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QuarryScapes guide to ancient stone quarry landscapes


QuarryScapes Atlas



Quarry landscape
of the month

August 2008

June 2008

April 2008

December 2007

May 2007

February 2007

December 2006

November 2006

September 2006

August 2006

June 2006

May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

Googlesearch in Quarryscapes


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2. Identifying and describing features of ancient quarrying

Characterising the stone resource

The stone resource was the target of quarrying, and investigation of it may reveal important information about why a specific stone was exploited, where it was used and how it was quarried. Stone resources should be investigated as:

  • evidence of consumption (geological characterisation): the  rocks can link the quarries with the places and products where the stones have been used, being buildings, tools or other items (fact sheet 1).

  • a commodity: Stone resources can be divided into principal commodities reflecting the purpose of use, such as Building stone (used for constructing buildings), Utilitarian stone (used for everyday utensils) and Ornamental stone ( “rare” resources used for embellishment of buildings, sculpture and elite/exclusive objects) (fact sheet 2).

  • a physical material: Key physical properties of rocks such as brittleness, hardness of the minerals and porosity decide the technology necessary for quarrying and processing (fact sheet 3).

  • a landscape forming entity: The distribution and geometry of the deposits of stone resources is the starting point of how landscapes are transformed by quarrying (fact sheet 4).

Secondary resources may have been important in the quarrying activities. Such resources include stone for buildings and other constructions at the quarry site, stone for tools, clay for pottery, etc. Such resources and their use are important to identify and characterise (example sheet 1).

Identifying and describing features and material culture from quarrying

A quarry site may be visualised as the material remains from the various processes involved in the exploitation of it. Such remains include features related to the actual production (extraction and further working of stone products), the logistics (internal and external transport of stone objects) and the social infrastructure (features related to sustaining the people involved in the quarrying). Each of these elements of quarrying, alone or combined, provides important information about the timing, purpose and size of the quarrying activity.

Production in a quarry can be described as a process in four steps (Figure 2). The first is the extraction of rock from the bedrock, producing a stone block. The second step involves the reduction of the size of the block producing a core. This is further reduced/worked into one or several object blanks (or roughouts). The final step involves the last finishing to the final product. The number of steps displayed at a quarry site, their spatial and technological connections and the start and end points of the process are important input for understanding quarrying from a technological and organisational perspective. The material remains from the production process should be recorded and interpreted, and are divided into:

  • quarry morphology: layout and structure of quarries (fact sheet 4)

  • quarry face: solid rock surface made by quarrying and displaying evidence of quarrying techniques (fact sheet 5)

  • tool marks: marks on the rock surface and/or stone fragments made by tools (fact sheet 6)

  • tools: remains of tools applied in the quarrying process

  • spoil: discarded rock fragments from the various steps in the quarrying process (fact sheet 7)

  • work areas: areas designated to block reduction and/or more elaborated work

  • objects: remains of more or less finished objects resulting from the production (fact sheet 8)

Figure 2. Quarrying defined as a process in several steps (click to enlarge).

Logistics of quarries involve the internal transport of stone between the steps in the production process and the transport of stone from the quarry to a place of further processing and/or use (Figure 3). The logistical system in a quarry may vary from being the most elaborated constructions on the site to almost non-existing, depending on the size and weight of the stone products being transported. Material remains from quarry logistics include (fact sheet 9):

  • Road: paved or non-paved road made for the transport of stone blocks

  • Ramp: constructions for moving stone blocks from one level to another

  • Slipway: track or cleared area for lowering blocks down a steep slope

  • Causeway: construction made for evening out irregularities in the terrain

  • Track: non-constructed functional road made by clearing a solid surface

  • Path: non-constructed narrow track made by traffic by humans or animals

  • Stockpile: remains of stockpile of semi-finished or finished products made ready for transport

  • Vehicle tracks: marks made by stone transport vehicle on roads or other features

  • Harbour: place for loading stone products onto rafts or boats

  • Stone-built features: structures or heaps of stone made for aiding transport of stone, including cairns for marking transport routes

  • Carved features: postholes, mooring sockets and other features made by carving for fixing devices or ropes aiding the transport

Figure 3. Example of logistical system in a quarry (click to enlarge).

The social infrastructure of quarrying can be described as the features made for sustaining the people involved in quarrying, and provide cover and shelter for them during the production. It also includes features displaying ritual or spiritual activities. The material remains of the social infrastructure can be divided in three groups:

  • (stone)-built features: any elaborated or ephemeral construction such as settlements, temporary dwellings, wells, ritual enclosures, defensive structures, storage areas and shelters (fact sheet 10).

  • Domestic artefacts/organic remains: utensils and tools for food production and other domestic activities, remains from food preparation and storage, ceramics (fact sheet 11).

  • Epigraphic data: inscriptions, graffiti and rock art made by the work force (fact sheet 12).

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December 2009
New book: a special volume with papers from the QuarryScapes project soon printed.
November 2008
Final workshop: the third QuarryScapes workshop was held in Aswan 12. - 15. October
June 2008
Final Reports: available for download
June 2008
More Palaeolithic quarries in Aswan Recent visits to the Aswan West Bank in Egypt have added new discoveries...

April 2008
QuarryScapes third workshop Aswan, October 12-15 2008

April 2008
Rescue of an obelisk top in Egypt Aswan, March 2008

December 2007
Second QuarryScapes Workshop 18-21 October 2007, Petra, Jordan

December 2007
Final Reports: Aswan West Bank Ancient Quarry Landscape

March 2007
New Aswan City: Rescue survey in progress

March 2007
QuarryScapes fieldwork in Egypt: The final season of survey at the Aswan silicified sandstone quarries revealed previously undocumented ancient paved roads

December 2006
Second Aswan field season The second QuarryScapes fieldwork season in Aswan took place through November 2006.

November 2006
First symposium
The first QuarryScapes symposium took place at Divan Talya hotel in Antalya (Turkey) 15-17 October 2006.
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Coordinator: NGU - Geological survey of Norway, Tom Heldal. Tlf: +47 73 90 40 00 . Partners. Layout: Lisa Løseth, NGU.