The great monuments of ancient Egypt bear witness to the greatness of the pharaohs who had them built. The stone quarries reveal the efforts of the Egyptian people to build the enormous buildings commissioned by their kings.
The most famous of these is undoubtedly the granite quarry of Aswan. It houses the famous unfinished obelisk. Built nearly 1,500 years BC, this monolithic monument allows tourists and archaeologists of our time to discover the secrets of the largest obelisks erected throughout the country.
The construction of the unfinished obelisk was commissioned by Queen Hatshepsut. At that time, these monoliths symbolized the presence of the creator god Ra. Particularly attached to Amun-Ra, one of the forms of this deity, the queen wanted to pay homage to him by erecting a monument worthy of his greatness. She then decided to build the largest obelisk ever built in Egypt and planned to erect it in front of the temple of Amun-Ra at Karnak temple, The granite quarry of Aswan was therefore requisitioned by the queen Hatshepsut
Under the guidance of the royal architects, the stonemasons chose the most homogeneous rocky bench on the site. They began to groom its surface to make it perfectly smooth. Then they dug trenches all around the rock. This area was to be the thickness of the obelisk. As they began to cut the lower part of the obelisk, they suddenly heard a thud and tearing noise. A sound they knew too well. They all rushed to the surface of the monument. Their worries were then confirmed. A large crack had appeared on the surface of the forming obelisk. The stone had cracked under the blows of hammers.
And in an instant, all the hard work of the workers was shattered.
Informed of the tragedy, Hatshepsut saw a sign from the gods. His nephew and successor, Thutmose III, was to be the builder of the Karnak obelisks, a work he accomplished several years later.
The queen project was therefore abandoned and the obelisk remains unfinished to this day.
To visit the quarry in Aswan is to discover ancient Egypt in a completely different setting. Far from the opulence of the temples of Abu Simbel, it was here that the working class worked to extract the stones for the pyramids, places of worship, and monuments dedicated to the kings. At the entrance to the site, one discovers a pile of large rocks, restructured by the work of the ancient Egyptians. Thanks to footbridges and small stairs here and there, one gradually gains height. Each stage of the ascent is reminiscent of the relentless work of the workers who had to work tirelessly to satisfy their pharaohs need for grandeur, cutting stone, lifting enormous blocks of granite to transport them to the great cities of the kingdom.
Almost at the top, we discover on the right an enormous phallic-shaped rock. The unfinished obelisk has been lying in its great excavation for nearly 3,500 years. One notices at once the crack at the origin of the abandonment of the project. A closer look reveals that the surface is covered with asperities, the marks left by the tools of the time. These small details may have helped many archaeologists understand how this type of monument was built.
They used heated bricks to dam the surface of the stone. Then they suddenly cooled the rock by pouring water over it. They then hit the stone with dolerite, a rock that is much stronger than granite. In this process, they could obtain a very horizontal and coarsely smooth surface in a few hours.