Aswan Stone Quarry - The Unfinished Obelisk
The Unfinished Obelisk viewed from the top. This obelisk would have been the tallest ever being forty two metres in length (50% taller than any other known). It is believed that the female pharaoh Hatshepsut sanctioned its construction ca. 1463 BC possibly for use at the Karnak Temple Complex, the quarrying would be extremely difficult to do today, but a truly momentous task 3500 years ago!
The Crack in the Unfinished Obelisk
In this view from the base of the obelisk, the crack can be clearly seen. The obelisk was being carved directly out of solid red granite bedrock when it is believed to have cracked, possibly the result of stress release, and been abandoned.
A cracked obelisk would have been seen as not fit for purpose, it was thought at the time that by covering the pyramid like top of the obelisk with electrum (a gold and silver alloy), the sun's power could be collected and transmitted to the area around the base of the obelisk, a crack in the granite would have been thought to have been an unacceptable hindrance to the transmission of the suns power.
Aswan Quarry Unfinished Obelisk
Inspection of this obelisk, and of the marks in the granite around it left by the workers, provide an insight into the ancient Egyptian working techniques. The presence of burned mud bricks in close proximity to the obelisk have led to speculation that the granite was heated by fire and then rapidly cooled by quenching with water (thermal shock), this would have resulted in the rock being weakened by micro fractures and becoming far easier to work. It is known that such a method was in common use in Egyptian gold mines over two thousand years ago (Fire-setting) and was used world wide until the introduction of explosives.
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