Ancient Egyptians used waterways to transport pyramid stones from quarries

Washington, Oct 25 : Egyptian archaeologists claim to have discovered a canal at the Aswan rock quarry, which they say was used to ferry stone blocks used for constructing the giant pyramids, to the Nile River.

Scientists have for long suspected that workers moved the massive blocks and other artefacts directly to their final destinations over waterways.

The discovery of canals at the Giza pyramids and the Luxor Temple, and ancient artwork showing Egyptians using boats or barges to move large monuments like obelisks and statues, has given further credence to this theory.

But the newfound canal, which has since been filled in, is the first proof that waterways facilitated the transportation of all obelisks, including those at the Luxor and Karnak Temples, originally hewn in the Aswan area.

“What you have is a very strong evidence that they may have loaded these stones in at the quarry ... and as a result not dragging and hauling them over land. It eliminates that land connection,” said Richard R. Parizek, a professor of geology at Penn State University who led the scientific tests confirming the canal's existence.

Larger obelisks can weigh more than 50 tons, and a particularly well-known unfinished obelisk at the quarry is thought to weigh more than 1,100 tons. It was the largest such monument ever attempted but was abandoned after latent cracks emerged, revealing a rare glimpse of ancient construction practices.

Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University of Cairo said, that archaeologists had for long suspected the existence of a canal linking the Nile to the quarry site.

“It very nice to find this real confirmation. If they had just been using rollers and dragging things each time, everything would have been much more time-consuming and far slower,” said Ikram.

Archaeologists now believe that workers dragged the large stone monuments onto rafts at a point below the floodwater level, allowing the artefacts to float when the water level rose.

The canal likely filled in with water during the one of the Nile's annual floods, they said.

They said the canal was probably a natural split in the quarry granite, exploited and shaped by workers to make it more functional.

Incidentally, geologists have also found tooling marks along the canal similar to those where obelisks were removed.

The findings were announced at the Second International Conference on Geology of the Tethyr at Cairo University in March and will be published in advance of the next meeting in January, reports National Geographic. (ANI)