- Uses of ornamental stone types
- Return to Appendices Index
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).
- Galena (lead ore)
- Rock crystal (quartz)
- Porphyritic rock
- Chert / Flint
- Greywacke tuff
- Rock gypsum
- Rock anhydrite
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.”
This is taken from data presented by James Harrell (Harrell WR-f).
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):
Copyright Andie Byrnes 2007