Experts have discovered a canal at an Aswan rock quarry that they believe was used to help float some of ancient Egypt's largest stone monuments to the Nile River.
It has long been suspected that ancient workers moved the massive artifacts directly to their final destinations over waterways.
Ancient artwork shows Egyptians using boats or barges to move large monuments like obelisks and statues, and canals have also been discovered at the Giza pyramids and the Luxor Temple.
But the newfound canal, which has since been filled in, is the first proof discovered at the granite quarries in Aswan. Almost all obelisks, including those at the Luxor and Karnak Temples, were originally hewn in the Aswan area.
"What you have is 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," said Richard R. Parizek, a professor of geology at Penn State University who led the scientific tests confirming the canal's existence.
"It eliminates that land connection."
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The unfinished Obelisk Quarry in Aswan, Egypt, has a canal that may have connected to the Nile and allowed the large stone monuments to float to their permanent locations, according to an international team of researchers. This canal, however, may be allowing salts from ground water to seep into what has been the best preserved example of obelisk quarrying in Egypt.
Excavations by the Aswan Office of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt, began in 2002 to prepare the site for tourists. Among the discoveries made were a trench at least 8.25 feet deep. Archaeologists were unable to reach the bottom because of groundwater incursion.
"Some researchers suggested that this trench linked the quarry with the Nile," says Dr. Richard R. Parizek, professor of geology and geo-environmental engineering at Penn State. "Transporting huge granite monoliths by boat to the Nile during the annual flood would appear to be easier than having to transport these blocks overland from the quarry to the Nile."
Parizek, working with Adel Kelany, inspector, Supreme Council of Antiquities; Amr El-Gohary, geologist, National Research Centre, Cairo; and Shelton S. Alexander, professor emeritus of geophysics; David P. Gold, professor emeritus of geology: Elizabeth J. Walters, associate professor of art history; and Katarin A. Parizek, instructor, integrated arts, all at Penn State, looked at minimally invasive ways to determine whether the canal, as suggested, existed.
The researchers used both soil temperature readings and shallow seismic reflection to outline the canal without excavation because a cemetery and the recently completed tourist amenities are in the path of the canal. They drilled holes into the ground and fitted them with pipes so the researchers could measure temperature. Because this is a granite quarry, most of the underlying area is solid granite, which has little groundwater circulation and is heated and cooled only by geothermal energy from beneath and the outdoor above-ground temperatures. However, where the canal may run, sediment-filled areas would respond to groundwater circulation and show temperature differences.
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