Perspectives in stone

It is not every day that you get a graphic demonstration of one of the mysteries of the ancient world, especially not in your own garden. Or, in this case, your son’s. But that was exactly what we got when the gardener installed the new granite benches next to the pond. To ensure their stability, it had been decided that the three pieces of stone for each bench would not only be glued but also drilled and held in place with steel rods through the flagstones. A simple enough job, you would think, if you have the right tools.

The industrial drill, equipped with a massive bit and the weight of a man on top of that, began its work. It ate through the sandstone flags in seconds, then began boring a hole in the first piece of granite. The heat generated by the friction meant we had to cool both metal and stone frequently with water, but even so, after half an hour’s solid drilling, the hole was barely an inch deep. It would obviously take hours to drill the four holes to the required depth, even with the heavy duty equipment.

My mind went back to a day at the British Museum and the colossal granite and basalt figures there that are a mere fraction of the size of those that remain in Egypt. I thought too of the great stone boxes of the Serapeum at Saqqara. Weighing around a hundred tons apiece, there are around twenty of them, cut from granite a thousand miles away, with each lid and box being cut each from the same piece of stone. There is mystery enough in why stone should be transported so far, without wondering just how they moved them, how they got them inside underground tunnels a mere two feet wider than the boxes or around corners too tight for them to pass. Let alone the awe at the precision engineering that cut their sides and corners to within a few thousandths of an inch. And all this, thousands of years ago, with wedges of wet wood and tools made of soft copper.

As another half hour passed and the industrial drill had still made little impression on the granite benches, I could understand why there are so many theories, from the scientific to the outlandish, about how the ancients managed such feats. From aliens to Atlanteans, from magic to lost machinery, just about every possible idea had been advanced and, without any incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, such theories will probably continue to abound.

As I watched modern machinery struggle to cope with a tiny block of granite, I was more in awe than ever of the skill of our ancestors. I have ideas, but no theories to advance except to state that stone was their technology and perhaps they understood how to work with it in ways we have lost or forgotten. The sophistication of the Egyptian monuments appeals to the modern eye and we can easily relate to them, appreciating their beauty, majesty and craftsmanship.

In Britain, our monuments are just as old and often much older than the pyramids and temples of Egypt. They are often perceived as simpler and are even called ‘crude’ because they are less ‘finished’ than their Egyptian counterparts. Yet, they are beautiful in their own right and their raw presence holds a power that polished stone lacks. Built as part of vast sacred landscapes, each with their own astronomical alignments, the sacred sites of Albion encompass earth, stone and the heavens.

Egypt has a special place in my heart, for all I have yet to see it for myself. Its mythology has come down to us almost whole and the stories have a depth of symbolism that seems to mirror modern thought on the origins of the universe, quantum theory and psychology. Yet, I have to wonder whether we are right to see the ancient art of Egypt as the epitome of spiritual engineering in the ancient world, even though its undoubted beauty and precision has earned that accolade for its stonemasons and goldsmiths. I think we need to look at the artefacts of other cultures without comparison and as the products of a different paradigm and perspective.

To stand within one of the great stone circles as the sun sets behind the hills is to feel at one with land, sky, stone and flesh. It is a moment of kinship between earth, humanity and spirit. Raw, visceral… the stones do not bow to the outer form but embrace it.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
This entry was posted in albion, Ancestors, Ancient Egypt, Ancient sites, archaeology, mystery, Photography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Perspectives in stone

  1. jenanita01 says:

    Thought provoking… I would love to go back in time, just to solve this mystery…


  2. scifihammy says:

    I’m not saying it was Aliens . . . 😀
    Seriously, a great post that really makes you wonder just how the ancients achieved all they did! 🙂
    And I hope you got your stable stone benches in the end! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another fascinating post Sue and I agree about our own ancient monuments, we have some very simple but stunning ones here in Ireland and there is nothing quite like seeing the sunrise from the top of a grassy burial mound.. and that garden is going to look so stylish.. xx


  4. quiall says:

    So much of our past is hidden from us. Perhaps it should remain a mystery . . . A question for scholars and curious minds.


  5. fransiweinstein says:

    You have made me wonder how they managed to do what they did back then. And I’m also curious to know how thing’s turned out with your son’s benches. From the little peek you gave us, his garden is going to be very beautiful.


  6. I love the photo of Nick intently watching the construction of his garden.


  7. willowdot21 says:

    Some amazing thoughts Sue. Did the man with the drill have success. 💜


  8. Eliza Waters says:

    It must be a US thing, but I looked at the worker drilling and Nick near by, and immediately thought where is the eye and ear protection? Our OSHA laws have been obviously well assimilated! 😉 Did the holes ever get drilled or did you just go with the epoxy?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      If we’d stuck with the letter of Health and Safety regs all these years, Nick would not have made the recovery he has 😉 Respect…but not slavery.
      The benches were drilled, but it took most of the day, in the end, for the small shallow holes.


  9. TamrahJo says:

    “Built to last’ does, for me, tie all of them together for yet another, stand in awe of what has gone before me, moment – love this and thanks for the beauty shared… :). I personally find the stone circles in your neck of the woods just as confounding and awesome as the pyramids, temples and such sprinkled around the world – in short, I mostly stand in awe, and then, my brain and heart start asking, “How abundant and congenial was a society to spend those resources and work together for years, or generations, without swerving much from the original plan? Or adding to it? Or improving it when some genius came up with a new way of trying, instead of spending the lifetime of said genius, poo-poohing their idea? sigh – – true beauty and built to last rarely occurs in 2.5 second or quarterly reports world, in my preferred ‘land’ but, then, what do I know?


  10. Widdershins says:

    I wonder if the ‘ancient’s monuments seem impossible to our eyes because from our modern perspective, technology involves machines, high-tech and massive, whereas to them technology meant simpler solutions and massive amounts of labour.


  11. That has got to be one of the hardest stone combinations anywhere. I always wondered not only why they did it, but what tools they used and how they got it so finely finished.


  12. Jennie says:

    Excellent post, Sue. It puts into perspective what can be done, and it boggles the mind to think how the simplest of tools can create a masterpiece. I love how your mind works, seeing more than meets the eye.


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