The Unfinished Obelisk

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     This quarry is surrounded by the modern city of Aswan.       In the Nubian Museum, there is a map showing other quarries in the area. Larry counted 111 quarries on that map.

This is the tip of the Unfinished Obelisk, at Aswan. You can see the method of hammering the granite with hammerstones like these.  Thousands of these hammerstones were found on the site. The technique, was to use a diorite hammerstone to hammer a 12 inch hole, 8 feet deep, every 4 or 5  feet, around the entire perimeter of the obelisk. That, supposedly, would ensure that the material was suitable to create an obelisk with no flaws or cracks. That must have been difficult enough, but then, they connected those holes by hammering new ones, until the entire obelisk was roughed out. The next task was to dislodge the obelisk from it's granite matrix. It is thought, that they may have cut holes underneath the stone, inserted wooden blocks, and added water to make the wood swell and release the stone. Other ideas include hammering horizontal holes every so often, then sawing from one hole to another. As a flintknapper, I can only guess at the amount of dust, workmen would breath in, in a day. Silicosis must have been a great scourge for them. Any way you look at it, this must have been a very difficult undertaking.

To transport the obelisk, a  canal would have been cut, to the Nile, and a large boat would have been brought to the obelisk, using the canal. The obelisk would have been loaded on the boat and transported to it's final destination.  There is a description of the quarrying and transport of 2 obelisks at Karnak, on the walls, of Hathepsut's Temple, at Dier el-Bahri.

This obelisk would have been the largest ever attempted, but it was found to have a crack so, it was abandoned. If completed, it would have been 138 feet tall and weighed over 1,197 tons. A lot of the obelisk tips were capped with gold.

 A close-up of the granite. It had much bigger grain size than I would have thought and should have been a little easier to rough out, than I had imagined. However, it is amazing that they could draw straight lines, about 1 cm wide, on 60 foot long obelisks, with such a large grain size. They were exquisite craftsmen.