Tag Archives: quarry

Burning rock! An update for German-speaking readers

Recently I posted a preliminary report on our successful experiments with fire setting in the Melsvik Stone Age chert quarries in Northern Norway. For some curious reason German-speaking readers were not able to watch the attached video of the experiments, perhaps due to country-specific copyright infringements related to the music following the video. “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash is, sadly, obviously not for all! In this post there is a link to another version of the video, this time without good old Johnny. And there is more for my German-speaking readers; link to a recent article in Spiegel Online, based on my original story. The fire setting experiments were carried out within the Melsvik archaeological rescue project/excavations, headed by Anja Roth Niemi of the University Museum at Tromsø Continue reading

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Burning rock! Experiments with fire setting at the Stone Age Melsvik chert quarries in Northern Norway

In the Melsvik Stone Age chert quarries near Alta in Northern Norway there are dozens of extraction marks that are difficult to explain by other ancient techniques than fire setting. Hence within the Melsvik archaeological project, run by the University Museum of Tromsø, last week we experimented with fire in order to substantiate that it actually formed an important method of breaking loose small and big pieces of stone. The idea was that it is not necessary with big fires and high temperatures, but that small, controlled “bonfires” are enough to create high shear stress and cracking. In this way high temperatures greatly reducing the quality of the chert for tool making are avoided. It works! Here’s a preliminary report with video. 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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The old quarry that was reused as a beer brewery

Working with the Berne Minster Workshop on mapping the quarries used for the cathedral, I visited the Wabern quarry just outside the city centre yesterday. Though it is unclear to what extent it was employed for the cathedral in the Middle Ages, it is a most remarkable quarry: For it was reused as a brewery for “Gurten Beer” from the 1860s on. Since I have noted the link between stone extraction and beer drinking through history (see last part of this story), I thought I ought to post the photo above of a wonderful old horse cart with a beer barrel remaining in the quarries. 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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Ten quarries of Ancient Egypt: 6 – Gebel Manzal el-Seyl volcanic tuff quarry

Looking for old quarries in Egypt’s Eastern Desert means that you are not only walking in the footsteps of ancient quarrymen, but also of archaeological geologist Jim Harrell. Jim has crisscrossed the Eastern Desert and found several very important quarries … Continue reading

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