The ancient stone quarries in Egypt as a new, serial World Heritage Site?

Deserves a place on the World Heritage List: The Gebel el-Silsila ancient sandstone quarries. Photo: Tom Heldal

Deserves a place on the World Heritage List: The Gebel el-Silsila ancient sandstone quarries. Photo: Tom Heldal

Stone quarries were extremely important in ancient cultures, yet they are hardly represented on the World Heritage List. This might be due to misconceptions of the nature of such sites, as producers of raw materials “only”. But in reality many quarry sites were places of outstanding craftsmanship, engineering and organisation, not least in Ancient Egypt. In a paper written by James Harrell and myself some four years ago (and only now available), we propose establishing a serial World Heritage Site comprising selected Ancient Egyptian quarries. Few cultures relied on their quarries as much as Ancient Egypt; thus it would be natural that a comprehensive World Heritage Site addressing quarries should be set up just here along the Nile. Continue reading

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A Palaeolithic, life-size Nubian ibex carved on rock: Adel Kelany with new discoveries in Wadi Abu Subeira, Upper Egypt

It is terribly difficult to photograph the Late Palaeolithic ibex! So rather see the tracing by Adel Kelany and his team, in the recent paper uploaded to academa.edu. Photo: Per Storemyr

It is terribly difficult to photograph the almost two metres long Late Palaeolithic ibex, with an auroch in its belly! So rather see the tracing by Adel Kelany and his team, in the recent paper uploaded to academia.edu. Photo: Per Storemyr

Archaeologist Adel Kelany of MSA Aswan recently published a key paper on the Late Palaeolithic rock art in Wadi Abu Subeira, Upper Egypt. The paper reports findings from the site CAS-13, which features a true rock art masterpiece: a life-size, almost two metres long Nubian ibex, accompanied by large-scale images of aurochs. The findings tie in with previously reported Late Palaeolithic rock art in Subeira, a wadi north of Aswan. It is also similar to the now famous Late Palaeolithic rock art analysed by Dirk Huyge and team at Qurta near Gebel el-Silsila and at el-Hosh further downstream of the Nile river. This is rock art dating 15-20.000 years back in time and similar to the grand European Late Palaeolithic rock art traditions. Read on for link to Adel’s paper and more information.
Continue reading

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Fire on the rocks! New paper on firesetting in ancient Egyptian stone quarrying

Fire was a key method in extracting stone in the old days - more important than we usually think of. Photo by Per Storemyr

Fire was a key method in extracting stone in the old days – more important than we usually think of. Photo by Per Storemyr

It started with Egyptologist and engineer Reginald Engelbach almost a hundred years ago. By the early 1920s he found evidence that fire would have been used in extraction of the famous Unfinished Obelisk at the Aswan granite quarries. But he was probably wrong when he implied that fire was used to remove poor quality bedrock only. New evidence suggests that fire was used in several steps of extracting obelisks and other stone objects in Ancient Egypt. And written documentation of firesetting may, in fact, go as far back as to the Middle Kingdom, some 4000 years ago. With geologist Tom Heldal as the driving force behind the work, we recently published a brief account of firesetting, based on our findings in Egyptian quarries over the last decade. Read on for abstract of our paper, get a PDF-link and view a gallery of images. Continue reading

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The first reported prehistoric grinding stone quarry in the Egyptian Sahara (new paper)

On the way to discovery of the first reported prehistoric grinding stone quarry in the Egyptian Sahara. Dirk Huyge walks the stony desert. Photo: Per Storemyr.

On the way to discovery of the first reported prehistoric grinding stone quarry in the Egyptian Sahara. Dirk Huyge walks the stony desert. Photo: Per Storemyr.

Some time ago I wrote about the discovery of a prehistoric grinding stone quarry in the Egyptian Sahara. Now the discovery is duly published! It was presented at the conference “Seen through a Millstone” in Bergen, Norway, in 2011. Recently, editor Lotte Selsing of the Archaeological Museum in Stavanger finalised the conference volume; an array of very interesting papers dealing with grinders and millstones across the world, from prehistory to the medieval period. Read on for abstract of my paper, get PDF and view a gallery of images. Continue reading

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Jakten på steinbruddene til middelalderens kirke og kloster på Hovedøya ved Oslo

Ruinene av Edmundsirken og en del av det middelalderske klosterkomplekset på Hovedøya. Foto: Per Storemyr

Ruinene av Edmundsirken og en del av det middelalderske klosterkomplekset på Hovedøya. Foto: Per Storemyr

I et aldeles praktfullt sensommervær var jeg siste uke Riksantikvarens utskremte på jakt etter de gamle steinbruddene som ble brukt til å bygge Edmundskirken og cistercienserklosteret på Hovedøya i Oslofjorden. Flere har gjort det samme før meg, men nå var det meningen å virkelig få kartfestet de gamle bruddene, og å prøve å tolke hvordan steinarbeidet kan ha vært organisert i gamle dager. Continue reading

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Moving to work with the Norwegian Millstone Centre at Hyllestad in West Norway

Torbjørn Løland showing one of the  millstone quarries in Hyllestad, at Otringsneset just by the fjord. Photo by Per  Storemyr

Torbjørn Løland showing one of the millstone quarries in Hyllestad, at Otringsneset just by the fjord. Photo by Per Storemyr

Suddenly it reached the local press, and so the news became very official: Our family will move from Switzerland to Hyllestad in West Norway by the end of July this year. This is not a move to just any kind of place, but to the little community far west in Norway that holds one of Europe’s largest and most long-lived millstone quarry landscapes, and the outdoor heritage museum Norwegian Millstone Centre (Norsk Kvernsteinsenter). Continue reading

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New paper: Ancient desert and quarry roads at Aswan

The Roman "el-Deir" road heading out from the West Bank at Aswan. It bypasses the whole First Cataract of the Nile and joins the preserved Roman roads in Lower Nubia. Photo: Per Storemyr

The Roman “el-Deir” road heading out from the West Bank at Aswan. It bypasses the whole First Cataract of the Nile and joins the preserved Roman roads in Lower Nubia. Photo: Per Storemyr

The long-awaited book on Desert Road Archaeology in Ancient Egypt and Beyond finally seems to be here! Edited by Frank Förster and Heiko Riemer of Cologne University, and with 25 individual contributions, it is the yet most complete survey of ancient desert roads in Egypt. My own contribution to the book is written with Elizabeth Bloxam, Tom Heldal and Adel Kelany; a chapter on the amazing ancient roads at the west bank of the Nile at Aswan, in the First Cataract region. We review the area’s complex network of long-distance Pharaonic and Roman roads, more recent camel trails, and not least the best-preserved quarry roads in Egypt; the 20 km paved and cleared network from the “quartzite” quarries at Gebel Gulab and Gebel Tingar. Read extended abstract, view paper at academia.edu, see maps and view image gallery! Continue reading

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Happy New Year with a cavalcade of stone images from 2013

Norway: My favorite quarry, a small gneiss quarry used for the Selja medieval monastery at the westernmost part of the country. From fieldwork with the Directorate for Cultural Heritage of Norway, Photo: Per Storemyr.

Norway: My favorite quarry, a small gneiss quarry used for the Selja medieval monastery at the westernmost part of the country. From fieldwork with the Directorate for Cultural Heritage of Norway, Photo: Per Storemyr.

I want to thank my readers for following my blog in 2013. Happy New Year to you all!

I really do appreciate your loyalty and I hope to be able to write more articles for you about stone – about quarries, monuments and rock art – in 2014 than I did in 2013. In the year that is soon coming to an end I had to focus on various projects and writing for other media than the internet. Many of the great places that I visited and worked at in 2013 may certainly turn up in future blog posts, so I hope you will continue to follow my writings in 2014. As for now, here’s a cavalcade of images from some of the quarries, monuments and rock art sites that touched me over the past twelve months. They span all of history from the Mesolithic to the Early Modern era. Enjoy the slide show! Continue reading

Posted in Ancient Egypt, Archaeology, Norway, Old quarries, Rock art, Switzerland | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Burning rock! An update for German-speaking readers

Cracked chert from fire setting. Photo: Per Storemyr

Cracked chert from fire setting. Photo: Per Storemyr

Recently I posted a preliminary report on our successful experiments with fire setting in the Melsvik Stone Age chert quarries in Northern Norway. For some curious reason German-speaking readers were not able to watch the attached video of the experiments, perhaps due to country-specific copyright infringements related to the music in the video. Sadly, “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash is obviously not for all! But here’s another version of the video, this time without good old Johnny: Burning Rock. Experiments with fire setting (without music). Continue reading

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Burning rock! Experiments with fire setting at the Stone Age Melsvik chert quarries in Northern Norway

Bonfires to crack up stone in the Melsvik chert quarry. Photo: Per Storemyr

Bonfires to crack up stone in the Melsvik chert quarry. Photo: Per Storemyr

In the Melsvik Stone Age chert quarries near Alta in Northern Norway there are dozens of extraction marks that are difficult to explain by other ancient techniques than fire setting. Hence within the Melsvik archaeological project, run by the University Museum of Tromsø, last week we experimented with fire in order to substantiate that it actually formed an important method of breaking loose small and big pieces of stone. The idea was that it is not necessary with big fires and high temperatures, but that small, controlled “bonfires” are enough to create high shear stress and cracking. In this way high temperatures greatly reducing the quality of the chert for tool making are avoided. It works! Here’s a preliminary report with video. Continue reading

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