The organisation, transportation and logistics of hard stone quarrying in the Egyptian Old Kingdom : a comparative study
Widan el-Faras and Chephren's Quarry are two major hard stone quarries located outside the Nile Valley in the Western Desert of Egypt. Both quarries were exploited during the Old Kingdom exclusively for royal and elite purposes when hard stone consumption was at its peak during the 4th and 5th Dynasties. Basalt from Widan el-Faras was used for paving temple floors and Chephren Gneiss from Chephren's Quarry for royal statuary and vessels. The thesis presents a new approach to the interpretation of archaeological data from these quarries by using a comparative methodology that encompasses cross-cultural theoretical models of stone procurement. From such an approach significant insights can be made into the social context of these practises which have hitherto been poorly understood. From examination and interpretation of fresh quarry data collected from recent survey and excavation of Widan el-Faras and Chephren's Quarry, it is proposed that Old Kingdom quarry expeditions, outside the Nile Valley, were small-scale campaign-driven operations involving specialists, well-organised through kinship ties and mobilised for specific projects. Comparative analysis of ceramic evidence and stone tools has also highlighted connections between quarries across a diverse geographical range. Furthermore, a comparison of quarry inscriptions with settlement and ceramic data implies that the numbers of people involved in remote source quarry expeditions are fewer than the written sources suggest. Water-borne transport of stone and environmental conditions played an important part in the logistics of monumental stone acquisition from remote sources and cessation in exploitation may be linked to changes in these conditions and lower Nile floods by the 6th Dynasty. The discovery of ancient shallow groundwater wells providing water for domestic and production purposes and new concepts relating to methods of stone transport are presented. Changes in production and consumption of certain stones can also be measured against political, economic and ideological transformations over time.