Ancient Baalbek


a deeper look at the stones


In Lebanon's Becca Valley stand the ruins of what was the largest Roman Temple in the world. Yet as important as the Jupiter temple at Baalbek was in Roman times, there are those who believe the site is far more ancient, indeed, that the giant 800 ton stones used here (and nowhere else) by the Romans were from a previous structure, one so ancient that we have no knowledge of who built it or the culture it represents.

Scholars insist that evidence of only Roman occupation has been found here. Perhaps they are correct. Yet the only other stones in Roman works approaching this size I am aware of are three found near the base of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, also a site that may have roots much older than known history.

Here is an old photo of a portion of the rear wall of the Temple:

Baalbec


This image does seem to show two distinctive styles of stone blocks - the stones at the left are regular shaped and beveled at the edges. This was noted by von Richter and S. Wolcott in the early nineteenth century as similar to stonework in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem (source) which would place the age of that portion of the structure at something like 3000 years. It must be noted that the Romans did extensive construction in Jerusalem also. The large blocks are not beveled at the edges. Here is the same photo with numbers added:

Baalbek


First, so you can know what you are seeing, look just below the number "5". That little black figure is a man, perhaps with a top hat(?). The scale of this photograph is much larger than it appears at first glance.

Blocks 1 and 2 are two of the famous Trilithon - three enormous stones each 14 X 12 X 64 feet and weighing an estimated 800 tons (700,000 kg). Blocks 3 and 4 are two of a row of 300 ton giant stones that circles the ruins of the temple. The stones shown have been given an angle inwards on their top half. Neither the large stones or the smaller stones show much weathering, but look at block number 6 (above number 1) - this block appears to be highly weathered, or perhaps less finished, unlike any other in the picture.

The most curious part of this photo is the few stones on the left. The bottom stone at the corner of the building is angled from the ground level. Moving up, there are three courses of smaller blocks, not what one would expect for strength at a corner, and the fourth course has to become thinner to compensate for block 1. If these stones were all cut purposely for this building at the same time, one would expect them to fit. The upper courses on the left side end abruptly at block 6, and a clear divide appears between the left courses and block 6 up to the top of the photo. A mason would not intentionally create a vertical row like that to the left of stone 6 - it is far stronger to stagger the stones.

One comes to the conclusion that we are seeing at least two phases of construction, blocks 1 - 2 and 3 - 4 and perhaps 6 and above being earlier, those above 5 being added later. It was common to rebuild temples and to re-use portions of old construction when building. It would be more surprising if signs of this type were not visible at Baalbek.

None of this, of course, gives any indication of when the large blocks were cut. Also unknown is why the Romans placed their largest temple so far from home. Evidence of occupation of the site from 2900 BC has been discovered. Was this site far more ancient and are remnants of earlier temples still buried in the area?

Baalbek must stand as an unanswered ancient mystery.


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Baalbek distant
Baalbek - by David Roberts, 1839.