The large hieroglyphs on hard stones were cut by copper blades fed with emery, and sawn along the outline by hand; the block between the cuts was broken out, and the floor of the sign was hammer-dressed, and finally ground down with emery. Hammer-dressing was largely used in all ages on the hard stones; the blows crushed the stone to powder, and the stunning of the surface was often not quite removed by grinding, and shows as white spots. The hammer was usually of black hornstone, a tough amorphous quartz rock.

The methods of placing the stones in the building have been often debated. The foundations were usually laid on a bed of clean sand, and this enabled the whole course to be accurately adjusted level to begin with. For temples, it seems most likely that the interior was filled with earth as the building advanced; and thus the walls, drums, and architraves could be as easily dealt with as on the lowest course. This plan is successfully used at Karnak in present repairs. But where stones needed to be raised for a pyramid or a pylon, some staging was required. Remains of a massive brick slope still stand against each face of the unfinished pylons at Karnak. This, however, is only the general mass of the staging, and the actual steps for the stones must have been of stone, as brick would crumble to powder if any lifting work was done directly upon it. For short blocks a cradle of wood was used, of which many models have been found in foundation deposits along with model tools. On tilting this to one end, and putting a wedge beneath it, it could be rocked up the slope, and so gradually raised, first to one end and then to the other. For large blocks, the actual lifting was probably done by rocking up. If a beam be supported by two piles near the middle, a small force will tilt it up clear of one pile; on raising that pile the beam may be tilted the other way, and the lower pile raised in its turn. Thus rocking from pile to pile, a beam can be quickly raised till it is high enough to be moved on to the next step. It was probably thus that the fifty-six granite beams, weighing over fifty tons each, were raised in the pyramid of Khufu.

The Stone Working 90

The obelisks were transported on great barges, as shown in the sculptures. The method of raising such stones is partly explained by an account of setting up colossi of Ramessu IV. A causeway of earth was made sloping up for a length of a quarter of a mile; it was ninety-five feet wide, and one hundred and three feet high on the slope, probably about sixty or seventy feet vertically, as the slopes were held up steeply with facings of timber and brushwood. The purpose of this evidently was to raise the great block by sliding on its side up the slope, and then to tilt it upright by gravity over the head of the slope. How the mass would be turned we have nothing to show, but probably the simplest way, by gradually removing earth, would be followed. By next ramming earth beneath the obelisk as it lay on a slope, it would be quite practicable to force it forward into an upright position.

After a building was finished the sculpturing of its walls had to be executed. For this, a long training of sculptors was needful, and the art schools filled an important part in education. The simplest subjects of outlines in limestone were a first step, the sign neb requiring a straight and a curved line only. After the geometric forms came studies of heads and of hands. In fig. 88 we see how, after a fair control of the graver had been attained, there was still much to be learned in detail and harmony before the artist could be trusted to decorate a temple.

Statuary also needed a long training. The work was first marked out in profile of the front and sides, and then cut along these outlines, as in the rock-crystal figure (fig. 89), where the outlines at right angles have been cut, but the corners are yet unrounded. In the block for the head of a lion (fig. 90) the various planes have been already cut for the face, before attempting any rounding. The limestone head (fig. 91) shows a further stage, where the general rounding is done, but the details of the lips, ears, eyes, and eyebrows are yet left in the block. All of these stages needed incessant practice, and years must have been spent in training in the schools before final work was undertaken.

Turning now to stone-work on a smaller scale, the hardest materials were wrought for vases in the prehistoric age. In the first civilisation, basalt, syenite, and porphyry were in use as well as the softer stones, alabaster and limestone. The later civilisation brought in slate, coloured limestone, serpentine, and lastly diorite, which continued to be the favourite stone into the pyramid age. The main differences of form are shown in fig. 87. The earlier type of vase is the standing form F, with a foot, and no piercing for suspension. The later prehistoric age brought in the suspended stone as well as pottery vases. The main types were A, B, D, E, G, H, and lastly C, cut out of coloured marbles, of syenite, and of basalt. All of these vases were cut entirely by hand without any turning, or even any circular grinding, on the outside. The polish lines cross diagonally on the curved sides, and the slight irregularities of form, though imperceptible to the eye, can be felt by rotation in the fingers. The greatest triumph of this stone-work is the vase from Hierakonpolis in black and white syenite, of the type A, E, two feet across and sixteen inches high, which is highly polished, and hollowed out so thin that it can be lifted by one finger, though if solid it would weigh four hundred pounds. The interior of these vases was ground out with stone grinders fed with emery, and in softer stones cut out by crescent-shaped flint drills.

Stone Vases

Stone Vases 91A   H. Prehistoric K. XIIth dynasty

A - H. Prehistoric K. XIIth dynasty.

J. VIth dynasty.

L, M. XVIIIth dynasty.

Methods Of Sculpture

88. Trial piece of learner90. Lion's head drafted

88. Trial piece of learner.

90. Lion's head drafted.

89. Rough drafting89. Head nearly finished

89. Rough drafting.

91. Head nearly finished.

The historic times show a continual decline in the quality of the stone used. In the Ist dynasty the hard stones decreased, and the softer slate and alabaster were more common. In the pyramid age only diorite continued in use among the hard materials, and that but rarely compared to soft stones; while in the XIIth and XVIIIth dynasties, beyond an occasional vase of obsidian or serpentine, nothing is seen but the soft alabaster. The form J belongs to the VIth dynasty. K is a type which descends from the Ist dynasty, but in this form wide at the top belongs to the XIIth, after which it disappears. L and M are of the XVIIIth dynasty.

Amulets of fine stone were used from prehistoric days onwards. Of the early ones, the bull's head is the commonest, made of carnelian, haematite, or glazed quartz. The fly is made of slate, lazuli, and serpentine in prehistoric times, and of gold in historic jewellery. The hawk is found of glazed quartz and limestone, the serpent of lazuli and limestone; the crocodile, the frog, the claw, the spear-head are all found in prehistoric use. In the Old Kingdom, small amulets of carnelian or ivory were usual; the forms are the hand, the fist, the eye, lion, jackal-head, frog, and bee. In the Middle Kingdom the more usual material was silver or electrum. The New Kingdom used amulets but little; the great profusion comes from the mummies of the Saite time, when dozens may be found on one body. The great variety of forms and materials would require a volume to explain them.

Beads were used from prehistoric times. The hard stones were cut then - quartz, amethyst, agate, car-nelian, turquoise, lazuli, haematite, serpentine, as well as glazes on quartz and on paste. Glazed pottery beads became the more usual in historic times; glass beads were made from the XVIIIth dynasty onward, and hardly any other material was used in Roman times. There are hundreds of varieties known, and an accurate knowledge of their dates is essential in excavating.

Flint was worked to the highest perfection in the prehistoric age, and continued in use till Roman times. Strictly, it is chert rather than flint, as the beds in which it is found are of Eocene limestone. But in general appearance and nature they are closely the equivalent of the chalk with flints in England, only harder. The prehistoric forms are shown in fig. 92. They exceed the flint-work of all other countries in the regularity of the flaking, the thinness of the weapon, and the minute serration of the edges. At present such work is entirely a lost art, and we cannot imagine the methods or the skill required to produce such results. Besides the weapons, flint armlets were made, chipped out of a solid block, yet no thicker than a straw. These were ground with emery finally to smooth them for wearing. Flint was commonly used down to the XIIth dynasty for knives, but all the dynastic working is far inferior to the earlier. In the XVIIIth dynasty, and later, sickle teeth were still made of flint; and flakes were chipped and used in abundance at some centres in the Roman period.


Knives and lances of the best prehistoric work

Knives and lances of the best prehistoric work.

Before leaving the stone-working we may note the accuracy of work, as this is better seen here than in any other subject. The highest pitch of accuracy on a large scale was reached under Khufu in the IVth dynasty; his pyramid had an error of less than •6 of an inch on its side of 9069 inches, or 1 in 15,000; and its corners were square to 12". A change of temperature during a day would make larger errors than this in a measuring-rod. The accuracy of levelling, and of finish of the stones, is on a par with this; joints over six feet long are straight to a hundredth of an inch. The pyramid of Khafra has three times this error, varying 1.5 inch on 8475, and 33" of angle. That of Menkaura is worse, being on an average 3 inches out on 4154, and 1' 50" of angle. At Dahshur the errors are 37 on 7459 inches base, and 1.1 on 2065, with angular errors of 4' and 10'. In smaller work, a beautiful example is the granite sarcophagus of Senusert II, which is ground flat on the sides with a matt face like ground glass, and only has about a two-hundredth of an inch error of flatness and parallelism of the sides. The later ages, so far as we know, have left nothing that can be compared with the accuracy of the early dynasties.