Meet the Team
Roger Hopkins, Stonemason
NOVA: Can you describe what your everyday work is like when you're not called
off to Egypt to help raise an obelisk?
HOPKINS: I have a landscape stone masonry business called Naturalistic Gardens
in Sudbury, MA. We build waterfalls, carve sculpture work, and install patios
NOVA: Have you had any previous experience on a project like the obelisk
HOPKINS: This is my fourth project for NOVA. We built a small pyramid, I worked
on the Stonehenge project, we already tried once to raise an obelisk, and now
we're trying again.
NOVA: How important do you think your stone masonry skills are to the outcome
of this new attempt?
HOPKINS: I think it's good to bring a practical knowledge to any program where
they're bouncing around all kinds of theories.
NOVA: How will this attempt be different from the one in 1994?
HOPKINS: We'll get it up this time—come hell or high water.
NOVA: So what odds do you give the project of actually succeeding?
HOPKINS: I'm pretty confident in the experiments that we're going to be
performing. I don't have total control of how they're going to raise the
obelisk, so it remains to be seen. I hope to put to rest a lot of the
speculation that the stone works in Egypt were done by Martians.
Always the joker, Hopkins (L) shares a laugh with engineer Mark Whitby (R).
NOVA: Can you tell us more about the specific experiments you're going to be
doing this time?
HOPKINS: I'm going to show how they sawed and cut holes in the granite. Some of
the finest stone sculpture work in the world was done there.
NOVA: Do you still think that the sand method that you tried last time is the
way that the Egyptians would have done it?
HOPKINS: Some derivation thereof, I'm totally convinced. Well, I won't go out
and say I'm "totally" convinced. I'd say I'm 80 percent sure that that's the
way they would have done it, because it's the easiest.
NOVA: Given how hard it seems to be to raise an obelisk that's not even as
large as the largest ones ever quarried, how impressive do you find it that the
ancient Egyptians managed to raise these objects?
HOPKINS: I've found that when you're dealing with heavy stones, the larger they
get, the whole dynamics of the game change. That's one of the problems with
using small models: You can sometimes fudge the results that you couldn't get
with a much heavier stone. So we can only come close to emulating or trying to
duplicate what they did. But I think the work that the ancient Egyptians did
was just totally mind-boggling. They were dealing with weights that are off the
spectrum from modern day work.
NOVA: What do you expect to learn from this project?
HOPKINS: I expect to bring to conclusion some of the wild speculation about how
some of the stone work was done. Each time I go there, each time I'm involved
in one of these projects, I learn something new. It's a cumulative thing.
Sometimes I wish we could do the project three, four times, so we could get to
a more adequate conclusion.
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