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The Unfinished Obelisk and the Granite Quarries

The Ancient Egyptians used to extract the granite used in the noble parts of their constructions (pyramids, sanctuaries, altars, statues, etc) from Aswan quarries. The Unfinished Obelisk, which still remains in situation attached to the rock on one side, is a gigantic single piece of granite that was intended by Hatshepsut to be the biggest obelisk ever erected for her father, god Amun, in her temple, at Deir el-Bahari Temple. We can also see reliefs describing how obelisks were being transported. There are several theories concerning how obelisks and the huge blocks of granite were split away from its surrounding rock. Some talk about cutting a groove along the line where the stone was to be detached and then driven in wooden wedges which were soaked with water. The force of the swelling wood would act to split the granite like what was being done during the Roman times. Another theory talks about cutting a groove and then drop and abrade it. It would then be heated with charcoal and rapidly cooled with water causing the stone to split. The obelisk would have had 42m long and would have weighed more than 1200 tons. However, a flaw during quarrying was discovered and the obelisk was never finished. Another intent was to extract a minor obelisk however it failed and the project was abandoned to leave us an amazing testimony of how the Pharaonic monuments were being constructed. In the same site of the granite quarries, hieroglyphic inscriptions were discovered which date back to year 25 of the reign of Tuthmosis III. They were giving instructions for the quarrying of two large obelisks that were to be erected in the Karnak Temple and to be dedicated to Amun-Re. A harbor from where the stone was being shipped to the north was also discovered in the nearby.

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