Tag Archives: Ancient Egypt

Gneiss for the Pharaoh: Geology of the Third Millennium BCE Chephren’s Quarries in Southern Egypt

Chephren’s Quarry. A name imbued with splendour. It was not the first quarry from which stone vessels and sculpture were provided in Ancient Egypt, but it was definitely the most spectaular one. Work started here, far south in the Western Desert of Egypt, already by the Predynastic period or earlier. By the Old Kingdom, 4500 years ago, it was a huge work site, comprising 700 quarry pits in the flat desert, covering an area of some 50 square kilometres. With Tom Heldal as the lead author, Ian Shaw, Elizabeth Bloxam and I have now written an account of how geology shaped Chephren’s Quarry. It is a story spanning millions of years, explaining the beauty of this hard, bluish stone – and how it could be exploited. Continue reading

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Ny bok: “Nidarosdomens grunnfjell”. En kulturhistorisk reise i steinbryternes fotspor

Da er det visst offisielt. Og da er en god del års arbeid over. Boken min er i trykken og det blir lansering med foredrag under selveste Olavsfestdagene i Trondheim 30. juli 2015, kl. 12:30.

Boken er en 400 sider lang kulturhistorisk reise i stein – fra Det gamle Egypt og enda lengre tilbake, via romertid og middelalder, helt frem til vår egen tid. Alltid med Nidarosdomen i fokus. Nokså tåket fokus i de riktig gamle dager, naturlig nok, da grunnfjellet til domen ble lagt i et utall steinbrudd under helt andre himmelstrøk enn våre egne. Men så forsvinner tåken mer og mer fra jernalderen og tidlig middelalder – fra da av dreier det seg om det regionale grunnfjellet: steinbruddene som ble brukt til å bygge og restaurere Europas nordligste katedral. Og om steinbryterne som jobbet i bruddene. Hvor er alle disse steinbruddene – og hvem jobbet egentlig i dem?

Jeg kommer tilbake med en utførlig omtale av boken, som blir utgitt av Nidaros Domkirkes Restaureringsarbeiders forlag i samarbeid med Norges geologiske undersøkelse. Boken er støtter av Norsk faglitterær forfatter- og oversetterforening. 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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New ways of looking at highly organised stone quarrying in Ancient Egypt

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

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

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 … Continue reading

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

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, … Continue reading

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New paper: Ancient desert and quarry roads at Aswan

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, see maps and view slide show! Continue reading

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