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When you think of giant stone heads, the first thing that probably comes to mind is Mount Rushmore. But the South Dakota landmark isn’t the only place where you can see exceptionally large stone masonry. These seven stone heads are also massive works of art worth your attention.
Decebalus Rex, Romania
Towering over the Danube River in Romania, the 131-foot-tall face of Decebal, the last king of Dacia, overlooks ships passing by. The sculpted portrait, which reads “Decebalus Rex,” is the largest stone carving in Europe and looks like it has been around for centuries. In reality, it’s pretty new. Decebalus Rex took 10 years to construct and was finished in 2004. For a substantially older piece of history, just look across the river to the Tabula Traiana, an inscription carved into the cliffside in the year 100 to mark the ending of an ancient Roman road.
Bayon Temple, Cambodia
Dating back to the 12th century, Bayon Temple is part of Angkor Thom, the walled city next to the famous Angkor Wat temple complex. It was built as a Buddhist temple, with shrines dedicated to many other gods as well. Those gods are represented with stone faces carved into many of the temple’s towers. There are about 200 faces remaining, but historians are divided on which gods they represent.
Leshan Giant Buddha, China
In the city of Leshan, China, you can hike to the world’s largest Buddha statue. The Leshan Giant Buddha is over 200 feet tall and appears to be sitting on a chair. The massive figure is carved into the side of a sandstone mountain and took 90 years of construction during the Tang Dynasty in the eighth century. Although the sculpture is quite old, it has resisted erosion thanks to a drainage system built behind Buddha’s head and ears — a unique feature that also creates an illusion of Buddha crying.
Crazy Horse Memorial, United States
The Crazy Horse Memorial near Mount Rushmore in South Dakota is an in-progress sculpture that may have ongoing construction for decades. The monument honors Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota war chief who worked tirelessly to preserve his people’s culture and traditions during a time of oppression, and who defended a band of native warriors at the Battle of Little Bighorn against Custer’s Seventh U.S. Cavalry battalion. When completed, the memorial will depict Crazy Horse, with his hand pointing forward and hair blowing in the wind, riding his horse. Construction on the memorial began in 1948, but when sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski died in the 1980s, his family was left with the task of finishing the massive project — an operation entirely funded by donations. So far, the face of Crazy Horse is complete and work on the outstretched arm is ongoing.
Easter Island Moai Heads, Chile
Dotting the landscape across Easter Island are the Moai heads, carved volcanic rock sculptures with large faces that date back about 1,000 years. Each face has the same unique features: a long, broad nose, eye sockets, and a jutting chin. There are hundreds of statues on the island, mostly facing inward but with seven facing toward the water. The exact reason early island inhabitants sculpted these massive heads is still unknown, but some archaeologists believe they represent the original people’s ancestors, or that they are symbols of religion and politics.
Young Mao Zedong Statue, China
Mao Zedong, also known as Chairman Mao, founded the People’s Republic of China and ran as chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1949 to 1976. To honor their communist leader, locals in Changsha, China commissioned a large bust of Zedong to be built atop an island overlooking the city. But the statue isn’t the typical depiction we see of Chairman Mao as an adult who had already gained fame. This roughly 100-foot-tall granite sculpture portrays him as a young man — about how he looked in 1925. The bust was built in 2007 and cost about $300 million in U.S. currency.
Čertovy Hlavy, Czechia
Stumbling upon two demonic looking stone faces after wandering through dense forest would give anyone a good scare. The Čertovy Hlavy (Devil’s Heads) in Želízy, Czechia, were built between 1841 and 1846 by local sculptor Václav Levý. The faces appear to emerge out of the rock with hollow eyes and anguished expressions. Imagine finding them at night!