The Mysteries of Ancient Structures


Bruce Gulland and Liz Waid look at ancient places like Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids. These structures were built without modern tools. But how – and why?

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Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Bruce Gulland.

Voice 2  

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

In modern-day cities people build, or construct, large structures every day. Engineers use huge machines and modern construction technology like computers and even robots. And yet, thousands of years ago, people around the world built huge structures without this technology. Some of these ancient structures still exist today in places like the United Kingdom, Egypt and even on islands in the Pacific Ocean. Today’s Spotlight is on ancient structures that humans made thousands of years ago. Why did people make them, and how?

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In a field in the United Kingdom, some very large stones stand in a circle. These stones weigh up to 25 tonnes each. They are standing up on one end. They are up to nine metres tall. Other large stones sit across the top of two of the standing stones. This is Stonehenge. It is an ancient place that experts think people built at least 5000 years ago.

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At that time, there was no modern technology at all. No-one is sure how ancient people moved the large stones hundreds of kilometres from their places of origin to their final home. And no-one is sure how the stones were lifted into position.

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People have different ideas about how places such as Stonehenge were built. Some experts think ancient people used some sort of basic technology both to move the stones across land and to lift them. Some people think that the natural processes of the earth helped transport materials for places like Stonehenge. For example, maybe the large stones were moved there by ice glaciers. Other people think changes in land and water-ways may answer some questions about ancient construction. Places that are now very dry may have been under water.

Voice 1

The Egyptians built the famous Pyramids at Giza about 4,500 years ago. These large structures have four sides shaped like triangles. The sides join at a sharp point at the top. The highest point on the Great Pyramid at Giza is about 140 metres tall. Ancient Egyptians built the pyramids from millions of large pieces of stone. These rocks weigh up to 15 tonnes each. They are too heavy for humans to lift.

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Many thousands of workers built the pyramids. But we cannot know for sure how. They may have used boats on rivers that are now dry. They may have used other technology that we do not know about. To know more about the pyramids, people study the objects and art that were discovered in them. Peter Der Manuelian is an expert on Egyptian history. He tells National Geographic:

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“Many people think of the pyramids as just a place to bury dead Kings. They are a lot more than that. In these tombs you have wonderful pictures of every part of life in ancient Egypt. It is not just about how Egyptians died but how they lived. Almost any subject you want to study about their culture is painted on the tomb walls at Giza.”

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So the Pyramids may even give us some answers about their own construction! Daniel Bonn is a physics professor. He found new evidence about building from an ancient Egyptian painting. He saw a picture of a person pouring water on the sand in front of the pyramids. His team did some experiments and made a new discovery. They found that heavy objects moved more easily over wet sand. Maybe Ancient Egyptians slid the pieces of rock over wet sand?

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Scientists and historians are not the only people who wonder about ancient construction. Other people also have ideas and even do experiments. A man named Wally Wallington from the United States is very interested in the structures at Stonehenge. He used to work as a construction worker. Now he experiments with moving large stones like the ones at Stonehenge.

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Wallington has moved and lifted stones weighing up to nine tons by himself. Wallington shows us that humans can build large structures without modern equipment. Wallington explains his methods:

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“I have tried to do this without any mechanical machinery at all. I have used mostly sticks and stones for my equipment. No pulleys, no hoists, no metal levers. I just try to use gravity too. I believe that is my favourite tool.”

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But how people moved large rocks and stones is not the only mystery about ancient construction. Historians show that people all over the world constructed buildings that are very similar. Ancient walls in Central America, Africa and the Pacific Islands have stones connected to each other in the same ways. And the pieces of stone used to build the Pyramids in Egypt are very similar to those used in China and across the ocean in Peru. How did this happen when there was no way to communicate between these far-away places? Did ancient people in different places discover similar things at the same time?

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People also do not know why some of these ancient structures were built. For example, some people think that Stonehenge was a place to study the stars. Other people believe it was a holy place for religious ceremonies.

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But we have some ideas about why some other ancient places were built. The pyramids at Giza were burial places for the ancient kings and queens of Egypt. Many similar ancient structures were put up by powerful leaders. These buildings provided a place to gather and have ceremonies. But they also showed the power of strong leaders.

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Ancient structures such as Stonehenge, the Pyramids, and others still amaze people. Kara Cooney is a professor of Egyptian art and architecture. She thinks it possible the Ancient Egyptians did not want to record how the pyramids were built.  She thinks it could be part of how they created a story of their greatness. She tells history.com:

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“The pyramids are there as mountains of stone proving the powerful nature of their god-kings. You stand in front of those pyramids. You feel it is impossible to build such a thing. That means that the story of the greatness of the Kings is still working.”

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Have you seen any of these ancient structures? Which ones would you like to see? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 1  

The writer of this programme was Rena Dam. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “The Mysteries of Ancient Structures.”

Voice 2  

Visit our website to download our free official app for Android and Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Have you ever seen Stonehenge or the Pyramids? Would you like to see them?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Belal
said on September 23, 2019

I’m realy happy because I am Egyptian

Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on September 24, 2019

I’ve seen these monuments only on photos and films. Next year I’ll go to the UK and intend to visit Stonehenge.
By the way, President Juscelino Kubstchek had led the Brasília construction, in about three years, in the middle of the XX century. It was an herculean job, with thousands and thousands of workers, day after day, weeks after weeks, months after months, untiredly they building the Brazilian new capital, in the middle of nothing. I think it was like the construction of pyramids…
Sorry, but I am so proud of my people, because I know what we are capable, don’t matter what kind of government we have…

 

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on October 03, 2019

From .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
to spotlight program
Subject to answer the questions below
Location São Paulo city SP Brazil
Thursday 03, October 2019

Dear Liz Waid, Rena Dam, Bruce Gulland, and Michio Ozaki

I want to thank you for producer this great article for us.
Question 1 - Have you ever seen Stonehenge or the Pyramids?
Answer 1 - No, never. I have ever seen Stonehenge or Pyramids on television only, like that you have just shown us and Mexico’s Pyramids.
Question 2 - Would you like to see them?
Answer 2 - Yes, I would.
Thank you and God bless you.
Your regards,
Severino Ramos
Brazil