, WE'RE STILL WELL
WITHIN THE SAFETY RANGE.

Man:
PULL!

Keach:
RICK'S TEAM PREDICTED

A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF STRETCH
IN THE ROPES...

BUT IF THEIR ESTIMATES ARE WRONG

THE OBELISK COULD OVERSHOOT
THE TURNING GROOVE.

TENSION MOUNTS
AS THE STONE APPROACHES

THE CRITICAL ANGLE
OF 75 DEGREES.

WITH THE OBELISK NEARING
THE BACK OF THE SANDPIT

RICK CAN'T RESIST THE TEMPTATION
TO JUMP IN AND DIG FOR HIMSELF.

Man:
72 DEGREES.

Brown:
GAGE, PULL... GAGE, PULL.

Keach:
THE OBELISK IS NOW LEANING
AGAINST THE WALL OF THE SANDPIT

AND IS DIRECTLY IN LINE
WITH THE TURNING GROOVE.

LOOKS LIKE
THE TURNING GROOVE.

THAT'S THE TURNING
GROOVE, RIGHT HERE.

YOU SEE...
SEE THE CURVATURE.

YEAH, THERE IT IS.

YOU CAN SEE, IF
I HOLD THIS TAPE
AS A STRAIGHTEDGE

YOU CAN SEE WHERE
THE OBELISK IS GOING
TO COME RIGHT DOWN

INSIDE THE
TURNING GROOVE.

WOW, THAT'S A BULL'S-EYE...
A DIRECT HIT.

WE'RE JUST
ABOUT 9½ INCHES

FROM THE TOP OF
THE PEDESTAL STONE.

THAT LOOKS
PRETTY GOOD.

Keach:
NOW IT'S A MATTER OF GRADUALLY
RELEASING THE BRAKE ROPES...

WHOA! YOU GOT TO...

Keach:
AND REMOVING
THE LAST BITS OF SAND.

FOR THREE MORE HOURS,
THE WORK GOES ON.

FINALLY, IN THE DARK OF NIGHT
AND WITHOUT A SOUND

THE 25-TON OBELISK
NESTLES INTO ITS GROOVE.

Brown:
WE ARE HOME!

Keach:
WHEN THE SUN RETURNS
AND THE SANDBOX IS REMOVED

RICK CAN APPRECIATE
HOW FAR HE'S COME.

Brown:
YOU CAN SEE WE HAVE THE OBELISK
IN THE TURNING GROOVE.

IT'S AT 75 DEGREES.

MOST OF THE HARD WORK IS DONE.

BUT REMAINING IS A TASK
THAT IS... COULD BE DAUNTING

AND THAT IS WE HAVE TO NOW PULL
THE OBELISK THAT LAST 15 DEGREES

INTO THE 90-DEGREE POSITION.

Man:
THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE
BEEN TRAINED IN PULLING

PLEASE COME THIS WAY
AND REPORT RIGHT HERE.

Brown:
WELL, THE WORST THING
THAT COULD HAPPEN IS

IS THAT WE LOSE CONTROL
IN THE PULL

AND THE OBELISK
COMES CRASHING DOWN.

THIS IS A VERY TENSE MOMENT.

GO AHEAD AND TAKE THE ROPES
AND PULL THE SLACK OUT OF THEM.

Keach:
LEADING THE PULLERS
IS RICK'S COLLEAGUE

ENGINEER GRIGG MULLEN.

REALLY START PULLING ON IT...

Keach:
GRIGG'S JOB IS TO SCARE
THE UNDISCIPLINED VOLUNTEERS

INTO PULLING SLOWLY AND GENTLY.

Man:
YOU CAN'T BE TALKING.

Mullen:
HOLD UP!

YOU ALL NOTICE I'M MARRIED.

YOU NOTICE WHAT'S
MISSING ON MY HANDS?

GO AHEAD AND
TAKE YOUR RINGS OFF.

IF ONE OF THE ROPES FLIES,
IT CAN CATCH YOUR RING

AND IT'LL PULL THE MEAT
OFF YOUR FINGER.

ALL RIGHT, GO AHEAD
AND TAKE UP THE SLACK.

TAKE IT SLOW,
LET'S GET IT LIGHT.

KEEP PULLING!

KEEP PULLING!

Keach:
IF THEY PULL TOO HARD

THE FRAGILE OBELISK COULD TOPPLE
OVER AND CRASH TO THE GROUND.

Mullen:
GENTLY, GENTLY!

Keach:
TO PREVENT THIS KIND OF DISASTER

RICK'S TEAM IS ONCE AGAIN
USING BRAKE ROPES.

WHILE THE GANG BELOW PULLS
THE OBELISK TOWARD VERTICAL

THE BRAKE CREW HOLDS IT BACK,
LETTING THE ROPES OUT SLOWLY

SO THE OBELISK CAN'T
WORK UP ANY MOMENTUM.

THE BRAKE LINES HAVE GOT IT!

LOWER IT!

A LITTLE MORE, LITTLE MORE!

Brown:
WE ARE AT 89.

Man:
WHAT DO WE GOT?

Brown:
89 DEGREES!

WE HAVE TOUCHDOWN!

WE HAVE A FREE-STANDING OBELISK!

IT'S YOUR
INSPIRATION, ROGER.

THIS IS THE WAY
THE EGYPTIANS DID IT

THIS IS THE WAY WE DID IT.

IT'S A VERY PERFECT MOMENT.

THE EGYPTIANS HAD TO DO IT
WITH AS MUCH CONTROL

AND JUST AS SLOWLY

BECAUSE THEY NOT ONLY HAD
MONTHS AND MONTHS

OF HIEROGLYPHS THAT HAD BEEN CUT

PEOPLE MAY HAVE DIED...
A LOT WAS INVESTED.

AND THEY WOULD HAVE HAD
JUST AS MUCH CONTROL.

I'M GLAD WE GOT IT DONE.

COMMON SENSE

AND WHAT I... I KNEW INTUITIVELY
WOULD WORK, PROVED ITSELF.

I'M A HAPPY CAMPER.

THIS IS THE KIND OF THING
THAT WE HAD HOPED FOR

AND IT HAPPENED BECAUSE
FROM THE VERY BEGINNING

WE BELIEVED THAT IF WE ACTED
AND THOUGHT LIKE THE EGYPTIANS

THAT WE WOULD HAVE A SUCCESS.

YOU KNOW, THE EGYPTIANS
WERE LEARNING

THROUGH KEEN OBSERVATION

LOOKING CAREFULLY
AT ALL THE DETAILS.

THEY LEARNED HOW
THESE MATERIALS BEHAVED

AND ONCE THEY UNDERSTOOD THAT,
THEY USED THOSE FORCES OF NATURE

TO BE ABLE TO DO SOMETHING
AS MAGNIFICENT AS THIS.

Keach:
WHEN THE GREAT OBELISKS OF EGYPT
WERE POINTED TO THE SKY

THE ENGINEERS IN CHARGE
OF THE RAISING

WOULD HAVE DONE ALL THEY COULD

TO PROTECT
THE PHARAOH'S MONUMENT.

MOST LIKELY, THE PROCESS
WAS SLOW AND PAINSTAKING

RELYING ON HUMAN SWEAT
AND THE GENTLE FORCE OF SAND.

THE METHOD MAY HAVE BEEN SIMPLE,
BUT THE RESULT WAS SPECTACULAR.

NEXT WEEK,
STONE GIANTS WEIGHING TONS

MOVED BY ROPE, WOOD
AND BRUTE STRENGTH ALONE.

NOW NOVA TRIES TO MOVE A
MEGALITH THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY

BUT CAN THEY GET IT UP?

"EASTER ISLAND"
ON SECRETS OF LOST EMPIRES.

NAVIGATE YOUR OWN WAY

THROUGH THE TOMBS AND TEMPLES

OF ANCIENT EGYPT.

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

ON NOVA'S WEB SITE.

TO ORDER THE SECRETS OF
LOST EMPIRES FIVE-VIDEO SET

WITH A FREE
FAMILY ACTIVITY BOOK

PLEASE CALL WGBH BOSTON VIDEO
AT 1-800-255-9424.

THE FAMILY ACTIVITY BOOK
IS ALSO AVAILABLE SEPARATELY

FOR SHIPPING AND HANDLING ONLY.

CAN MATHEMATICS
BEAT THE MARKET?

MEET THE MAN WHO MADE
THE "TRILLION DOLLAR BET"

NEXT ON NOVA.

NOVA IS A PRODUCTION
OF WGBH BOSTON.