Ancient Egyptian Stoneworking Tools and Methods
Archae Solenhofen (solenhofen@hotmail.com)
Last modified December 17, 2001

 Introduction

   Igneous rocks like granite, anorthosite, diorite, basalt, and hard sedimentary rocks like siliceous sandstones (quartzite) and travertine (Egyptian alabaster) were skillfully worked by the ancient Egyptians for many thousands of years during their history. Recently, Stocks (1989; 1993; 2001) has demonstrated through experimentation the use of simple stoneworking tools that were very likely available to the ancient Egyptians. These tools reflected both lapidary and percussion stoneworking techniques. Copper slabbing saws and a coring drill were used to work granite from Aswan, using quartz sand as an abrasive. Copper coring drills and stone borers were used to make a narrow-necked stone vessel in limestone. Beads were shaped by grinding and were then perforated using a bow-powered drill. Relief carving of granite was demonstrated using flint chisels and punches, and rock dressing and smoothing was conducted with diabase (dolerite) pounders and "quartzite" rubbers.

The following links present a summary of ancient Egyptian stoneworking methods based on these experiment tests:

a) Copper slabbing saws
b) Copper coring drills
c) Stone vessel making
d) Bead making drills
e) Relief carving
f) Stone sculpture carving
g) Lapping and polishing

References

Stocks, D.A. (1989) Ancient factory mass-production techniques: indications of large-scale stone bead manufacture during the Egyptian New Kingdom Period. Antiquity, 63, 526-531.

Stocks, D.A. (1993), Making Stone vessels in Ancient Mesoptamia and Egypt. Antiquity, 67, 596-603.

Stocks, D.A. (2001) Testing Ancient Egyptian Granite-Working Methods in Aswan, Upper Egypt. Antiquity, 75, 89-94.
 
 

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