The first stone ashlar blocks of Greek architecture, those of the mid-seventh-century temples at Isthmia and Corinth, pose a problem for understanding the beginnings of Greek stone construction.1 Their peculiar feature is the presence of grooves plausibly explained as a way to move the blocks with ropes. Yet scholars disagree about how these ropes would have been used, and during what stage of construction. The first excavators of the two temples suggested that the ropes would have served to lift each block into place, and were subsequently extracted from the grooves once the block had been set against its neighbour. Later scholars dismissed this theory as both inconsistent with the evidence and technically impracticable, questioning whether lifting machines were used in Greek construction as early as the mid-seventh century. Currently, the widely accepted view holds that the crane appeared in the Greek world only in the late sixth century. An alternative hypothesis is that the grooves were cut early in the construction process so that ropes could be used to manoeuvre the blocks within the quarry. However, the ‘lifting’ theory continues to have its adherents. Clarifying the significance of these parallel grooves is thus a matter of some importance to the history of Greek construction. This article reassesses the alternative theses on the basis of a new examination of the evidence, and demonstrates that the idea that the grooves served for lifting is the most plausible. Furthermore, it argues that forerunners of the crane appeared in Greece well before the late sixth century. Finally, by examining how the blocks would have been manoeuvred into place after lifting, it contends that the grooves also served the purpose of placement, with a method anticipating the Classical period's sophisticated lever technique.