Experiments in Egyptian Archaeology: Stoneworking Technology in Ancient Egypt

By Denys A. Stocks | Go to book overview

3

A FLINT FOR ALL SEASONS

Some evidence for the working of hard stones

Much discussion has taken place as to how ancient Egyptian artisans worked the hard stones. These included granite, basalt, diorite, porphyry and quartzite (all igneous stones of hardness Mohs 7, except for quartzite, Mohs 6-7, the Egyptian variety being a sedimentary stone, not the normally metamorphic type). The experiments evaluated in Chapter 2 indicated that even calcite, a relatively 'soft' stone of hardness Mohs 3-4, cannot efficiently be cut with copper alloy tools. In particular, the cutting of bas and incised reliefs and hieroglyphs into the hard stones (Figure 3.1), together with the fashioning of hard stone vase exteriors and sculptures, have been the subject of much speculation. It is also apparent that other technical practices owed their development to the existence of a hard tool material that could be given exceptionally sharp edges; the engraving of copper is an example. The main intention of this chapter is to demonstrate how these stonecutting, carving and engraving functions could have been accomplished by the manufacture and employment of particular stone tools. The tremendous amount of ancient hard stone working required a tool material that was plentiful and very hard, and yet tough enough to withstand to some degree the stresses imposed upon it, even though by definition a very hard substance is likely to be brittle.

The title of this chapter indicates that flint, as a tool material, occupies centre stage. Although many Predynastic and Dynastic tools were made from true flint (Mohs 7), other tools were made from chert (Mohs 7). 1 Chert, or hornstone as it is sometimes called, is an impure type of flint and often mistaken for true flint; flint and chert are more fully described in the following section. In order to avoid confusion and unnecessary repetition in this chapter, the tools made from flint and chert nodules will be referred to as 'flint': flint and chert tools are capable of performing similar cutting operations upon most materials. 2 However, where the mention of chert is vital to the understanding of the experimental cutting of particular stones, the chert tools will be distinguished from the tools made of flint.

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Experiments in Egyptian Archaeology: Stoneworking Technology in Ancient Egypt
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Tables xi
  • List of Figures xiii
  • Foreword xxi
  • Acknowledgements xxiii
  • Predynastic and Dynastic Chronology xxvii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Craftworking 7
  • 2 - The Cutting Edge 25
  • 3 - A Flint for All Seasons 74
  • 4 - The Abrasive Technologists 103
  • 5 - Making Stone Vessels 139
  • 6 - The Development of Stone Sarcophagus Manufacture 169
  • 7 - Master Masonry Fitters 179
  • Part III - Industrial Revolution in Ancient Egypt 201
  • 8 - Theban Mass-Production Tools 203
  • 9 - By-Products from a Bygone Age 225
  • 10 - Ancient Technical Interrelationships 234
  • Glossary of Technical Terms 240
  • Bibliography 249
  • Figure Sources 256
  • Index 258
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