Tag Archives: Ancient Egypt

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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Happy New Year with a cavalcade of stone images from 2013

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

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New paper on the unique Epipalaeolithic geometric rock art at el-Hosh, Upper Egypt

A year ago Dirk Huyge and I published a paper in the Sahara journal on a unique rock art “masterpiece” found among the Epipalaeolithic “geometric” (c. 5-9000 BC) assemblage at el-Hosh in Upper Egypt. Recently, we published another version of … Continue reading

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The little-known archaeology of Gharb Aswan, Upper Egypt

Gharb Aswan – or West Aswan – is the home to some 50.000 Nubian peoples on the west bank of the Nile, by the first cataract opposite the city of Aswan. Among archaeologists and tourists the area is renowned for the “Tombs of the Nobles” at Qubbet el-Hawa and the Coptic St. Simeon’s monastery, both on the UNESCO World Heritage List. But Gharb Aswan is much more than this, for here it is possible to follow human interaction with the landscape for millennia, almost throughout the history of humankind. With a focus on the unique stone working traditions, here’s a synopsis of the “unknown” archaeology of this beautiful desert area – with slideshow, map, bibliography and an overview of missions that have worked here. Continue reading

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Stone extraction with pickaxes in Ancient Egypt: Fact or fiction?

Ancient Egyptian quarrying of softstone, such as sandstone and limestone, is commonly described as having been done exclusively by chisels struck with wooden mallets, even through the Roman period. In this way trenches separating each block were made, and then the block was loosened at the underside with various types of wedges. But this is not the end of the story. In this article I will show – perhaps the first – indisputable evidence that pickaxes were also used, albeit possibly on a minor scale. Continue reading

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Ten quarries of Ancient Egypt: Series summary

Egypt is world-renowned for its ancient quarries. Without them civilisation as we know it along the Nile would not have been possible. There are many spectacular quarries, popular way beyond the archaeological community. But there is also an enormous amount of quarries that rarely get the headlines. In the series Ten quarries of Ancient Egypt I have tried to highlight a few of those “unknowns”. They were the ones that particularly touched me during many seasons of walking the deserts bordering the Nile. Continue reading

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Ten quarries of Ancient Egypt: 10 – Firework!

It’s New Year’s Eve. Happy New Year to you all! What could be better than to end this little series on Ancient Egyptian quarries with firework! It was Reginald Engelbach that first suggested the use of fire for stone quarrying … Continue reading

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Ten quarries of Ancient Egypt: 9 – Palaeolithic quarries in the Eastern Desert

Practically the whole of Egypt is dotted with quarries and tool workshops dating to the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic (some 3-400.000 to 30.000 years ago), showing how our predecessors adapted to the geological resources along the Nile and in the adjacent deserts. I’m very far from an expert on these periods, but over the years I’ve often been truly fascinated by quarries from these times that just popped up while looking for much later archaeological remains. In 2006, while on a tourist trip in the Eastern Desert with Red Sea Desert Adventures, we started to look for Palaeolithic tools and quarries. They were really very common. An experience we share with other people that have traversed the Eastern Desert. 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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Ten quarries of Ancient Egypt: 7 – Tracing a grinding stone quarry in the Sahara

In 2007 I was very happy to be invited to join Salima Ikram and Corinna Rossi‘s North Kharga Oasis Survey (NKOS). Great mission, great landscape. The landscape so breathtaking that I immensely enjoyed walking and looking for stone and quarries. Crude flint hammerstones turned up. One after the other, even small depots. Tracing the hammerstones for several kilometres paid off. At the end of the trail was the first grinding stone quarry found in the Western Desert of Egypt! Continue reading

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