I am a working Industrial and QA Engineer. I have read a lot of pseudoscience claiming that artifacts or construction could not have been done by our ancestors with the tools available to them at the time. To your knowledge has anyone tried describing the stone-work, assembly, or other processes from the industrial engineering discipline?
Yes, absolutely. There has been a lot of good work done in this area and it’s commonly referred to as experimental archaeology. You mentioned stone work: archaeologist Mark Lehner teamed up with a stone mason a few decades ago and the two experimented in quarrying techniques as well as pyramid construction techniques and not only demonstrated that period tools and knowledge was sufficient, it was efficient.
There are many other examples of experimental archaeology out there, ranging from lithic studies of small tools to large scale studies of migration. You might try these for stone working:
Lehner, Mark (1997). The Complete Pyramids. Thames and Hudson. New York.
Arnold, Dieter (1991). Building in Egypt: Pharonic Stone Masonry. Oxford University Press. New York, New York.
Impressive information. Thank you.
Really? Which information did you find the most informative?
Dear Dr. Feagans,
As I’m sure you know the Serapeum of Saqqara contains huge stone sarcophagi. What were the tool(s) used to hollow them out. Apparently they didn’t have a crank at that time but a bow driven tube drill hardly seems up to the task (IMO). Any thoughts?
The 28 granite and diorite bull sarcophagi found by Auguste Mariette in the 1850s at Saqqara were probably hollowed out using bronze or copper tubular drills. Other methods would have been more impractical or simply taken too long. Pounding the stone to hollow it out with flint adzes and stone mauls, for instance, would have likely cracked the granite blocks completely through. And flint chisels and punches would have taken an unreasonable amount of time when the much easier and more efficient method of copper tube drills was available. Experimental archaeology has shown that these drills can actually penetrate granite at rates up to 30 cm^3 / hour and would probably require 3-person teams: two on each end of a bow to move the drill and 1 exerting pressure on a lubricated capstone at the top of the drill at about 1 kg / cm^2.
I highly recommend the book, Experiments in Egyptian Archaeology: Stoneworking Technology in Ancient Egypt, by Denys Stocks (Routledge 2003). https://amzn.to/2vS3M5r You can find it at this Amazon link or through your local library’s Inter Library Loan (ILL) service.
I hope this was helpful and thanks for visiting Archaeology Review!