The Wadi Hammamat Project

About


The 'Wadi Hammamat Project' website intends to provide readers with the most up to date information via publications, reports and other news since the Project's inception in 2010.  Below is a brief summary of the Project's aims, objectives and discoveries that have set a new path in terms of our understanding of the social and organisational context of ancient quarrying from the Predynastic period (4th millennium BC) into the Roman Period in Egypt (300 AD).

Research Background and Questions

Current research in Near Eastern and Egyptian archaeology has frequently questioned what the linkages are between increasing social complexity, craft specialisation, and the emergence of monumentality in the formation of early states. Yet, approaching these issues through studying the archaeological record at raw material sources is still an undervalued component of such research agendas, which, in general, have concentrated on analysing the built environment (e.g. pyramids, temples, statues). Since 2010, ‘The Wadi Hammamat Project’ (directed by Dr Elizabeth Bloxam and since 2013 co-directed with Dr Ian Shaw) has been undertaking the first holistic, multi-disciplinary archaeological survey of one of Egypt’s most important sources of greywacke in the Eastern Desert. As a prized stone used largely for ornamental purposes (e.g. iconic palettes such as the Narmer Palette pictured, vessels, sarcophagi, statues) from the Predynastic (4th millennium BC) into the Roman Period (300 AD), these quarries were at the centre of large-scale resource exploitation for over 3,000 years. There is a wealth of material culture relating to this activity through settlements, workshops, roads, production evidence and quarries themselves that significantly transformed the landscape over time. These remains are complemented by an unusually rich textual and pictorial record, from rock art to monumental inscriptions, left by those who lived and worked in the quarries since prehistory.

Since 2010 the Project has been exploring and questioning the extent to which monumentality in the early Egyptian state only existed as a product of elite appropriation and control of people and raw material sources. To this end we have been establishing the time depth of quarrying, identifying any technological and organisational change, and investigating the ways in which this relates to the inscriptional record. The most significant outcome of this work to date has been discovering the previously unknown Predynastic quarries and workshops that produced some of Egypt’s earliest cultic objects (e.g. the Narmer Palette dating to early 3rd millennium BC Dynasty 0-1) relating to emerging state iconography and kingship.  Through comparative and cross-cultural approaches to interpreting this data we have enabled a reappraisal of the ways in which we understand the social interplay between local and regional kin-groups within notions of state control of these activities.  These findings have been crucial to our research aims, and are the foundations on which we continue to build, as well as initiating a conservation and site management plan to protect this increasingly fragile heritage.
AboutAbout

wadi Hammamat Project Team


Dr Elizabeth Bloxam

Co-Director

Visiting Professor of Egyptology, IHAC, Northeast Normal University, Changchun, China

Dr Ian Shaw

Co-Director

Visiting Professor of Egyptology, IHAC, Northeast Normal University, Changchun, China

Adel Kelany

Egyptologist

Director of Archaeological Awareness in Aswan Supreme Council of Antiquities Aswan, Egypt

Prof James Harrell

Professor Emeritus of Geology

Department of Environmental Sciences, The University of Toledo Ohio, USA

Dr Norah Moloney

Archaeologist

Institute of Archaeology University College London

Dr Ashraf El Senussi

Egyptologist/Ceramicist

Supreme Council of Antiquities Faiyum, Egypt

Adel Tohamey

Egyptologist

Supreme Council of Antiquities Aswan, Egypt

Dr Timothy Anderson

Archaeologist

Waleed Yousef

Surveyor

GIS Center Supreme Council of Antiquities Cairo, Egypt

Fieldwork Reports


Wadi Hammamat Project - First Survey Report (in English and Arabic) November 2010

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Wadi Hammamat Project - Second Survey Report (in English and Arabic) November 2011

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Wadi Hammamat Project - Third Survey Report (in English and Arabic) - November 2012

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Wadi Hammamat Project - Fourth Survey Report (in English and Arabic) April 2013

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Wadi Hammamat Project - Fifth Survey Report (in English and Arabic) November 2014

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Wadi Hammamat Project - Sixth Survey Report (in English and Arabic) November 2015

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Articles


This is the first major publication about the discovery, in 2010, of the Predynastic to Early Dynastic palette, bracelet and vessel quarries in the Wadi Hammamat.

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This article presents a fresh perspective on Egyptian quarrying that aims to balance the more accepted (and persistent) perceptions of overriding state control of these activities, with viewpoints gained from recent archaeological survey of the WadiHammamat quarries. Practically and theoretically, a holistic approach is taken that contextualizes the textual sources and other elements of the archaeological record within the quarry landscape as a series of material complexes.

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The history of research of procurement landscapes is a fundamental aspect in terms of understanding why holistic, multi-disciplinary methods of documenting and interpreting procurement landscapes in Egypt remain in their infancy in comparison with similar research agendas in European, American, and Australian contexts. This chapter therefore aims to set out the research background of quarrying and mining studies, and its impact, in terms of understanding the reasons why this type of archaeological landscape has been largely ignored in Egyptological studies. As a case study, the Wadi Hammamat quarry landscape is described and interpreted as a key place of contact between local and regional skilled craftspeople over several millennia.

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This article provides a brief overview of the discovery of the previously unknown Predynastic greywacke quarries, and associated rock art, in the Wadi Hammamat region of the Eastern Desert. As the one source of prestige objects such as palettes, bracelets and vessels that feature in numerous elite burial contexts dating between the early 4th millennium BC to Early 3rd millennium BC, this chapter explores new methodological approaches to enhance our understanding of the social context of early stone procurement. The influence of cross-cultural and comparative approaches from social archaeology, anthropology and indigenous archaeology, particularly from ethnographic research of Australian Aboriginal stone-working, are discussed in terms of developing fresh research methods. Such approaches haver revealed a far more nuanced picture of interaction between local and regional social groups, in which the quarries played a central role. Please contact either the publisher or the author to request a copy of this article

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Related Research Projects and Articles


Ancient Stone Quarry Landscapes in the Eastern Mediterranean is a major publication based on a 3-year multi-disciplinary, multi-national research project titled 'QuarryScapes' aimed at documenting and designing conservation initiatives of endangered ancient quarry landscapes in Egypt, Jordan and Turkey.

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This publication in World Archaeology presents a methodology for assigning heritage values to endangered non-monumental quarry landscapes in terms of conservation and cultural heritage management.

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This second publication in World Archaeology concentrates on the criteria designed by UNESCO to evaluate ‘outstanding universal value’ of cultural landscapes and discusses a comparative approach to assigning significance, in World Heritage terms, to more mundane ancient industrial landscapes of antiquity.

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Human mobility linked to specialist craftspeople has become an important new area of research in archaeology and anthropology. This book and its contents explore numerous approaches to the subject and this chapter discusses human mobility in the arena of stone crafting in the Eastern Mediterranean and its role in the transmission of technological know-how in the Bronze Age.

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This publication in the Journal of Social Archaeology is the culmination of two years of post-doctoral research into the social context of ancient gemstone mining in Egypt. The research project undertaken by Dr Elizabeth Bloxam during an Early Career Fellowship at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, presents comparative approaches to interpreting fresh archaeological data from fieldwork undertaken at the Stele Ridge carnelian mines in the region of Chephren's Quarries (Gebel el Asr) in southern Egypt (Lower Nubia).

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This chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Egyptology focuses on recent discourses in Cultural Heritage Management and the ways in which these have impacted on Egypt's most fragile archaeological landscapes. The article proposes a more rigorous approach to community-based strategies of engagement in relation to the protection of ancient quarry landscapes in Egypt via two case studies in Aswan and the Wadi Hammamat.

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This chapter appeared in a book titled 'Bread for the People: The Archaeology of Mills and Milling' that comprised a series of papers presented at a conference held in Rome in 2009 dedicated to the archaeology of millstone quarrying. This chapter discusses the discovery of a significant 'industry' in the production of grinding stones in Aswan that spanned a time depth of over 16,000 years from the Late Palaeolithic into the Roman Period.

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This co-authored article with Dr Per Storemyr discusses the social organisation and logistics of large-scale basalt quarrying during the Pyramid Age of the Egyptian Old Kingdom. From archaeological survey conducted at the quarries, and surrounding environs, the evidence suggests that pyramid construction and the transformation to large-scale quarrying of specific rocks, such as basalt for architectural elements in pyramid complexes, led to significant technological innovation in logistics. Efforts were clearly focused on minimising overland transport and thus the construction of an 11 km road was to link the quarries with Lake Moeris (now extinct) to maximise water transport directly to the pyramid construction sites via the Bahr Yusef tributary of the Nile. The article also discusses from settlement evidence that quarrying was undertaken by small numbers of stonemasons, probably no more than 50 at any one time.

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