GEBEL EL-SILSILA THROUGHOUT THE AGES: PART 6 – RAMESSIDE QUARRYING
Ancient Egypt|November / December 2020
Maria Nilsson and John Ward revisit the Ramesside era at Gebel el-Silsila to explore the quarries, the Temple of Sobek and a unique blueprint of ancient quarrying.

Gebel el-Silsila was a thriving quarrying community during the Nineteenth Dynasty, and the site contains a huge number of Ramesside monuments, some of which we touched upon in our last article (AE121). In this issue, we are staying in the Nineteenth Dynasty to look at some of the important quarrying developments at the site.

Quarries

Three main quarries have been confirmed as Ramesside (GeSE Q31-33) based on epigraphy and archaeology/artefacts, which are situated on the central part of the East Bank. The first two (Q31-32) are open-faced quarries embedded 300m into the mountain and are hidden from view as they are surrounded by spoil heaps to all cardinal directions. In a way they can be seen as time capsules for one of Egypt’s greatest periods of engineering and ingenuity. The two quarries reach a height of some 12-15m measured from the current ground level, and have both been usurped in part by the early Roman quarry workers. They are connected through their main access: a paved and raised transportation route adorned with two stelae commemorating Sety I. The pathway then meanders through massive spoil heaps (see opposite, top) westwards towards their Nile-side quay. There, at one of the site’s larger quays, the Nile-side cliff face is decorated with two illustrations of barges each depicted with a cabin (opposite, bottom). The barge on the left also has an obelisk. There is a corresponding group of seven individually different vessels at the back of Q32, presumably produced by the same artist. These, however, are depicted without cabins (top right).

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