Ancient Egyptian Technology
27 Jan 2008
How did they shape and transport large stone masses using copper and wood ?
Shaping hard stone :
They sawed it .
Copper is a soft metal . Hard silica grit (sand or quartz) gets impregnated and fixed in the soft copper saw and these hard bits cut the rock .
How they did it :
From jewelry we know that they knew how to draw copper wire .
A tensioned copper wire is sufficient to form a cutting edge . The tension was supplied by a bow-type saw .
The economic trick : the copper was recycled . The metal was very expensive , but it is an element .
They could recover nearly every particle of copper abraded away .Simple smelting would suffice .
The cutting wire is sluiced continuously by a cooling liquid , which is collected and reprocessed . The sides of cut is also later brushed down . The workers were washed down as well . Really high efficiencies of recycling can be obtained (99%) , especially if a slightly sticky liquid is used .
The Narmer Tablet (google it) . Very old (at least 5 000 yrs before present)
On the front and back at the top left and right of the tablet are stylized bow-saws .
Figure : connect BACGH and JEDFI .
A- - G F - - E
- - H I - -
BACGH is one horn fixed to beam BJ . H is the point of the left horn .
JEDFI is another horn fixed to beam BJ. I is the point of the right horn .
The horns are tensioned by sinews wound tight between BAC and CGH for the left , and likewise between JED and DFI for the right .
(If you examine the front left top horns of the Narmer Tablet , faint lines can still be seen showing the sinews .)
The copper wires strung between the left horn CGH and the right horn DFI are thus placed under an even elastic tension . Many wires are strung (looking like a harp) . Faint traces of these can be seen on the top front left bow of the Narmer Tablet
Note that the horns are curved much more than is natural because of the tensioning . See the bottom back of the tablet for a natural depiction of a bull . The horns are very different .
The length of the copper wire is not limited by the limitations of how long a wire can be drawn , as shorter lengths can knot-welded together . Indeed , some photos of the Narmer saws show thin lumps like splices or welds . This would not affect the sawing action , as this is dependant on abrasion .
So quite big blocks of stone can be sawed .
The user starts with a full harp of wires . As one wears away and breaks , they simply continue with the next wire . When all wires are used up , the bow is restrung .The shavings recycles continuously into copper wire .
A sawayer team can saw all day if they have the necessary backup team .
These would all be skilled professionals .
An intriguing note are the “ears” on the tablet bows . Close examination shows that they look more like leaves . The actual bull on the reverse does not show the same ears . One speculates that this might be the plant that is the source of the stickiness in the lubricating fluid .
Wire-drawing , chisels , drills and lathes .
The middle figure on top of both sides of the tablet schematically shows these .
The “catfish” represents the wire-drawing apparatus . It seem like a plate-type wire drawing process . The “whiskers” are the wires . Google wire-drawing .
The chisel is the Y shaped squiggle in the centre . Usually bronze or copper edged . This is a generally agreed interpretation .
Next to it on both sides are what looks like two cricket-wickets . One “cricket-wicket” is a drill . The center is drill-stave , tipped by an abrasive soft-copper bit (the same principle as the stone-saw) .
The two staves on the sides are guides to keep the drill in place and to guide the bowstring that powers the drill . (Drill-bows are a stone-age technology .)
With this , long straight holes can be drilled through rock .
Or gemstones . This is still the technology used in jewelry manufacture . A sticky drillbit coated with an abrasive is drilled into the target .
Two drills rotating around an axis while drilling is a primitive lathe . Good for making columns , pillars ,etc . Hence the two “cricket-wicket” drills on the tablet .
Moving large stones .
This problem has been solved by the Egyptian Department of Antiquities during their excavations of the workers’ quarters near the Pyramids . They found toy quarter-circles in childrens’ graves . They were mimicking in play what their parents did .
Strap four wooden quarter-circles to square and you have a circle . The stone blocks were not dragged , they were rolled . (This has been done in actual reconstruction with pyramid blocks) . Really large blocks (thousands of tonnes) can be moved by this method . The only limitation is the strength of wood and the strength of the surface over which it must roll . It can easily be calculated , but even cursory examination shows that it must be very large (cf mass capacity of wooden , wheeled cart)
Ancient Egyptian Wheelbarrow .
Since a large percentage of the pyramids is large fill-in rubble , they must have had an efficient way of transporting smaller , irregularly shaped rocks . It is speculated that nets filled with packed rubble were fitted with circle-segment strap-ons and rolled . Like our wheelbarrow , except that the wheel goes around the load .
Some Speculations :
Compound Bows :
The Egyptians probably invented compound-bow technology in their efforts to increase the efficiency of the bow-saw as described above . It then percolated back north via the mercenaries (like the alphabet) .
Nomads cannot even make a good compound bow . The reason is that the layers of glue between the strips of horn must be kept absolutely still for months to set properly. A really good bow around 1200 AD (Mongols) took about a year to make . The factories were around the edges of the steppes and were not nomadic . Places for artificers , pregnant woman , children , wounded convalescents and old people . About a third of the Mongol population resided here .
No nomad population could develop a compound bow . The development process would have involved long trial-and-error with different glues , thicknesses and types of horn , curing pressures and rates , temperatures , record keeping and lots of time in a stable environment . Only the Egyptians qualify .
But once the recipe was known , duplication was fairly easy .
Both the Egyptians and Middle Easterners like Assyrians used compound bows , but it came into its own with the horse . The Parthian shot is proverbial .
What amuses me is that the single weapon that killed more people than any other was developed as a better saw .
Resin coated strings impregnated with obsidian or quartz flakes will slice through stone . Cheap and easy to make . But not as easily guided . Look at the wavering joins at Sacsahuamen .
How did they join them ?
First , bring two rough blocks together using the strap-on roller technique . Then use parallel sawing strings repeatedly till the edges fit tightly . Then roll them into place .
What about the wheel ? Note that they were aware of the wheel . We know that from their childrens’ toys . Note that the evidence for the Egyptian technique was also found in childrens’ toys .
No anti-gravity . No advanced Ancient Civilizations with Mysterious Knowledge .
Just a bunch of priest-kings out for number one , a large number of suckers and lots of elbow-grease .
And so it goes .