The Forgotten Stones of Aswan Quarry, Egypt
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
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
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 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).
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.