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Stone Technology Lathe Turned Stone Tube Drilling Stone Saws Mechanical Methods Ancient Machining Conclusions

Ancient Egyptian Stone Technology

The purpose in presenting these materials on ancient Egyptian stone technology is to, without prejudice to any particular possibility, encourage the scientific process in uncovering the truth about the skills of the ancient builders. Photos, diagrams and essays by W.M. Flinders Petrie, Chris Dunn and Robert Francis.

Lathe Turned Stone - Robert Francis - Hard evidence of Old Kingdom or pre-dynastic stone turning from the Cairo museum.

Tube Drilling - Robert Francis - Photos and commentaries describing stone tube drilling at Giza and in the Cairo Museum.

Stone Saws - Robert Francis - Photos and commentaries describing tube drilling, sawing and lathe work visible at Giza and in the Cairo Museum.

Mechanical Methods - Extracts from W.M. Flinders Petrie's classic reference work which describe some of his findings at 'Gizeh' - "...the graving out of lines in hard stones by jewel points, was a well known art." "...the lathe appears to have been as familiar an instrument in the fourth dynasty, as it is in the modern workshops." "...tube drills about 18 inches diameter" "...The only feasible explanation of this piece is that it was produced by a circular saw."

Ancient Machining - Chris Dunn - Photos, diagrams & technical discussion of ancient stone machining techniques.

The builders in ancient Egypt shaped many kinds of stone with consummate mastery. They were adept with the use of a variety of tools for manufacturing housewares, building stone and statuary; tube drills, straight saws, circular saws, lathes, and polishers. The marks left in the stone by these tools are the only available reliable source of information about these tools and how they were used. To date, no surviving examples of the actual tools used have been found. Neither have any written or pictorial records come to light which mention or describe their use.

There is legitimate debate about the nature of the tools and their developmental history. The marks left in stone have not yet been studied in enough detail, by modern experts in machining techniques, to answer conclusively some key questions:

  • what material were the cutting tips, surfaces or abrasives made of?
  • how may they have been manufactured?
  • what machinery was used to orient the cutting surface to the stone?
  • what pressure was used and how it was applied?
  • what standards of exactness were they capable of?
  • There has been much theorizing and debate but without rigorous studies followed up with the duplication of equivalent artifacts by the proposed method - no scientific proof exists for any of the theories.

    The answers to these questions are consequential because they bear directly on the chronology and developmental history of the earliest dynastic and predynastic Egyptian cultures.

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