The Unfinished Egyptian Obelisk of Aswan,
Lying at the Ancient Egyptian quarries of Aswan is a giant obelisk that, unfortunately, was never erected. This is a shame because had it been erected, it would have been the largest Egyptian obelisk in the world, with a height of 137 feet while weighing over 1,200 tons. Fortunately today, the Ancient Egyptian’s loss is our gain. For historians and archaeologists the unfinished obelisk is a treasure trove of information on how the Egyptians not only built their obelisks, but how they quarried granite, and what tools they used. When the Egyptians abandoned the obelisk, they left it behind complete with tool marks, markings left by engineers and architects, as well as a number of stone and copper tools.
Incredibly the Egyptians quarried the obelisk directly out of the granite bedrock. To accomplish this a team of around 130 workers carved trenches in the rough outline of the obelisk. Carving was achieved by a pounding ball ( about the size of a grapefruit) made of a hard rock called diorite. The workers would have spent perhaps a year or more pounding on the granite until slowly a trench was formed. Once the trench was deep enough, the workers would have carved inwards as far as possible. Finally the obelisk would have been separated from the bedrock by driving copper spikes into it. Once removed the obelisk would have been trimmed using a copper saw, and other finishing touches would have occured.
The difficulty and repetitiveness of obelisk quarrying must have been incredible. Imagine pounding away at the rock, day after day for over a year, perhaps more. It would have been incredibly backbreaking and tedious work to an unimaginable degree. The tools used would have made the work much harder, as copper would have worn down quickly. One thing that is certainly guaranteed; Ancient Egyptian workers would have been extremely tough, rugged, and more importantly, patient workers.
So after all that hard labor why did the Egyptians never finish the Aswan Obelisk? As they neared the end stages of quarrying one of two things occurred. Either the stone developed flaws, or the act of quarrying released tension within the stone slab. The result was that the obelisk developed a series of large cracks, three running in a lateral direction with one running lengthwise. This made the obelisk utterly unusable.
After more than a year of blood, sweat, and tears, the failure of the Aswan Obelisk must have been heartbreaking.