Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Aswan Obelisk Quarry more than meets the eye

Source: EurekAlert!

The unfinished Obelisk Quarry in Aswan, Egypt, has a canal that may have connected to the Nile and allowed the large stone monuments to float to their permanent locations, according to an international team of researchers. This canal, however, may be allowing salts from ground water to seep into what has been the best preserved example of obelisk quarrying in Egypt.

"Working deposits and surfaces exposed during excavation are being damaged by accumulation of salts," the researchers said at the Second International Conference on Geology of the Tethyr at the Cairo University. "These unique artifacts document quarry methods and should be preserved."

The granite quarry, located on the east bank of the Nile in the center of Aswan City, contains a very large unfinished obelisk that was not completed because of latent cracks. While the cracks were bad for the ancient Egyptian stone carvers, the unfinished monument provides the opportunity for archaeologists to understand how people worked hard stone quarries.

Excavations by the Aswan Office of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt, began in 2002 to prepare the site for tourists. Among the discoveries made were a trench at least 8.25 feet deep. Archaeologists were unable to reach the bottom because of groundwater incursion.

"Some researchers suggested that this trench linked the quarry with the Nile," says Dr. Richard R. Parizek, professor of geology and geo-environmental engineering at Penn State. "Transporting huge granite monoliths by boat to the Nile during the annual flood would appear to be easier than having to transport these blocks overland from the quarry to the Nile."

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