Rocks of ages

A treatise why we've kept piling heavy stuff up for thousands of years.

Peter Warland

“Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.” (Ozimandias, by Shelley)

“They call this place Chicken Pizza,” said a male voice with a definite London accent. This was at Chichen Itza, in Mexico. I gave a wry grin; I’m good at wry grins.

The female clinging to the man’s arm said in a similar accent, “It’s nice ‘ere, init?” There are places in England where London tourists are labelled ‘inits’ after their penchant for using the expression. More wry grin from me.

But then the man said something very archaeological. “How come they kep piling up them whacking great rocks? Din they ‘ave nuffink else to do?”

And this very question has worried me from the first time I saw Stonehenge until now. Why have human beings developed this penchant for piling impossibly great rocks up into henges, pyramids, palaces and even funeral mounds?

GEORGE: Wonder what they’ll put on my grave.

FELICITY: Something heavy, I hope.

No matter where you go these days, you’ll be shown huge edifices erected thousands of years ago. Take a tour to Peru and be shown Machu Pichu, to Guatemala for Tikal with towering ruins peering from the forests, to Egypt for the pyramids at Giza, to Cambodia for Angkor Wat and even to the Orkney Islands, up there at the sharp end of Britain. On a special show on ‘Knowledge’ a wee Scot was showing the world the massive stone walls apparently erected over 5,000 years ago. What got into those folk?

Fiona: Whit are ye gaun t’ dae the day, Angus?

Angus: Me an’ Wullie are gaun tae pile a wheen o’ great muckle stanes whilst ye cairry oan an’ oan wi’ yer  back-brakin’ wark, the noo!

Professor Unsinn Quatsch of Dummheit University, Estupido, Ca., having spent his life studying the Old Testament, believes that the serious rock stacking business began back when Adam and Eve were hanging out in the Garden of Eden and Adam was bored out of his mind. His numberless sons were bored too and so Eve suggested politely that, instead of slewing each other, like Cain and Abel, they might have fun making heaps out of rocks, monstrous great heaps.

Eve: Why don’t you boys find something useful to do before wives get invented? They’ll find all sorts of stuff for you to do. Go and make tall things out of rocks.

Adam: Watch out for that serpent, and quietly. I’ve got a headache from procreating.

And so it began.

But they couldn’t have been very good masons because, years later, somebody tootling on a trumpet knocked the walls of Jericho flat.

Anyway, I don’t think that weirdo professor got it right at all. People have slaved on walls, pyramids, graves and monstrous stone statues because they were conned into doing it, probably, by the same smart-asses that invented deities for folk to fear and pray to. Those people became intoxicated with their own silly stories and so bewitched the local peasants to break their naïve backs in order to erect huge things that the con-men or priests themselves will be remembered by. King Louis the Umpteenth of France, par example, didn’t order the building of a cathedral to honour his god. He had it raised on the backs of his long-suffering serfs in order to glorify his own name. It served no other real purpose.

Of course it doesn’t always work. Nobody can remember who started the rage on Easter Island, out there in the Pacific Ocean, to cut out massive great blocks of rock then roll them on tree trunks, stand them on end on the seaside and then, just for laughs, haul slightly smaller boulders, only the size of Smart cars, then put them on the top. Whoever, it was that had that bright idea, eventually caused the island to be denuded of trees.

Og: We thought about which way to face them and had huge arguments. I won.

Mrs Og: That one looks like your Mum first thing in the morning, red face and all. But it’s nice ‘ere on this island, init?

Just Posted

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. Photo courtesy Conservative Party of Canada.
MP Morrison appointed to parliamentary national security committee

Kootenay-Columbia parliamentarian one of five candidates appointed to national security committee

Repaving of Victoria Ave (3rd St. S. to 11th St. S.) began on Monday, June 12. Drivers are asked to please avoid the area for the remainder of the day, if possible. Please watch for and obey directions from flaggers and signage, as the detours will be moving regularly. Photo courtesy City of Cranbrook.
Road construction, repaving programs well underway

Local road construction and repaving work continue apace, as summer programs get… Continue reading

Vendors and customers at one of the Cranbrook markets in 2020. (Corey Bullock/Cranbrook Townsman file)
Cranbrook Farmers Market updates operating hours for the summer

Markets will continue to run from 10a.m. to 1p.m. until October 30th

City council passed first reading of a text amendment to a downtown zoning bylaw that would permit the land use for a craft brewery. Photo courtesy City of Cranbrook.
Downtown zoning amendment allowing craft brewery passes first reading

An application is moving forward that will tweak a downtown zoning bylaw… Continue reading

City council deferred moving forward on a proposed development in Wildstone, requesting a meeting with the developer to get clarification on project details. Photo submitted.
Cranbrook city council debates proposed Wildstone development

Cranbrook city council held off on moving forward with a proposed apartment… Continue reading

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in B.C. city

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

An inmate in solitary confinement given lunch on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN/Lars Hagberg
22-hour cap on solitary confinement for youth in custody still too long: B.C. lawyer

Jennifer Metcalfe was horrified to hear a youth had spent a total of 78 straight days in isolation

Old growth in the Columbia Valley, in the Kinbasket area. (Photo submitted)
Wildsight: Old-growth forests are being logged in Golden

Wildsight says that Canfor has been logging old growth at the Blaeberry headwaters

at the library
What’s on at the Cranbrook Public Library

By Mike Selby The Library is now open with extended hours (with… Continue reading

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

COVID-related trash is washing up on shorelines across the world, including Coldstream’s Kal Beach, as pictured in this May 2021 photograph. (Jennifer Smith - Black Press)
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Most Read