Friday, March 31, 2006

Fayoum's ancient quarry under threat

Al Ahram Weekly is featuring the risk to one of Egypt's ancient stone quarrying areas (one of two such quarries known from the Faiyum Depression) which also contains the world's oldest known road and the quarrymen's village: "The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), in response to a request to draw up a management plan for the protection and preservation of the quarries in the northern Fayoum, is now looking into the possibility of asking UNESCO to incorporate Widan Al-Faras within the Wadi Al-Rayan Protected Area. This spring, a survey of the ancient quarries at Widan Al-Faras carried out as part of the Quarry Scapes Project will be continued with the aim of assessing the risks to the site and developing practical and methodological guidelines for its conservation. . . . The ancient basalt quarries of Widan Al-Faras (Ears of the Horse), so named after two hills which stand as a prominent geological feature at Gabal Qatrani, lie in the north of Fayoum about 80km southwest of Cairo. Not only do they form the best preserved ancient geological landscape from ancient Egypt, but this is also the oldest and most extensively-used basalt outcrop. There are no known archaeologically preserved equivalents anywhere else in the world. Widan Al-Faras offers invaluable information about the totality of ancient stone technology and the living conditions of those who worked in the stone industry at a very early stage in the history of human civilisation, about 4,500 years ago."
See the full story on the above page, which gives details about the quarry and its uses, as well as the ongoing survey work.

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