Appendix_k

Appendix K - Raw Materials of the Eastern Desert

174_7412bContents

Introduction

Mineral and rock resources are all over the Eastern Desert, which has a rich geological past.  This page lists some of the materials exploited at different times in prehistoric and historic Egypt and gives rough locations.  Detailed maps, which are much more useful, can be found in Baines and Malek (1980, p.21), Majer (1992) and Manley (1996, p.19, 51). This page is merely provided to offer an idea of the wealth of the materials available.

Most of the rocks and minerals are to be found between 28˚ (Gebel Zeit on the Red Sea Coast, or Beni Hasan on the Nile) and the Tropic of Cancer to the south (south of Berenike on the Red Sea Coat and Qertassi on the Nile). 

Although there are gold resources which were exploited in Egypt, thebiggest sources of gold were in the Nubian desert, shown very clearly in Baines and Malik (1980, p.21).
 

Resources

Minerals

  • Copper
  • Gold
  • Galena (lead ore)
  • Amethyst
  • Emerald
  • Beryl
  • Jasper
  • Agate
  • Carnelian
  • Felspar
  • Garnet
  • Rock crystal (quartz)
  • Serpentine
  • Iron
  • Lead
  • Olivine
  • Tin

Rock

  • Porphyritic rock
  • Steatite
  • Chert / Flint
  • Greywacke tuff
  • Granite
  • Dolerite
  • Limestone
  • Felspar
  • Gabbro
  • Gneiss
  • Chalcedony
  • Breccia
  • Calcite
  • Marble
  • Metagrabbro
  • Metagreywacke
  • Serpentinite
  • Steatite
  • Rock gypsum
  • Rock anhydrite
  • Pyroxenite
  • Diorite

The Vexed subject of schist, slate and volcanic ash

The identification of stones in Egypt has been plagued by inaccurate identification and terminology.  I will leave the subject of describing the problems to Harrell et al (2000), who do an excellent job of it:

    “The name ‘tuff’ refers to a rock that is both igneous and sedimentary in origin.  it forms through the lithification of a sediment consisting of volcanic ash and cinders  . . . which were originally airborne debris ejected during an explosive volcanic eruption.  Once settled onto the earth’s surface, the ash and cinders commonly mix with other, non-volcanic sediments such as calcitic mud.  When the calcite predominates over the ash and cinders, the rock is termed a sedimentary ‘tuffaceous limestone’.  Vessels made from tuff and tuffaceous limestone are almost always misidentified in the archaeological literature as ‘volcanic ash’ (a sediment rather than a rock name) when they are dark green and smooth in texture . . . .

    Most vessels previously identified as volcanic ash are tuff or tuffaceous limestone.  Some or those identified as schist or slate are tuff, but most of these vessels are probably made from the greywacke sandstone and siltstone from Wadi Hammamat, another Eastern Desert quarry.  Greywacke looks very much like tuff but the two can be easily distinguished.  the tuff, which always contains abundant calcite, will effervesce vigorously when a drop of dilute hydrochloric acid is placed on it.  The greywacke, which has very little or no calcite, will not react noticeably.  Also, the tuff is commonly banded whereas the greywacke is not.

    Because vessels of tuff and tuffaceous limestone have not been accurately identified in the past, their abundance cannot be directly determined from published reports.”

Distribution of rocks and gemstones

This is taken from data presented by James Harrell (Harrell WR-f).

Rock Class

Rock Type

Location

Sedimentary

 

Rock gypsum

Red Sea coast

Rock anhydrite

Red Sea coast

Igneous

 

Granite

Eastern Desert

Quartz diorite

Pryoxerite

Andesite

Dolerite porphyries

Obsidian

Tuff and related rocks including volcanic pyroclastics

Granodiorite

Eastern Desert and Aswan

Metamorphic

 

Tonalite gneiss

Red Sea mountains

Marble

Metacongomerate

Metagabbro

Metagraywacke

Serpentinite

Steatite

Minerals

 

Gold

All available from the Eastern Desert, with much copper excavated from Sinai malachite.

Copper

Silver

Tin

Some iron

Some lead

Gemstones

 

Amazonite (variety of microcline feldspar)

Eastern Desert

Emerald (variety of beryl)

Garnet

Varieties of quartz

Peridot (variety of olivine)

St John’s Island, Red Sea

Turquoise

Sinai

Imports

 

Obsidian

 

Lapis lazuli

 

Ornamental Stone Tool Types

The following table shows some of the ornamental stone types which were used in ancient Egypt and sourced from the Eastern Desert (data taken from Harrell WR-f):

 

Early   Dynastic

Old Kingdom

Middle Kingdom

New Kingdom

Greek

Roman

Exterior veneer on pyramids

 

Tranite and granodiorite

 

 

 

 

Pyramid capstones

 

 

Granodiorite and possibly basalt

 

 

 

Linings of burial chambers and passages in pyramids and mastaba tombs

Granite, granodiorite and siliceous sandstone

 

 

 

Temple door lintels, jambs and thresholds

Granite, granodiorite and siliceous sandstone

Temple pavements

 

Basalt and travertine

 

 

 

 

Temple columns

 

Granite

 

 

 

Temple/other interior wall veneer, pavement and columns

 

 

 

 

 

andesite-dacite porphyry, granite, granodiorite, metacongomerate, metagabbro, metagraywacke, pegmatitic diorite, quartz diorite, rhyolite porphyry, tonalite gneiss, trachyandesite porphyry

Basins

 

andesite-dacite porphyry, granite, tonalite gneiss

 

 

 

Barque shrines

 

 

Granite, siliceous sandstone and travertine

 

 

Small statue shrines (naoi)

 

Granite, granodiorite, metagraywacke and siliceious sandstone

Obelisks

 

 

 

Granite, metagraywacke, siliceous sandstone

 

Granite

Offering tables

 

Granite, granodiorite, metagraywacke, siliceous sandstone, travertine

Small vessels and figurines

(And Late Predynastic)
Andesite porphyry, anorthosite gneiss, basalt, granite, metagraywacke, obsidian, pegamitic diorite, quartz rock crystal, red-and-white limestone, breccia, rock gypsum, perpentinite, silicified wood, travertine, tuff and tuffaceious limestone

 

 

 

 

 

(And Second Intermediate Period) Blue rock anhydrite

 

 

 

Canopic jars

 

Travertine

Sarcophagi

 

Granite, granodiorite, metagraywacke, and siliceous sandstone

Travertine

 

 

Small to colossal statues and other sculptures

Granite, granodiorite, metagraywacke, red-and-white limestone breccia, siliceous sandstone and travertine

 

Anorthosite gneiss

Marble and pyroxenite

Basalt and metaconglomerate

 

 

 

 

 

Andesite-dacite porphyry

Scarab and shabti figures

 

 

 

metagraywacke, serpentinite, stetite (usually glazed) and travertine

Stelae

 

Granite, granodiorite, metagraywacke and siliceous sandstone

Cosmetic and ceremonial palettes

And late Predynastic)
Metagraywacke

 

 

 

 

 

 

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