Quarrying Beautiful Bekhen Stone for the Pharaoh: The Exploitation of Wadi Hammamat in the Reign of Amenemhat III

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The greywacke quarries in Wadi Hammamat are one of the best known examples of this kind of activity due to the number of inscriptions preserved at the site. Although a number of approaches to these inscriptions have been made, it is quite usual to find general studies about epigraphic features or the activities of one important functionary. The aim of this paper is to focus on the royal activities in the quarries at the end of the Middle Kingdom, more precisely in the reign of Amenemhat III, analyzing for that purpose both epigraphic and comparative archaeological data, in order to build a comprehensive image of the Egyptian works at this quarrying site.

Quarrying Beautiful Bekhen Stone for the Pharaoh: The Exploitation of Wadi Hammamat in the Reign of Amenemhat III

in Journal of Egyptian History



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See HirschKultpolitik und Tempelbauprogramme der 12. Dynastie110–37. This building activity was especially visible in the Fayum area where the pharaoh was later deified (Widmer “Pharaoh Maâ-Rê Pharaoh Amenemhat and Sesostris”; Volokhine “Thitoès et Lamarès”).


Klemm and KlemmStones and Quarries in Ancient Egypt306–07.


Klemm and Klemm Stones and Quarries in Ancient Egypt309. There are three color varieties of meta-greywacke in Wadi Hammamat: greenish gray dark gray and grayish green but the latter is the most common; see Harrell “Ornamental Stones” 3.


Lucas and Rowe“The Ancient Bekhen Stone” 7.


GomáaDie Besiedlung267–69.


Farout“La carrière du [ouhemou] Ameny” 157.


SeyfriedBeiträge zu den Expeditionen des Mittleren Reiches158–59.


SeyfriedBeiträge zu den Expeditionen des Mittleren Reiches158–59; Tallet “Notes sur le ouadi Maghara et sa région au Moyen Empire.”


Galán“Royal Commissioners and Royal Inscriptions” 427–28.


Faulkner“Egyptian Military Organization” 37; Stefanović “šmsw—Soldiers of the Middle Kingdom” 233–34. As time went by they were assigned with other duties as is shown in the different composed titles: šmsw n Ꜥrryt šmsw n pr-ꜤꜢ šmsw n rmn-tp or šmsw n ḥḳꜢ. This diversification of the title shows a differentiation between the šmsw belonging to different administration spheres where these soldiers started to carry out duties more related to the administration leaving the original meaning of the term as “bodyguards” to the šmsw n ḥḳꜢ attested only from the reign of Senusert III onwards (Stefanović “šmsw—Soldiers of the Middle Kingdom” 238).


QuirkeTitles and Bureaux103–04.


MatzkerDie letzten Könige16.


QuirkeTitles and Bureaux32.


Goyonet al. La construction pharaonique177. About the use of loading ramps in the Middle Kingdom see Arnold Building in Egypt 79–98. Loading ramps were used from the Old Kingdom in quarrying contexts such as those preserved from Gebel el-Asr (Engelbach “The Quarries of the Western Nubian Desert and the Ancient Road to Tushka” 372; Bloxam The Organisation Transport and Logistics of Hard Stone Quarrying 430 fig. 35; Shaw et al. “Quarrying and Landscape at Gebel el-Asr in the Old and Middle Kingdoms” 296) although these ramps were used to load sledges not to slide the stones down. Larger ramps were also used in building contexts and have been excavated in the pyramid of Senusert I at Lisht and that of Senusert II at Lahun although in these examples the ramps were made of mudbricks and their aim was to lift the blocks instead of bringing them down (Arnold Building in Egypt: 79–98; Arnold The Pyramid Complex of Senwosret I 92–94 pl. 101–109).


GomaàDie Besiedlung417–19.


QuirkeTitles and Bureaux126.


Goyon et al. La construction pharaonique178.


Farout“La carrière du [ouhemou] Ameny” 158; about this expedition see also Gasse “Ameny un porte-parole sous le règne de Sésostris Ier.”


Couyat and MontetLes Inscriptions Hieroglyphiques12.


Simpson“Historical and Lexical Notes” 29.


ArnoldBuilding in Egypt32–33; Bloxam “Quarrying and Mining (Stone)” 4.


Goyonet al. La construction pharaonique177.


Goyonet al. La construction pharaonique175.


Goyonet al. La construction pharaonique184.


Goyonet al. La contruction pharaonique172.


ArnoldBuilding in Egypt61.


Goyonet al. La contruction pharaonique204.


  • View in gallery
    The quarrying area of Wadi Hammamat with its main archaeological features. Drawing by the author after a satellite image and Klemm and Klemm, Stone Quarries, 300, fig. 450.14

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