Category Archives: Heritage destruction

Novel micro-images of lime mortar destruction by frost weathering

Frost is here again and thus weak building materials are at risk, for example traditional lime mortars applied during the last summer season. Over the last few days I was able to observe frost heaving in a lime mortar that has not properly hardened/carbonised due to recent rainy and moist weather. As far as I know, no one has previously documented such ice crystal growth, on a micro-scale. The phenomenon is akin to frost heaving in a soil profile: The force of growing ice whiskers lifting the uppermost parts of the soil. Continue reading

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Tjenester for kulturminnevernet: Hva gjør en geoarkeolog for steinbygninger, steinbrudd og bergkunst?

Mange spør meg: Hva driver du med? Hvilke tjenester tilbyr du? Jeg er geoarkeolog og jobber med rådgivning og forskning knyttet til gamle steinbygninger, steinbrudd og bergkunst, svært ofte i forbindelse med restaurering, konservering og arkeologiske utgravninger. Under skal jeg … Continue reading

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Taken by the frost! The beauty and destructive force of ice growth on masonry

After 29 years of working with weathering of cultural heritage, I have finally seen it “live”: How the force of ice can destroy plaster on stonework. It is more diverse than I though. A complex and fascinating world of beautiful … Continue reading

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Geoarchaeology of the famous ancient amethyst mines in Wadi el-Hudi, Egypt: Desert heritage at risk

This fall I joined the Wadi el-Hudi expedition to the famous Middle Kingdom amethyst gemstone mines in the Eastern Desert south-east of Aswan. The expedition is led by Dr. Kate Liszka of California State University San Bernardino (US), and over the last few seasons it has excavated and documented the ancient mining settlements in very high detail. My task was to take a closer look at the geoarchaeology – to try and understand relationships between geology and mining. It is hugely important to document what is left, for the ancient mining area is now at high risk from looting, modern gold mining and stone quarrying. Continue reading

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Saltforvitring på kulturminner. Om enkel analyse av salt: Lag din egen kjøkkenlab!

Over er det et bilde av noe du har sett tusen ganger før. Halitt! Vanlig koksalt. Natriumklorid. Ganske enkelt bordsalt. Havsalt! Havet inneholder jo noe sånt som 3,5% oppløst salt. Når pyttene i fjæra får stå i fred noen dager og sola skinner fra skyfri himmel, da lurer saltet seg ut. Sjøvannet fordamper og etterlater seg de fineste krystaller av ren halitt. Sånn laget man koksalt i gamle dager, handlet med det, kriget om det. For uten koksalt kan vi ikke leve. Kanskje fyrte man opp under brede kjeler med sjøvann for å få fordampningen til å gå raskere, kanskje kjøpte man salt fra store saltgruver på Kontinentet. Men prinsippet er det samme: Når saltholdig vann fordamper, da får vi krystallinsk salt. Men hva om du ikke visste at de fine krystallene i fjæra er koksalt? Og hva om du fant noe som lignet på disse krystallene på et ødelagt murmaleri eller en steinskulptur fra middelalderen? Hva gjør krystallene forresten der? Var det de som ødela? Hva gjør du da? Continue reading

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

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 Antiquites (MAS) in Aswan has just published an overview paper, now listing ten sites, all with numerous 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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The ancient stone quarries in Egypt as a new, serial World Heritage Site?

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 … 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

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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Ten quarries of Ancient Egypt: 8 – The quarry at Widan el-Faras that disappeared

Many of you know the Old Kingdom basalt quarries at Widan el-Faras in the Northern Faiyum Desert. Some of you are also familiar with the partial destruction of the quarries by modern basalt quarrying. When we first started to work at Widan, about 12 years ago, in a project headed by Elizabeth Bloxam at UCL, the breathtaking lava and escarpment landscape was still quite pristine. A few years later a substantial part of the quarries had been eaten by machines. Though we had learnt by then that many other quarries in Egypt were under threat from modern development, Widan was a key reason for starting the QuarryScapes project – an EU-funded project on conservation of ancient quarries. Continue reading

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The Palaeolithic rock art in Wadi Abu Subeira, Egypt: Landscape, archaeology, threats and conservation

Since the publication of the threats to the Palaeolithic rock art in Wadi Abu Subeira three weeks ago, there has been much response through e-mail and social media, and the case has been covered by many online magazines and blogs. People in Egypt and elsewhere are concerned, and I wish to thank you all for your interest and for bringing the case along to friends and colleagues, as well as to administrators and politicians. There now seems to be a need for an “unbiased”, comprehensive overview of what is actually known about the landscape, the archaeology, the rock art, the threats, current conservation efforts and options for the future. The overview below is based on published literature, and information that otherwise belongs to the public sphere. It is written in close cooperation with Adel Kelany, and we have benefitted from input by Dirk Huyge. Continue reading

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