Palaeolithic rock art at risk: New discoveries in Wadi Abu Subeira, Upper Egypt

Late Palaeolithic rock art in Wadi Abu Subeira: A headless bovid, a hippo and, below (upright), perhaps a suckling calf? Photo by Per Storemyr

Late Palaeolithic rock art in Wadi Abu Subeira: A headless bovid, a hippo and, below (upright), perhaps a suckling calf? Photo by Per Storemyr

The number of discovered Late Palaeolithic rock art sites in Wadi Abu Subeira (Upper Egypt) is ever-increasing, now with finds also outside of the wadi, at el-Aqba el-Saghira. Archaeologist Adel Kelany of the Ministry of Antiquities in Aswan has just published an overview paper, now listing ten sites, most with several rock art panels. The largest site has a much as a hundred ones. As previously noted on this blog, this world-class rock art is under heavy pressure from modern mining, though efforts to protect the sites have shown some effect recently. Continue reading

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New ways of looking at highly organised stone quarrying in Ancient Egypt

Fig. 24 – Multiple-block extraction on descending platforms in the New Kingdom to Late Period part of the el-Sawayta limestone quarry near Samalut. Note the wide, shallow steps left by offset platforms and, at center and at left, the two narrower but deeper, squarish platform remnants. Photo by JAMES HARRELL.

Multiple-block extraction on descending platforms in the New Kingdom to Late Period part of the el-Sawayta limestone quarry near Samalut and Minya. Photo by JAMES HARRELL.

The ancient Egyptians are considered “conservative” as regards technology and crafts. Yet, with their mastery of organisation, they took quarrying of stone to new levels, especially from the New Kingdom on, from about 3500 years ago. The manner, in which they quarried their huge amount of stone from then on, is reflected even in modern-day stone quarrying.

In a brand new paper James Harrell and I take a fresh look at the evidence for very systematic extraction of sandstone and limestone that commenced by the New Kingdom. Key is the introduction of very long chisels and broad extraction platforms. The organised quarrying was obviously related to the grand building projects by well-known kings such as Ramesses II. And it is particularly well-displayed at famous quarrying sites, such as Gebel el-Silsila between Luxor and Aswan, and el-Sawayta by Minya. We also follow the manners in which quarrying took place prior to the New Kingdom – and we look at analogies from many periods and cultures, from the Minoans until today.

Unfortunately, the publisher does not allow us to upload the paper. But read on, and you will get the abstract, a gallery of quarry images and addresses for obtaining a free PDF. Continue reading

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Steinhoggerne – hvem var de? En reise i tid og rom

Steinhoggere og andre arbeidere ved Nidarosdomen i 1872. Foto: Wikipedia

Steinhoggere og andre arbeidere ved Nidarosdomen i 1872. Foto: Wikipedia

Mange spør meg om hvem steinhoggerne var i gamle dager. Var de frie folk, var de treller, var de svært proffe? Eller hadde de et yrke som egentlig alle kunne utøve? Ikke lett å svare på! For bryting, hogging og bearbeiding av stein har utrolig mange fasetter. I dette innlegget prøver jeg å nærme meg deler av steinhåndverket, slik det har blitt utøvd fra steinalderen og til i dag. Innlegget er en lett redigert tekst til et populærvitenskapelig foredrag som jeg holdt på Hyllestadseminaret i april 2015. Dette fagseminaret arrangeres hvert år av Norsk Kvernsteinsenter i Hyllestad i Sogn og Fjordane i Vest-Norge. Continue reading

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Geologi og kulturminner – bevaring av gamle steinbrudd

Stakaldeneset diabasbrudd - steinalderens øksebrudd ved Florø. Foto: Per Storemyr

Stakaldeneset diabasbrudd – steinalderens øksebrudd ved Florø. Foto: Per Storemyr

“Verdifull naturarv” – det var temaet på NGU-dagen 5-6 februar 2015. Det dreide seg om forvaltning, bruk og vern av Norges geologiske mangfold. Kulturminner og kulturlandskap er en selvfølgelig del av dette temaet og dermed også gamle steinbrudd. De viser på en sjeldent instruktiv måte menneskenes omgang med det geologiske mangfoldet. Men for å kunne formidles, må bruddene bevares! Dette var temaet for mitt foredrag på seminaret. Her kan du lese en lett redigert versjon av innlegget, med tilhørende powerpoint-bilder. Continue reading

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Winter walk in the Hyllestad millstone quarries

Abandoned, snow-covered millstones in the Stone Cross Quarry. The quarry has got its name from co-production of early-medieval stone crosses. Photo by Per Storemyr

Abandoned, snow-covered millstones in the Stone Cross Quarry. The quarry has its name from co-production of Early Medieval stone crosses. Photo by Per Storemyr

The Hyllestad Millstone Quarries  are accessible for everybody throughout the year. You can walk wherever you like, admiring this largest quarry landscape from the Viking Age and the Middle Ages in Norway. You can even book a guide if you want. But there are, of course, not many people wandering about now in winter. People prefer the summer, when our Millstone Park is also open to the public for museum experiences and guided tours. Yet, a walk in the snow may reveal more of this unique quarry landscape than in summer, when all things green effectively prevent grasping the monumentality of some of the quarries. Continue reading

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Happy New Year from Hyllestad! With a mountain and a fjord from summer to winter

Åfjorden, Lihesten (left) and Alden (in the background). This is my Hyllestad from our balcony. Photo by Per Storemyr

Åfjorden, Lihesten (left) and Alden (in the background). This is my Hyllestad from our balcony. Photo by Per Storemyr

With a cavalcade of 22 photos I wish you all a Happy New Year! And thanks a lot for following my blog in 2014! All the pictures have been taken from the balcony of our new home at Hyllestad in Western Norway. From August through the fall and into December. I cannot get enough of the stunning views of Åfjorden, the striking mountain Lihesten and the prominent hill Alden far out towards the sea. And of how the weather rapidly changes where fjords and mountains meet the Atlantic. A place to contemplate about stone and quarries and monuments and to hopefully write many more blog posts in 2015… Continue to the gallery!

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Marmoren i Gildeskål gamle kirke i Nordland – grubling om en middelalderkirke langs nordvegen

Det lille kirkestedet Gildeskål, med gammelkirka, nykirka og prestegården. Foto: Per Storemyr

Det lille kirkestedet Gildeskål, med gammelkirka, nykirka og prestegården. Foto: Per Storemyr

Sommeren 2013 møttes en tverrfaglig gjeng forskere til “Grubleseminar” om Gildeskål gamle kirke i Nordland. Her var det samlet arkeologer, kunsthistorikere, bygningshistorikere og ellers alle med et ønske om å finne ut mer om den lille marmorkirken langt mot nord. Og en geoarkeolog som grublet på hva steinene i kirken kunne fortelle om historien. Nå er boken fra seminaret publisert! “Gildeskål gamle kirke: marmorkirka ved nordvegen” er redigert av Morten Stige og Øystein Ekroll, gitt ut på Fagbokforlaget og har bidrag som spenner fra landskapsanalyse til kirkeinteriør. Den blir lansert i Gildeskål om et par dager, søndag 23. november. Her er mer om boken og mitt eget bidrag om steinene i kirken. Continue reading

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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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