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China city materials were moved using ice

Posted on Wednesday, 6 November, 2013 | Comment icon 6 comments

Imperial guardian lions at the Forbidden City. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Allen Timothy Chang
China's 15th century Forbidden City was built by moving blocks along artificial paths made from ice.
Constructed at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, the city was thought to have been built from materials transported using traditional wheeled carts, but now a new research effort has revealed that the ancient Chinese workers may have used ice instead.

"Most scholarly work indicates that the Chinese had the wheel in 1500 BC and the conclusion from that was they didn't have any need for sledges dragged by man," said Prof Howard Stone. "So our suggestion is somehow that they didn't recognise the use of the artificial ice paths to drag these large rock carvings."

To corroborate this idea, the team calculated the feasibility of dragging huge stone blocks 43 miles across an ice-covered surface. "If you look at the frictional characteristics of ice for the rocks of this size, we estimate that 300 people were needed for this kind of dragging," said Prof Stone.

The workers would have needed to build wells every few kilometers from which they would haul the water before spreading it on the road. As the water turned to ice, the low friction surface would have been ideal for helping to move the giant stones along.

Source: BBC News | Comments (6)

Tags: China, Forbidden City

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by pallidin on 6 November, 2013, 18:29
Huh. Not sure if I believe it, but OK.
Comment icon #2 Posted by bassai26 on 7 November, 2013, 15:32
So they only do this during winter season? How much needed for the water to freeze? Not sure but isn't it more time consuming than using wheeled carts?
Comment icon #3 Posted by bulveye on 7 November, 2013, 16:25
I agree that it sounds like more work then the cart and wheels. How did they stop the water freezing in the well? What stopped the people pulling to stop slipping? Wouldn't heavy rocks just gradually plow into the ice? If they were waiting for it to be so cold that water quickly froze then any snow would mess thing up I think.
Comment icon #4 Posted by highdesert50 on 8 November, 2013, 6:26
While the ice is perhaps the more exotic of the methods of transport, II could imagine that several methods of transport were used dependent upon the season.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Oniomancer on 8 November, 2013, 20:05
1. The more mass of water, the less likely it is to freeze solid. They'd just have to keep breaking the ice on top, which you had to do anyway with drinking wells in the old days. 2. Cleats. 3. how much do you think this puppy weighs? 4. Beijing's winter climate is fairly dry. Maybe this is proof the Chinese invented curling?
Comment icon #6 Posted by homo.liberis on 27 November, 2013, 19:21
Stonehenge stone transportation mystery solved maybe? I was tending toward the theory that the stones had been wrapped in a huge basket so they could be rolled and floated but this has me thinking... hmmm

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