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Use of Stones

  1. Gems and precious stones were shaped with consummate mastery in the manufacture of jewelry
  2. Building stones were used in Architecture
  3. Ornamental stones were used in Crafts and decorative architectural elements
  4. Utilitarian stones were used to make a variety of house ware tools including tube drills, straight saws, circular saws, lathes, and polishers.

Building Stones

Image Limestone Sphinx
ColorLight grey
Mining LocationNorth - Egypt has a great quantity of limestone formation, widespread quarries for limestone were located in the hills and cliffs bordering the Nile river valley between Memphis in the north and Esna in the south.
- Nearly 100 ancient mines have been discovered
PropertiesA sedimentary rock consisting of calcite, with a high porosity
The rock is soft and easy to work
Use- Limestone was the main building stone of the Old Kingdom. it was used pyramids, mastabas, and temples
- Low grade limestone used to build the pyramid core, while fine white limestone was often employed for the outer casing as well as to cover interior walls
- The finer white lime stones were not easy to quarry. One of the man sources for white limestone was the Muqattam hills west of Memphis. This stone laid buried deep from the surface, so tunnels and caverns had to be built to reach the quarry
- The rock was also employed for statuary, but when applied to small minor arts, it produced endurable objects which were subject to erosion
ImageSandstone Abusimbel temple
ColorYellow brownish color
Mining LocationSouth - Quarries in the Nile valley from Esna southward into northern Sudan supplied the sandstone.
- Thirty fi ve ancient quarries have been discovered
PropertiesThese are sedimentary rock formed by the cementing together of grains of sand forming yellow, red and brown rocks
The rock is highly porous and loosely cemented with calcite sediments, because of it's incomplete cementation the sandstones are easy to quarry and carve
Use- The ascendancy of sandstone as a building material began from the late Middle Kingdom onward, within the sandstone region as well as many of those in the southern part of the limestone region
- Sandstone was superior to limestone in terms of size and strength, this facilitated the construction of the huge temples such as Abu Simbel and Amun at Karnak
- The rock was also employed for statuary and other non-architectural applications, and produced durable artistic objects

Ornamental Stones

ImageGranite Statue
ColorYellowish to pinkish grey, medium to coarse grained
Mining LocationUpper Egypt - Gabal el Asr in Nubia
Tumbos in modern Sudan
Black granite was mined in Aswan
PropertiesVery hard rock, carved using quartz sand beneath the copper saws and drills
A coarse-grained igneous rock of even texture and light color, composed chiefly of quartz and feldspars
Use- Stone vessels are the earliest use of granite, in the Pre-dynastic period
- The sculpture of large granite statues in Upper Egypt. The colossal seated statues of Amenhotep 2 are the largest examples
- Granite was also used in the erection of architectural elements such as columns, obelisks, sphinxes, pavement tiles and veneer on walls
- In the Ptolemaic period black granite was used in the carvings monumental stelae and slabs
The famous Rosetta stone, is a black granite slab with identical texts inscribed by Ptolemy 5 Epiphanes in hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek.
ImageBasalt Statue
ColorDark black in color.
Mining LocationLower Egypt - Wadi el faras and Gabal el Qatrani in the north of the city of Crocodilopolis
PropertiesIt is a very hard and durable vitreous stoneware, it was impossible to carve it in large pieces.
A fine-grained rock of volcanic origin
Use- Basalt was widely used in the pavements in the necropolises of Giza and Saqqara
- The rock was used until the end of the Old Kingdom in statues, sarcophagi and vessels, and seldom thereafter
- Many later objects made of black granite are wrongly labeled as basalt
Alabaster (travertine)
ImageAlabaster Head
Color- Alabaster occurs naturally in many shades of color from pure white to reddish-tan.
- When held up to the light, it looks like quartz and is almost transparent, if thin enough.
Mining LocationTravertine was quarried at numerous locations in the Eastern Desert and the Nile Valley.
PropertiesA massive, finely crystalline rock of calcite formed by secondary chemical precipitation from ground water solutions in limestone formations.
- The Egyptian deposits of this rock occur in veins and pods
- It frequently exhibits alternating bands of fine-grained white and coarse-grained brown calcite, and occasionally as massive fine-grained amber-brown calcite.
Travertine is extremely soft and can almost be carved with a fingernail, and it easily takes on a good polish by hand lapping
Use- Travertine was used by the Egyptians throughout the entire history of their civilization to make artifacts like vases and bowls.
- The extensive use of this material was undoubtedly due to the fact that it is a very soft material in terms of indentation hardness and is easily worked.
- It was used as a glowing luminary--the stone takes on the glow and heat from a candle light and spreads it evenly throughout its structure.

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By Ayman Fadl - Copyright © 2001-2014