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Here’s a very sweet stop-motion animation showing how the ancient Romans may have built Trajan’s column in 113 A.D. —SPOILERS: It didn’t involve anti-gravity…

Trajan’s column is not only a marvel of ancient ingenuity, but an incredible cylindrical ‘comic strip’, erected to commemorate emperor Trajan’s victory over the Dacians. While the Roman empire eventually collapsed along with all its former splendor, the column stood the test of time during all these centuries, and it’s still one of the most iconic monuments of what used to be the capital of the Western world.

“The campaigns were dreadful and violent,” says Roberto Meneghini, the Italian archaeologist in charge of excavating Trajan’s Forum. “Look at the Romans fighting with cutoff heads in their mouths. War is war. The Roman legions were known to be quite violent and fierce.”

Yet once the Dacians were vanquished, they became a favorite theme for Roman sculptors. Trajan’s Forum had dozens of statues of handsome, bearded Dacian warriors, a proud marble army in the very heart of Rome.

The message seems intended for Romans, not the surviving Dacians, most of whom had been sold as slaves. “No Dacians were able to come and see the column,” Meneghini says. “It was for Roman citizens, to show the power of the imperial machinery, capable of conquering such a noble and fierce people.”

A sobering reminder to alternative historians, that not all megalithic monuments should invoke an unconventional origin or engineering solution.

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