The Granite Quarries & The Unfinished Obelisk
The ancient granite quarries are situated in the eastern desert directly to the south of Aswan. Old Kingdom Pharaohs demanded the stones for tombs, lintels, & floors, & then, increasingly as decoration, King Unis of the 5th dynasty, for example, had pillars in the form of palms carved from granite for his mortuary temple at Sakkara.
The increasing demand for stone led workers to begin quarrying the rock from Egypt’s main source of granite, the Cataract region south of Aswan.
The quarries were worked throughout ancient Egyptian history, even in Greco-Roman times. Granite slabs were used in the construction of the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza, for example, & the gigantic obelisk of Senusert I in Heliopolis was also transported from the granite quarries at Aswan.
Egypt’s largest standing obelisk that of Queen Hatshepsut t Karnak , & its now destroyed twin, were transported from Aswan to Luxor & erected in seven month.
Many blocks in the granite quarries were abandoned in various stages of completion. What is known as the unfinished obelisk is one of them, it lies in the northern quarries & it is still attached to the bed rock, left in the place most probably because of a crack which flawed it.
I is very huge obelisk but unfinished. When the workers abandoned this unfinished obelisk, which is estimated to weigh 1100 tons, they left behind numerous tools as well as markings & traces of their use which have enabled archaeologists to learn about quarrying methods.
These early miners used stone, copper, & bronze tools.
To extract the obelisk, they cut a line around he stone with dolerite hammers. Workers then chiseled notches into the line & deep trenches were cut along the sides of the future obelisk. It was then undercut.
As the stone was being loosened from its bed, the miners polished its exposed sides.The unfinished obelisk was discovered & cleared by Engelbach in 1922. It is very important because it shows the techniques adopted by the ancient Egyptians in cutting out these obelisk.
The site of the unfinished obelisk was featured in the modern film The Ten commandments.