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Ancient Egypt Stone Workers
Image ID: 1505100  Ancient Egypt. [Quarrying and shaping blocks of stone]. (ca. 1924-1933)

Ancient Egyptian Scribes | Stone Workers | Potters | Fishermen

The oldest and largest stone constructions in the world come from Egypt where the pyramids required skilled stone workers. Stone slabs were carefully cut and dressed. A first dynasty tomb at Saqqara is lined with slabs of limestone, but stone architecture appeared in Egypt much later than brick-based architecture, so methods used with brick were applied to it initially. At first, small rectangles of stone were set in rows and mortared, just like bricks, but soon the techniques changed. Construction used massive blocks of stone weighing up to 200 tons.

The main type of stone used in Egypt was limestone. Then came sandstone, and sometimes granite. Alabaster, basalt, and quartzite were also occasionally used. In the 19th dynasty limestone gave way to sandstone as the preferred stone for tomb-building. Granite was generally used as a lining for passageways and for door frames.

Stone cutters, using stone tools for granite or harder and possibly copper for sandstone and limestone, chiseled the stone in large blocks in the open or closed quarries, first cutting out a trench to work in if in the closed quarries, then marking and forming a block, and lifting it in front and pushing it to the ground where its fall was broken by a bed of fallen chips. An unfinished obelisk allows us to see part of the process. The blocks then had to be dressed and smoothed on the sides that would come in close contact with other stones.

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Image ID: 1505100 Ancient Egypt. [Quarrying and shaping blocks of stone]. (ca. 1924-1933) NYPL Digital Gallery

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