Staff Photo: Nate McCullough
The Georgia Guidestones in Elbert County are more than 19 feet tall and weigh nearly a quarter of a million pounds. Constructed out of granite in 1979-80, the people and the reasons behind them remain a mystery.
On a hilltop just north of the city of Elberton there sits a monument to ... something.
Known as the American Stonehenge, the 19-foot-tall Georgia Guidestones are perched atop the highest point in Elbert County. Like the real Stonehenge, who created them is a mystery — of sorts.
Stonehenge is near Salsbury in England and dates to about 2,500 B.C. Why it was constructed — and more importantly, how — is one of the world’s great mysteries. How a primitive people could move stones nearly 25 feet tall and weighing hundreds of tons has confounded scholars for millennia.
If you go
• What: The Georgia Guidestones
• Where: On a hilltop just off Ga. Highway 77, 7 miles north of Elberton on county-owned land.
• Cost: There is no fee and it is unstaffed. The site is monitored via video camera by the sheriff’s department.
But how the Guidestones were constructed is known, and it wasn’t nearly as long ago, a mere 32 years. They were built by master stone craftsmen — Elberton is the granite capitol of the world, after all — using modern tools and equipment, including 100-foot-tall cranes. The monument was erected in 1979 and dedicated on March 22, 1980.
So who did the work is known. Why, and at whose behest, is another question altogether.
The “official” story is this: In 1979, a man calling himself R.C. Christian walked into one of Elberton’s many granite companies and requested the project be built. He also requested anonymity, admitting R.C. Christian was a pseudonym. After picking the spot, arranging the financing and ensuring the work would be done, Christian disappeared.
Ideas about who Christian was abound, of course, and range from the man who owned the granite company to Ted Turner — yes, that Ted Turner. To date, only two men are believed to have known Christian’s true identity, and one of those is dead. The other is in his 80s, and by all accounts impossible to crack about the secret.
Christian’s reasons are as mysterious as his identity. The stones serve several astronomical purposes, including marking time, direction and the North Star. But it’s the messages the stones contain that cause debate.
The inscriptions are what some call a new Ten Commandments, a post-apocalyptic road map for rebuilding society after some great calamity that has yet to happen. They call for maintaining a low human population, selective reproduction, one common language, a world court and “balancing personal rights with social duties,” among other directives.
As you might imagine, such an image is graven to some. Various religious groups have labeled them evil or satanic, while some politicos interpret them as a call for socialism.
Others see a less sinister purpose and more of a public relations stunt. What better way to draw tourists to a rural Georgia town than to manufacture a great mystery using the area’s cornerstone (pardon the pun) industry to do so?
When I visited the Guidestones on Sunday, I couldn’t help but be drawn into the riddle. The stones contain hieroglyphics, sanskrit and a claim that a time capsule is buried there, though the date it is to be opened has been left blank. While I was there, a family into geocaching actually found a metal box hidden in the bushes. It was easy to be mesmerized, so when I found what I thought was some sort of secret mark at the base of the stones I felt myself sliding right into the pages of a Dan Brown novel.
Then I found out the symbol was for the Elberton Granite Association, and I leaned back toward publicity stunt.
The message on the stones, printed in eight different languages, does have the ability to give one the creeps. It’s very specific about keeping the number of people below 500 million. Since there are about 6.5 billion of us, a bunch would have to go. That’s scary stuff. So is selective breeding, and some of the other “commandments.”
Then again, the stones also call for “an age of reason,” and Lord knows we could use some of that right now.
For whatever reason they are there, the Georgia Guidestones are an interesting, if offbeat, detour off the state’s main tourism path. Check them out sometime, and see where they lead you.
E-mail Nate McCullough at email@example.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.