Experiments in Egyptian Archaeology: Stoneworking Technology in Ancient Egypt

Experiments in Egyptian Archaeology: Stoneworking Technology in Ancient Egypt

Experiments in Egyptian Archaeology: Stoneworking Technology in Ancient Egypt

Experiments in Egyptian Archaeology: Stoneworking Technology in Ancient Egypt


In this fresh and engaging volume, Denys A. Stocks examines the archaeological and pictorial evidence for masonry in ancient Egypt. Through a series of experiments in which he tests and evaluates over two hundred reconstructed and replica tools, he brings alive the methods and practices of ancient Egyptian craftworking, highlighting the innovations and advances made by this remarkable civilisation.This practical approach to understanding the fundamentals of ancient Egyptian stoneworking shows the evolution of tools and techniques, and how these come together to produce the wonders of Egyptian art and architecture.Comprehensively illustrated with over two hundred photographs and drawings, Experiments in Egyptian Archaeology will bring a fresh perspective to the puzzles of Egyptian craft and technology. By combining the knowledge of a modern engineer with the approach of an archaeologist and historian, Denys Stocks has created a work that will capture the imagination of all Egyptology scholars and enthusiasts


Progressive demystification is one way I might characterize my thirty years of archaeological inquiry into the culture of ancient Egypt. Dorothy found that the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, with all his mystery, sound and fury, was really the little man behind the curtain. Similarly the mystery and magic of ancient Egypt, the mighty monuments built for gods and royalty, veil the lives and labour of real people. The more carefully we look at the details of gigantic pyramids and elegantly poised hundred-ton obelisks, the more they show themselves as very human monuments. At the same time, the deeper is our sense of awe and appreciation for how these real people marshalled labour and resources to create icons with such other-worldly perfection.

'But, in spite of all you have learned,' said one of my New Age friends and partisans of alternative archaeology, 'you Egyptologists have never solved how the ancient Egyptians worked granite.' It is true that how they cut, carved and drilled granite, one of the hardest stones, to produce beautifully polished colossal sculpture, sarcophagi and precisely etched hieroglyphs, has remained one of the more defiant puzzles of their culture.

After he reflected on minute details of ancient Egyptian granite work, Sir Flinders Petrie concluded that the ancient Egyptian masons used saws and drills of copper or bronze studded with hard stones like diamonds, beryl and corundum. But these hard cutting materials are scarcely known, or are absent in Egypt. The modern archaeologist has immediately to wonder about foreign sources, procurement and trade networks that such materials would imply, especially given the scale of work in granite and other hard stone at all times in ancient Egypt. Other scholars suggested sand, all too common in the deserts flanking Egypt, as the cutting agent. Yet others responded that sand could never produce the details we see in ancient saw cuts, and drill holes through the hardest stones that the Egyptian craftsman worked with such aplomb.

In March 1999 I was fortunate to see Denys Stocks work granite with tools and techniques that closely approximated those of the ancients. In one of the largest modern quarries of Aswan, Denys demonstrated what he had learned from years of methodical, detailed and technical observation of ancient masonry, and from experiments involving the cutting and drilling of stone. Denys instructed me as

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