• Image about Elberton
Photographs by David Stuart

Situated in a vast cow pasture once thought to have been peopled by the Cherokee Indians, the GEORGIA GUIDESTONES are often referred to as America’s Stonehenge because of their relative mystery, largesse, and isolated placement. But in actuality, they are much more contemporary — and much more controversial.

DRIVING NORTH FROM Atlanta on I-85 toward South Carolina, you exit east at Georgia Highway 51, then exit again at Highway 17, which takes you straight to the city of Elberton. Once in Elberton, population 5,000, you take Highway 77 north for almost nine miles. Eyes scanning the horizon, you finally see it perched on a high knoll, with an easy-to-miss turnoff onto a small road that leads practically up to its foot.

It stands alone in all its mighty glory, and on any given day you’ll likely be the only visitor.

Four rectangular slabs of granite are positioned so that together they form an X; each slab is just under 16 and a half feet tall, six and a half feet wide, and 18 inches thick. Each weighs more than 21 tons. Where the four come together at the center, another slab, half as wide but just as tall and thick, rises up. All five are held on top by a 25,000-pound rectangular capstone that measures roughly 10 feet by six feet. The faces of the four main slabs are polished front and back, as are the edges of the capstone.

Once you’re close, it’s unmistakable that the slabs and the edges of the capstone are covered with writing, a sort of 10 Commandments for the future, repeated in English, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, classical Hebrew, Hindi, and Swahili:

Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature

Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity

Unite humanity with a living new language

Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason

Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts

Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court

Avoid petty laws and useless officials

Balance personal rights with social duties

Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite

Be not a cancer on the earth — leave room for nature — leave room for nature

And it doesn’t stop there. Inscribed on each edge of the capstone, in Egyptian hieroglyphics, Sanskrit, classical Greek, and Babylonian cuneiform are the words, Let these be guidestones to an age of reason.