This article appears in Ancient American
magazine February 1997.
All content (c)
1998, Laura Lee,Seven Directions Media Inc.
No duplication without permission.
All Rights Reserved.
found much to marvel over during a recent trip to
Egypt. Most marveling over ancient stonework
focuses on the size of the huge stone blocks in
the Great Pyramid, and how they were put into
place. But I was enchanted by an aspect of
ancient stonemasonry that gets little press, yet
offers tangible clues to another mystery. Cairo
Museum's Old Kingdom rooms are full of vases,
bowls, large lidded boxes, and statues, carved
from schist, diorite, granite and obsidian, that
defy simple answers to the question, "how
did ancient sculptors carve this hard igneous
rock with such precision?" Surely not with
pounding balls, and copper and stone tools, as
suggested by Egyptologists.
After our tour, my husband Paul and I spent a
full day in the museum, where we could leisurely
examine the wonders therein. To our eyes, the
oldest artifacts have an austere,
"modern" look, with their clean lines
and perfect proportions, that make the New
Kingdom items seem baroque by comparison. The big
stone boxes wore marks, in corners where two
curved lines came together, for example, that
even I could guess were made by machine tools. I
was especially puzzled by life-size diorite and
granite statues with satin-smooth surfaces, and
precisely, delicately carved features. On the
base of several statues, a few crooked rows of
crudely-drawn, rough-edged hieroglyphs had been
chipped in. Now this is more the look you get
with chisels on hard stone. I imagined those
hieroglyphs to be the equivalent of graffiti on a
fine work of art, a later addition to an heirloom
antique. Two very different techniques implies
two different dates. And why use a lesser
technique, unless the first, superior technique
had been lost?
When the standards are inadequate, new theories
arise. So I went looking for them. I find great
benefit in crossing disciplines. Following the
trail of evidence, to see where it leads, often
requires stepping outside the constraints of the
preconceived notions of one field. So I went
looking, not among Egyptologists or
archeologists, but to those who would know about
rocks and tools. I found two independent
researchers, a geologist and a machine tool
manufacturer, to see what the stone artifacts
could tell us, and what the marks left behind by
precision machine tools looked like.
Both were recent guests on "The Laura Lee
Show," the weekly, nationally syndicated
radio interview/talk show that I host. Here is
Ivan Watkins is a Professor of Geology,
Department of Earth Sciences, at St. Cloud
University in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He is
investigating the finished surface of Inca
stonemasonry. He says the surface of stone, at
the microscopic level, indicates how it was, or
wasn't, worked. "And you can rule out the
standard issue explanations when it comes to
ancient Inca stonemasonry, which is very similar
to that of Egypt," he says.
Watkins explains that soft rock is easy to cut;
granite and the other hard igneous rocks are
difficult. Granite contains 15 to 30% quartz
crystals, and a few other minerals of varying
degrees of hardness, which is important when
viewing the signature marks left in stone under
the microscope. The methods that are supposed to
have been used by the ancients, such as pounding,
hammering, grinding, polishing with abrasives,
and wedging, just don't match up with what
Watkins sees under the microscope.
What he sees, in the case of hammering, is rock
wanting to break along pre-existing planes of
weakness. When river sand, which is mostly
quartz, is used to grind and polish rock with
quartz, the softer minerals in the rock are
sanded out, while the quartz crystals, little
affected, are left standing above the rest of the
minerals on the surface. In the case of wedging
rock, Watkins finds the absence of low-angle
fractures, and no ability to control the cracking
of the rock. On a surface worked with pounding
stones, all the minerals are unevenly fractured.
All of which is incompatible with what Watkins
sees with Inca stonemasonry. What he does see on
some Inca stones are slick surfaces, at Machu
Picchu and Ollantaytambo, and the Rodadero at
Sacsayhuaman, still used as a slide by children.
Similar to a ceramic glaze, heat can melt quartz
fragments into a glaze that fills in
irregularities, creating a smooth surface..
In an effort to discover just how such surfaces
could have been obtained by ancient cultures,
Watkins went looking for modern technology that
produces a similar signature. He found an
important clue in the work of geologist David
Lindroth, at the US Bureau of Mines, Twin Cities
Research Center. Lindroth was using 100 watts of
light energy, focused to a circle of 2 mm, to cut
through any rock, in a process called
"thermal disaggregation." The cuts were
only 2 mm deep, but repeated passes can cut
through rock of any size, he reports. Quartzite
fragments quite easily with this process while
basalt melt. And, he concludes, Inca stone
surfaces are similar to those that have been
What about a process that could cut stone,
produce this signature, and used an energy source
available to the Inca? Watkins found another clue
in the bracelet worn by a modern-day priest in
Cuzco. In the yearly Festival of the Sun, fire
must be given by the hand of the sun. The
ceremony requires lighting wisps of cotton on
fire by using the suns rays, which are
concentrated with a highly polished, concave
indentation on a large gold bracelet. The
bracelet is similar to those worn by ancient
Then Watkins noticed large parabolic gold bowls
in a museum in Peru. "These bowls weren't
meant to sit on a table holding fruit; they'd
roll around the table. They must have been used
for something else. They are just the right shape
and material for catching the sun's rays, and
focusing them into a beam of light."
Sun light strong enough to cut stone? Watkins
suggests ancient Inca stonemasons heated and cut
stone by using a series of very large gold
parabolic reflectors to concentrate and focus
solar energy. He points to the
Conquistadors records mentioning an Inca
golden dish so large, it spanned the length of
two men (it was cut up for poker chips before it
was melted into ingots and carried back to
Spain); to those big granite bedrock posts at
Machu Picchu as possible supports for the
mirrors; the fact that Peru, like Egypt gets
strong sunlight all year long; and that gold is
at its most reflective when its alloyed with
silver. (Interesting that some pyramidions, or
capstones, found in Egypt were made of electrum,
an 80/20 ratio of gold to silver.) Watkin's
research led him to develop a solar-powered
device for cutting and polishing stone, for which
he received a patent, application #4611857.
Now let me introduce you to our guest who reads
the signature of precision machine tools, even
when he sees them in places that just can't
be, according to Egyptologists. And read
them he did, from core drills more efficient that
our diamond bits today, to "space- age
precision" planing, to intersecting lathe
Chris Dunn, now in senior management at Danville
Metal Stamping in Danville, Illinois, has spent
much of his career working with machinery for
jet-engine components, and non-conventional
manufacturing methods such as laser processing
and electrical discharge machining. He also
brings a fresh perspective to viewing an ancient
artifact, describing himself as
"unencumbered with dates and histories and
Two visits to Egypt, for personal inspections of
selected artifacts, had him asking "how was
this created? How, precisely, is this engineered?
what tools were used to make this?" His
opinion of the tools on display as the
instruments by which many ancient artifacts were
created: "they are simply physically
incapable of reproducing those artifacts today.
So why should I believe they could do so
thousands of years ago?" Logical enough.
And it does not deter him that ancient tools
capable of reproducing these artifacts have not
been unearthed. "The tools haven't yet been
found, but that shouldn't stop us from deducing
what they were, by the marks left on the
artifacts," he says. What marks? According
to Dunns investigation, the marks of
sophisticated sawing, drilling, lathe, and
milling practices, and a standard of even, level,
flat surface planes impossible to achieve by
Theres the diorite bowl in the Cairo Museum
that appears to have been cut on a lathe. Dunn
points out the simple stone bowl has a
"sharp cusp, where two spherical, concave
radii intersected. This indicates the radii were
cut on two separate axes of rotation. Cutting
stone on a turning lathe is a pretty
sophisticated use of a wheel."
And how to explain the spherical, stone drill
cores, the piece removed when a round hole is
cut? Dunn points out that ancient drill cores
fascinated famed British Egyptologist Sir
Flinders Petrie, who first established, by
examining the cores and the holes left behind in
the stone, that a tubular drill was used, the
same as we use today.
Dunn found, in "Pyramids and Temples of
Giza," published in 1883, that Petrie had
calculated the rate of descent of this ancient
tubular drill, by measuring the distance between
the spiral grooves it left behind on the core, as
1/10th of an inch per revolution. Which means,
according to Dunn, that these ancient drills cut
through solid granite with a feed rate 500 times
greater than today's diamond drills.
"I presented Petries astonishing
calculations to other craftsman, asking them to
determine what possible method could create that
same feed rate, and the other characteristics we
see in ancient drill cores, such as the hole and
core tapering into the stone, and grooves cut
deeper in quartz than in feldspar," says
Dunn. "Most gave up. Only one figured it
out, and he independently came up with the same
method I did." What method is that?
How do we use sound today to cut through rock?
Dunn explains, "todays ultrasonic
drills use very high frequency vibration, sound,
traveling through a medium. It induces a tool to
oscillate, or reciprocate back and forth about
19,00 to 25,000 hertz, in a rapid grinding
process. A paste or slurry stimulates the cutting
action." Modern ultrasonic machine-bits are
used for the precision machining of odd-shaped
holes in hard, brittle materials. It is
significant that ultrasonic drills cut through
quartz more easily than through the feldspar of
granite. "Ultrasound gets the quartz in the
granite vibrating in sympathy, and therefore cuts
more easily," says Dunn..
Then there's the so-called sarcophagus in the
King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid. (Why assume
it was meant to hold dead bodies, when no bodies,
mummified or other, were ever found in the Great
Pyramid? Was it instead a chamber of initiation?
Or did it have something to do with the Ark of
the Covenant, since the Ark's outside dimensions
are said to be a perfect fit to the sarcophagus'
inside dimensions?) Dunn points out the end piece
of this granite box, the side facing north, bears
saw marks that are very similar to saw marks on
todays granite surface plates. What is a
surface plate? "They are precision- ground,
flat blocks that serve as a reference plane when
measuring other flat planes in the manufacturing
process. Granite is used, because its
stable and extremely hard. Metal surface plates
can swell. Granite surface plates
dont," explains Dunn.
And this is why he finds it intriguing that the
big black granite boxes in the Serapeum at
Sakkara were only roughed out when first brought
into underground chambers with quite different
atmospheric conditions than the dry outside air.
(We deduce this from one rough-cut box that still
sits in a corridor, having never made it to its
chamber.) Once inside the chambers, after the
stone had a chance to adapt to the atmosphere,
was it then finished. This helped the granite
retain its precise dimensions.
And "space age precision" is how Dunn
describes the level surface of the inside of the
Great Pyramid's sarcophagus, or granite box, and
those of the Serapeum. He brought along a
portable instrument which measures the accuracy
of a level surface, and shone a flashlight behind
a straight edge held against the smooth sides. No
light escaped between the straight edge and the
granite to indicate slight imperfections.
"Of course, to really measure it, Id
like to bring in laser surface scanning
equipment. But from my quick measurements, I'd
say it was so even, so level, it would be
impossible to achieve that by hand," says
Still, why was such precision needed? After all,
you don't go to all that trouble for no reason.
So it's an open question as to exactly what the
builders were doing with these artifacts.
Unfortunately, these stonemasons werent
giving away any secrets, or writing them down.
Judging by the Freemasons, architects and
builders who, some say, trace their lineage back
to mystery schools of ancient Egypt, they were a
secretive lot. This too does not deter Dunn.
"The interpretation and understanding of a
civilization's level of technology cannot hinge
on the preservation of a written record for every
technique that they developed," he says.
What about the preservation of an artifact? In
this case, these precision tools. Where are they?
What were they made of? Copper is just not tough
enough for this kind of work. "Ferrous metal
tools would have rusted away by now,"
Petrie, who was the leading Egyptologist of his
day, also determined that saws nine feet in
length were used by the ancient Egyptians, and
noticed that, during the construction of the
Great Pyramids sarcophagus, the drill had
wondered away from its course, leaving a scallop
cut a little deeper in the corner. Yet
todays Egyptologist never seem to mention
such curiosities. I wonder how they can overlook
such rock-hard evidence, forsaking the
opportunity for sound forensic science.
When a theory cannot adequately explain the
evidence, lets throw out the theories, not
the evidence. Personally, Ive found it
helpful to become comfortable with the unknown,
to be wary of easy answers, and to follow the
clues provided by the anomalies. Which after all,
are anomalies only because they, for now, lie
outside our intellectual comfort zone.
Now I must share with you my other favorite story
of the year: Pyramids in China, long rumored, are
finally confirmed, and they look a lot like those
Since 1945, when U.S. Air Force pilot James
Gaussman, flying over a large earthen mound in a
remote section of China, snapped a picture, this
single photo of a shadowy, pyramidal form was one
of the few clues that China had pyramids.
In 1994, German researcher Hartwig Hausdorf was
invited to the Forbidden zone in China's Shensi
Province. There, he saw over a hundred pyramids,
and was allowed to climb, photograph, and
videotape them. Here is what Hausdorf shared with
me in recent correspondence:
The Shensi pyramids are made of clay, and have
become nearly stone-hard over the centuries. They
are without decoration. Carved stones stand in
front of a few pyramids. Many are heavily eroded
or damaged by farming. They are flat topped,
reminiscent of the pyramids of Meso-America. One
pyramid stood tall, reminding Hausdorf of
Teotihuacans Pyramid of the Sun, in Mexico.
Some of the pyramids are large enough to be seen
from space. Hausdorf mentions an article in the
March 1994 issue of the Chinese newspaper
"Xian Wanbao" in which it was reported
that a U.S. astronaut took photos of nine dark
spots in the Shensi region. When developed, an
enlargement revealed nine pyramids the size of a
Many of the pyramids were designed along the
golden mean proportion, as was much ancient
architecture around the world. This is the case
in the only stone pyramid so far located in
China. In Shandong, there is a 50 foot tall stone
pyramid of a different style, no steps, topped
with a little temple. The golden proportion,
0.618, is also found in the great Shensi pyramid.
Divide the height by the base (approximately 300
meters divided by 485 meters).
The pyramids stand alone, or in rows of three, or
in clusters. (And when mapped, will some turn out
to be configured along key constellations, as the
three Giza pyramids are found to imitate the
placement of the three belt stars of Orion?)
Hausdorf talked with one Shensi archeologist who
is of the opinion that there must be an
astronomical connection and alignment of the
pyramids around Xian, and who reported that
additional pyramids were recently found north of
Xian city; one of which stands exactly on the
geometric center of the old Chinese empire.
How old are China's pyramids? One clue comes from
the 1910 diaries of two Australian traders, who
noted what an old Buddhist monk told them ---
that in the 5,000 year old records of his
monastery, those pyramids are mentioned,
described even then as being very old.
Dont miss the opportunity to talk with
Hausdorf live, on The Laura Lee Show in August.
Prof. Ivan Watkins
For a detailed examination of Prof. Ivan Watkins
research, see "How Did the Incas Create Such
Beautiful Stonemasonry?" in "Rocks and
Minerals" Vol. 65 Nov/Dec 1990, or write to
him c/o St.Cloud University, St. Cloud, MN, 56301-4498.
For the Chris Dunns article, click here
To view a few of the Pyramids of China, click here.
Hartwig Hausdorf is the author of "The White
Pyramid" and "Satellite of the
Gods," not yet available in English.
Hausdorf, who lives in Munich, will be here in
the U.S. in August lecturing to the Ancient
Astronaut Society in Orlando, and the A.R.E. in
Virginia Beach. He is scheduled to be a guest on
The Laura Lee Show on August 2nd or 9th. 1997