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Advanced Machining in Ancient Egypt

Page 4

By Christopher P. Dunn

The other characteristics create a problem. They cut a tapered hole with a spiral groove that was cut deeper through the harder constituent of the granite. If conventional machining methods cannot answer just one of these problems, where do we look to answer all three? I was just as puzzled as Petrie was when faced with this evidence. When I finally found a solution to the problem, I could not wait to share it. So I challenged some toolmakers I was working with who had used machine tools and drills day in and day out for decades. All of them but one gave up on the problem saying it could not be done. Each day I would ask this one toolmaker if he had come up with a solution. Each day he said he was still working on it. I offered, but he would not even take a hint! It was a couple of weeks later before he came back to me and said, "You know I think I have the answer to this problem. But it creates another problem.... They didn’t have machinery like that back then!"

He had independently analyzed the characteristics of what Petrie was puzzling over and had come up with the same conclusion as I had. We had both set out to find a method of manufacturing that would explain all the characteristics found on these artifacts.

I have discussed descriptions of several artifacts having tool marks and characteristics that identified conventional methods of machining. A sophisticated use of the lathe is clearly evident on artifacts described by William Flinder Petrie in 1883, where radii were being cut in diorite. A large sarcophagi lid in the Cairo Museum has distinct tool marks which are common when turning objects with intermittent cuts on a lathe. The question in my mind is out of what kind of materials were their tools made?’ In conventional machining the tool would need to be hard enough to cut one of the hardest materials there is, yet tough enough not to break under pressure. Their ability to make these cuts without the rock splintering is astounding! (Note: For those who are locked into the "official" chronology of the development of metals - copper doesn’t cut it. It is like saying that aluminum could be cut with butter.)

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News group discussion of Chris Dunn's proposals

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