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3 Moving Stone

Whether in large blocks or sifted rubble, stone needs to be gathered and distributed. Despite its awkward weight stone has travelled some amazing distances. Neolithic stone ceremonial tools are found very far from the source of the stone. These could be carried but even huge megaliths like those at Stonehenge traveled great distances. When the cathedrals in Europe were being built, there was an effort to use stone that had been quarried nearby. This may have been to diminish the effort of transport but it is frequently said that buildings built with local stone weather better. For restoration of some older buildings using local stone may be difficult because often the original quarries are either exhausted or they have often been filled in and built over as the cities expanded. Similar stone may have to be found in equivalent geological strata much further away. For Gloucester cathedral the equivalent strata of stone was found in France, and stone to restore the building now comes from there.


From the now defunct Longstone Ope quarry limestone blocks were lowered from cranes built on the cliff edge to barges in the English Channel. Portland, EnglandNumbered blocks of limestone marked with the cubic dimensions of useable material. Albion Stone, Portland, England


A time-lapsed film of a quarry would show blocks fanning out from the quarry cup in all directions. As the blocks are freed from their horizontal and vertical attachment they are moved out of the way. Lifting devices [lb3] such as windlasses, capstans, pulley wheels, or cranes lift the stone out of the quarry and out of the way for continuing work. In the medieval quarry at Caen, a wheel six meters in diameter was used to lift the stone. The edge of the quarry is the key point in an elaborate distribution system, where sorting is the first act of distribution. In dispersal is where we find the value. Every stone has a 'from' and a 'to.' Today quarries on Portland Island mark each stone as it leaves for a specific building project, recording the exact place and strata from which that stone was extracted. This allows for matching if needed but also is a record of how different strata might weather.

Often quarried blocks are so heavy that there is no chance of a single person lifting them. There are stones, however, that are just on the edge of what is possible to carry. In YA AN Long Da Gou Tou East White Mine [lb4] quarry in China there are workers who spend all day carrying heavy stones on their back up a ramp to fill a truck.

Some quarries are lucky enough to be near waterways. Transport by water is almost always preferable to moving over land. Heavy stones can be moved great distances over water.

Landlocked quarries have no choice but to transport overland. Many traditional wagons and roads are not built for such heavy weights. Even the ground in many places cannot support heavy loads and boards must be positioned to prevent the weight from sinking into the softer soil. Rollers and earth ramps are used sometimes, as well as pulleys. These have to be attached to something, however. In the quarries un-quarried pillars are left in strategic places to use as anchors. Stone can be floated on any kind of viscous material from water, mud, grease, stone dust or anything else that will slide. These work like miniature rollers. In mountain quarries the huge stones have to be lowered to sea level without injury to the workers or damage to the stone. An old technique calledLa Lizzatura required great skill to move the blocks down the steep mountains of Carrara, Italy.


A quarry worker carries a substantial block of marble up a bespoke ladder to load a truck.  YA AN Long Dou Da Gou Tou, East White Mine, Sichuan Province, ChinaAnnual re-enactment of the traditional method of lowering blocks of marble down the mountain from the quarries to accessible wagon-loading bays. La Lizzatura worked in co-ordinated teams uncoiling loops of rope from fixed pegs dowelled into the rock matrix and via a system of wooden sledges and rollers gradually lowered the large blocks of marble, Carrara , Italy


Moving stone overland has always been extremely difficult. It used to be estimated that when transported overland the price of stone would double over a distance of fifteen kilometers (10 mi). With some transport techniques today, that figure is undoubtedly less, but in principle, it still holds true. Transport across water is why England remained the largest importer of Caen stone up until the 18th century. Tower of London and Canterbury Cathedral among other buildings are all built with stone that crossed the channel. William the Conqueror exported stone to England to build a Battle Chapel.

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