In late 1979, or so the story goes, a mysterious man operating under the pseudonym R.C. Christian walked into an Elberton, Ga., bank and set up an escrow account to create a lasting message to all mankind.
The message, a set of 10 guides to humanity, was carved into six 19-foot granite slabs, repeated in English, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Hindi, Spanish, Chinese, Swahili and the dead language of Sanskrit (just in case any dead Sanskritians happen by) and erected, Stonehenge-style, on a hilltop north of Elberton.
Some of the prescribed guides follow easy logic. For instance, No. 7 reads: "Avoid petty laws and useless officials."
That seems like good enough advice. Others are a bit more disturbing.
The first guide says: "Maintain humanity under 500 million in perpetual balance with nature." That's bad news for most of us, because to reach that number, 11 of 12 people in the world would have to be, well, dead.
Some have suggested that the mysterious Mr. Christian never existed, that the Georgia Guidestones were funded and built by a group of Elberton stonemasons as an eternal advertisement for the town's primary industry.
In either case, the guidestones follow the Stonehenge model in many respects. Its placement mirrors the path of the moon, a hole in the capstone captures the light of the sun at noon and a slit in one of the vertical stones can be used to sight solstices and equinoxes.
If you go
WHAT: The Georgia Guidestones
WHERE: Nine miles north of Elberton on Georgia Highway 77
ADMISSION: Free. How cheesy would it be to charge admission to a message to humanity?
SIDE TRIPS: Granite groupies also might want to check out some other Elberton stone-cold sights. Dutchy, a memorial to Confederate War dead that was broken and buried because it looked suspiciously Union, is on display at the Elberton Granite Museum, 1 Granite Plaza in Elberton. Also worth noting is the Elberton County High School stadium. In 1961, the 20,000-seat stadium was remodeled as a rocky statement of civic pride. All the seats at the Granite Bowl are carved from local stone.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.