At the end of Tom Parker's memoir on the Menhir project, he asks, “Can we do it?” The it is: use ancient Neolithic techniques to place a 10,330 pound stone upright in the ground on Drury's campus north of Harrison Stadium. (Menhir is an ancient Gaelic word meaning “long-stone.”)
After three months of planning, organizing, moving the stone 40 feet and one chilly evening of standing the stone, the answer is yes. On a rainy, cold Wednesday night on Nov. 18, Professor Tom Parker and his creative and hardworking class accomplished something that humans haven't had to do for thousands of years.
The task was to take a real-life problem, research ancient history on how to move large objects without the use of modern machinery, and then move an enormous five-ton stone into an upright position. The students used only ropes, wood fulcrums and levies to move the five-ton rock and place it in an upright position in the ground without hurting anyone.
Why undertake such a difficult task as part of an educational experience? “Simple answer,” says Parker, “to see if we could do it and to discover the pre-historic reasons why other people did it.”
|Video: Menhir Project at Drury University|
Throughout the class, the students were asked to write multiple papers on the subjects of how ancient people erected stones, what kinds of technology they used, the culture of those people and the significance of putting stones into the ground.
On the cold and wet night of the rock erection, anticipation and worry were in the air. Soon the class was hard at work, solving problems on the spot and using brute force, brainpower and considerable cooperation to get the “menhir” in an upright position. It took only a few minutes to get the rock upright, but the problem ended up being, how does the class move the top of the rock over six inches to make it straight? With the weather putting a cold numbness on everyone, the job became a difficult challenge. As one student, Sarah Quinn, said “It's freezing out here and it turns out the rock is REALLY heavy.” Eventually, after every student began to feel the chill of the evening setting in, the rock was where it needed to be. The class succeeded in accomplishing their incredibly difficult and remarkably unique real-life project.
After the rock was in place, the worn out class said they were all glad that it was up and that they'd learned something. “Throughout the entire process, it was always important to keep options open and be cognizant to change,” said Drury student Ann Pinkham
Parker said he was, “Greatly relieved and proud of his class for venturing into uncharted territory and trying to figure out how it used to be done. It was fun and informative and we all learned to work together and argue for our points of view, and now we can all share in the success.”
To see Professor Parker's narrative of the project, visit “The Menhir Chronicles” at: http://www2.drury.edu/menhirchronicle/index.html