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Aswan – The unfinished Obelisk

January 9, 2017
Saqqara – The Mystery of the Serapeum
January 9, 2017
Myvatn Lake
January 10, 2017
Syenite, pink granite, is a material used in the construction of statues, pyramids casings, megaliths and obelisks. Syenite was mainly found in Aswan, Swenet in Ancient Egyptian. Aswan quarry shows curious shapes of “digging”. Hints of utilization of pre-dynastic technology?

The mystery of the Obelisk

Among obelisks built by men, the Unfinished Obelisk of Aswan is the most imposing one: 42 m long, weighing 1200 tons (estimated at 1168 tons) and directly cut in the stone. A crack in the stone forced Hatshepsut, the Pharaoh who supposedly ordered the obelisk, to stop its construction. Unlike what many people believe, these are not vertical cracks resulting of the time effect or earthquakes that hit the region. In fact, the crack was found at the basis of the Obelisk as the Ancients were ready to dig it in order to lift it. But how were they going to proceed? This is another mystery! Indeed, according to egyptologists’ belief, the Ancients explain that the Obelisk had been lifted by a boat when the floods of the Nil touched Aswan quarry. As simple as it gets! Howerer, many details have been forgotten, or purposely neglected...
Egypte - Assouan – L’Obélisque inachevé



Another key point: which means and instruments have been used to give its shape to the obelisk? The global approach used during our research on site helps us understand what happened in this quarry.

Extracting granite in Aswan

Two granite extraction techniques have been used by two distinct civilizations. One was the extraction using wood, and used by the most recent one. The purpose was to insert pieces of wood in holes/squares dug in the stone. Wetting the wood, causes its dilatation creating a force capable of pushing and separating granite blocks. This process was commonly used in Dynastic Egypt (in all Egypt, not exclusively in Aswan), Greece and Rome. However, this technique has its limitations like producing many losses and failures, which is inconsistent with the oldest edifices, that ended up being examples of architectural perfection.
Egypte - Assouan – L’Obélisque inachevé
Egypte - Assouan – L’Obélisque inachevé
Egypte - Assouan – L’Obélisque inachevé
Egypte - Assouan – L’Obélisque inachevé
Egypte - Assouan – L’Obélisque inachevé
The other technique consisted in round digging tracks found in the granite almost all over Aswan. These tracks can be assimilated to what is left after using a spoon in an ice cream bucket. Granite is however known for its hardness (between 6 and 7 on Mohs hardness scale). It’s a very difficult material to manipulate and to do so, harder instruments than granite must be used. We do not have any explanation on the method used but all of this is clearly the proof of a level of advanced technology.
Egypte - Assouan – L’Obélisque inachevé
Egypte - Assouan – L’Obélisque inachevé
Click on pictures to enlarge
Egypte - Assouan, l'Obélisque inachevé
Egypte - Assouan, l'Obélisque inachevé
Egypte - Assouan, l'Obélisque inachevé
Egypte - Assouan, l'Obélisque inachevé
Egypte - Assouan, l'Obélisque inachevé
Egypte - Assouan, l'Obélisque inachevé

An Obelisk “cut” with dolerite?

According to egyptologists, balls of dolerite have been used to pummel and shape granite. We have been on the site and we saw things that strongly contradict this theory:
- Just looking at the aspect of dolerite balls and knowing its ranking on Mohs scale (approx. 5.5). Dolerite should have deteriorated as fast as granite did, not allowing any granite “sculpting”
- If you join us in Aswan, you will be able to hit some granite with these dolerite balls. You will figure out that, even by taking some time, you will not give any shape to granite. Moreover, you will risk to hurt yourself!
- If we hit the obelisk to give it its shape, what can explain the dug shapes ON the obelisk itself ?
assouan16
These unexplained shapes show that instruments used should have been left near the working area. The omnipresent confinement highlights the extraordinary precision of used processes. We can also speculate about a potential melting of the stone (versus digging) or thinking about the use of ultrasounds to break granite. Unfortunately, these theories have yet to be proven. However, what we see at Aswan makes us think about a more ancient civilization which used advanced technologies capable of digging granite as well and working seamlessly such a hard material. and on top of that allowing the transportation of 1200 tons of granite to its final destination.

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