Tag Archives: ancient egyptian quarries

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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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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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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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: 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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