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Unfinished Obelisk in Aswan

The Forgotten Stones of Aswan Quarry, Egypt

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The unfinished obelisk in Aswan, Egypt, is estimated to be around 1168 tons, but the largest Obelisk that was actually erected in Egypt was no more that 500 tons. I visited the immense unfinished Obelisk first in 2010, and was immediately bemused by its gigantic size. The night before, I had visited Luxor Temple and was stunned into silence by the artificially lit Obelisk that sits alone at the entrance to the temple, trying to comprehend how on earth such a thing could exist (it’s twin was shipped to Paris - quite a feat in itself). It just looked so ‘alien’ and surprisingly ‘modern’, as though it was somehow designed on a computer. It is also much smaller than the unfinished Obelisk in the quarry.

Obelisk by Night at Luxor Temple

Obelisk by Night at Luxor Temple

There are several quarries in Egypt, but the preferred granite source came from the Aswan area. One of the earliest known directors of the Aswan quarry was employed by Ramses III, named Hori around 1170 BC (1). Much of the red, grey, and black granite used in the pyramids and Valley Temple on the Giza plateau was taken from here, and was utilized long before Ramses III. The stone from this quarry was transformed into the casing stones of Khafre and Menkaure’s pyramids, the 70 ton lintels above the Kings Chamber, and numerous sarcophagi, columns, and megalithic blocks on the plateau and beyond. The casing stones on Menkaure’s pyramid have caused some controversy. Robert Temple and his colleagues concluded, by using a technique called optical thermoluminescence , that the casing stones were dated between 3590 – 2640 BC, much earlier than Menkaure, and possibly confirming that the pyramids were built several hundred years before King Menes, the first Pharaoh, circa 3100 BC (2). This also dates the quarry at Aswan much earlier than previously thought, as that’s where the stone came from.

Other notable monuments that were quarried at Aswan include the sarcophagus made from granite at the burial chambers of Djoser and Sneferu at Saqqara, the Osirion at Abydos, and Cleopatra’s Needle that was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III, around 1450 BC (1).

Menkaure's Pyramid Casing Stones at Giza

Menkaure's Pyramid Casing Stones at Giza

The big question is always this: How did they do it? There are diorite pounding stones placed all around the site to demonstrate the way in which they must have quarried the granite. Diorite is only slightly harder than granite. Several engineers, and Egyptologist Mark Lehner, tried pounding the granite with diorite balls to see how long it would take. Estimates went up to around 8 months to release the Obelisk from the bedrock. (3) Engineer Christopher Dunn calculated that it would have probably taken much longer to complete such a task, and almost impossible in the cramped conditions that the workers would have had to suffer. Then, of course, it has to be removed, erected, and transported to the final destination. There are many other Obelisks all over Egypt, and now in other countries, and their function and purpose is still a mystery, but at least we know where they came from. Even level-headed engineers speculate that advanced machinery was used, as evidence can still be seen at the site. Other researchers theorise that sound or some kind of sonic technology was used to quarry, cut, and levitate these stones, or did they literally have stone-cutting machines, as Chris Dunn speculates?

The strange 'scoops' on the Unfinished Obelisk

The strange 'scoops' on the Unfinished Obelisk

The strange tool marks on much of the stone in the quarry looks like ‘scoops’ of some sort. It’s a style that does not match the diorite pounding balls. Chris Dunn suggested that this was done by some kind of machine that he describes as a massive belt sander, attached to some kind of JCB or excavator. There are many theories as to how they did it, but all we are left with are diorite balls, bronze chisel, stone implements, and a mystery that is yet to be solved. Marcus Allen, Editor of Nexus Magazine (UK) lectures on the sophisticated technology of the ancient Egyptians, and believes the diorite balls may have had another purpose. He told me they could have been used to roll the big stones on, as they are tougher than granite and could evenly distribute the great weight of such blocks over short distances (such as a nearby boat on the Nile River bank).

Diorite Balls

Figure 5 - Diorite Balls, said to be used on the Granite

This gigantic Obelisk is said to have been abandoned due to a crack that appeared on its surface. Chris Dunn raised the question as to why none of it was ever again quarried or used in future projects, as it is a very useful and perfectly ‘prepared’ chunk of megalithic rock. Also, some time after it was originally abandoned, drill-holes were made in the top surface where perhaps a smaller obelisk was being marked out. This outline also went through the ‘crack’ which archaeologists say was the reason it was never originally completed. But then why would they start cutting out another smaller obelisk if there was a crack in it? Chris Dunn, in his book Advanced Technology in Ancient Egypt suggests the crack happened much later, and that the monolith was left there long ‘before’ the crack ever happened, as though it was abandoned. Furthermore, the rites and ceremonies of the ancient Egyptians hint that Obelisks were imbued with some special power, or spirit, so maybe that prevented them from ever being able to use that particular piece of granite again, suggesting, because it has been ‘charged’ and imbued with power, it had to stay there and remain untouched. Perhaps someone forgot that (maybe the Romans) when they started marking out the smaller Obelisk.


Barry Sears's picture

I have just seen another article on this site that talks about the grinding stones that were used. The scallop textures are obvious grinding marks and here is an article showing a grinding wheel. 

The Evidence is Cut in Stone: A Compelling Argument for Lost High Technology in Ancient Egypt 

Barry Sears's picture


There is perhaps no-one on the planet the would not appreciate the great precision and dedication to the wonderful ancient structures. It appears the rough general shaping of the stones contain evidence of grinding on all surfaces and this would then free the stone from the source. The grinding stone appears quite small in diameter as indicated by the curve and distance between the remaining rock. The trickiest edge would be the bottom especially if the site is not terraced. This would then be followed by more precise shaping and tooling. I have not seen the suggested fire technique used, have you tried it ? I do use grinding and grozing most days in my work. 

Barry Sears's picture

Great read, your theories could all be possible. I just wanted to simplify things a little. The repetative grinding marks seem similar to any form of grinding where here it appears as if a large grinding stone set vertically and spinning could easily have been constructed. Secondly the diorite balls are sitting ontop of a couple of larger stones, these are shaped like a large chisel especially the sharper right one. If you wish to break a stone or block or brick, once you have scored the line and created a break line these chisel shapped rocks could be pounded along the line with a simply constructed heavy hammering device.

The science of the ancients was so encompassing,
any one question throws up numerous more,
not only "How did they do it?", but why,
what was the scientific thinking long before the first stone was hew,
much less transported and set in place.
The Egyptian's "preferred granite source came from the Aswan area.",
some 500 miles south in Nubia.
The "casing stones of Giza pyramids" were made from granite,
"Other notable monuments that were quarried at Aswan include
the sarcophagus made from granite at the burial chambers of Djoser and Sneferu at Saqqara,
the Osirion at Abydos, and Cleopatra’s Needle"
"Obelisks all over Egypt" whose "function and purpose is still a mystery"
are all made from granite which "like most natural stones". Has, but
"granites have been reported to have higher radioactivity"
Not only is granite radioactive, it emits the chemical element Radon,
a noble gas which can be carcinogenic
"Radon is produced by the radioactive decay of radium-226,
which is found in uranium ores; and
metamorphic rocks such as granite, and,
to a lesser degree, in common rocks such as limestone",
used in pyramid building,
at the same time it is used in modern medicine, in radiation therapy.
Could it be just chance that the Egyptian science,
built around astrology and "earth sciences",
uses the highly active stone known as the living rock ?

The site where this stone is is about 1,000 miles from the nearest tree. Fire from what.It seems like Egyptology is built on many of the old racial prejudices and Herodotus. Remember how they laughed at Darwin.How many times has something been claimed to be true in established thought then found later to be completely false? What was the Renaissance all about? Lost and forgotten knowledge and its rediscovery.
Right across from this is a perfectly flat cut wall in the quarry 7 meters high. Tell me how water and fire made that? Fire go ahead joke again.
Lastly, the so called, pounders there are pics. in which they are actually inbended in the stone. They are a by-product.


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