Lithic artifact production at the Large-scale Pharaonic chert quarries of Wadi el-Sheikh, Egypt

Author(s): Elizabeth Hart

Year: 2017


Recent research into quarrying and lithic production in Wadi el-Sheikh, Egypt by the University of Vienna has identified activities extending from the Middle Paleolithic to modern times. These include Middle Paleolithic use of surface materials, Neolithic chert quarrying, Pharaonic gypsum extraction, quarrying and production of groundstone, ochre collection, and small-scale independent modern salt quarrying. However, the most striking activities are the large-scale Pharaonic period chert quarries. These massive works stretched for 8 km in one section of the wadi alone. Mining strategies included surface pits, trenches, vertical shafts, and deep horizontal galleries. The surfaces are carpeted in lithic debitage, and stratified deposits over 1 m deep have been identified. Surface collection and analysis of materials from four 1x1 m test units has revealed evidence for the manufacture of prismatic blades, bifacial knives, and bifacial bangles. Analysis of the distribution of tool fragments, cores, debitage, and debris indicates that production was likely segmented, with different types and stages of production taking place across the site. This evidence combined with finds of barracks-like structures, and the sheer scale of the activities, indicate that these quarrying expeditions were likely organized by the state-- a rare case for chert quarrying worldwide.

Cite this Record

Lithic artifact production at the Large-scale Pharaonic chert quarries of Wadi el-Sheikh, Egypt. Elizabeth Hart. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428883)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15947