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2020-02-18 12:12:23   •   ID: 2152

The Art of Flint-Knapping during early Dynastic Egypt

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 1 and 2 show a large (110mm long x 60mm wide x 5mm thick) and superbly worked Early Dynastic or late Pre-Dynastic Egyptian artifact of unknown function.

This tool is a superb and very finely worked bifacial piece fashioned from a pale reddish-grey flint ; very well defined and symmetrical, of thin section with expertly pressure flaked and still sharp blade edges all round.

Stone tool technology in Dynastic times had its roots in late Predynastic flint manufacturing, especially that of the Nagada culture. Very high-quality tools were produced then, especially the thin ripple-flaked knifes found in elite, (late) Nagada culture burials.

Bifacially worked knifes were manufactured until the New Kingdom, but their form changed and the quality of flaking declined. There were also tool types which were used mainly in domestic contexts (scrapers, burins, borers and hafted blades for cutting meat).

Huge blades, up to 20cm long and 3cm wide, have been found in an Early Dynastic context. These are the so-called “razor blades,” but their denticulated, pointing again to a Palestinian origin. Also at this time the type of flint used for tools changed and the Egyptian tradition of core flaking tradition ended. In New Kingdom times the stone blanks were increasingly replaced by flakes or blades, and the tools became more coarse.

The bifacially worked flint knifes and sickle blades described above are the two most important tool groups of Dynastic Egypt, showing a stylistic and functional development through time. Their manufacture until the 25th Dynasty can be best explained by their high degree of usefulness and low production costs. Examples in Dynastic Egypt of borers, burins, axes and arrowheads, however, are rare.

Why stone tools were used for such a long time in ancient Egypt needs some explanation. In contrast to its rich Chert resources, Egypt has only very small deposits of copper and virtually no tin (for bronze production).

This also explains why ancient Egypt was not able to play a leading role in metallurgical technologies like its neighbors, especially Palestine, which has large deposits of copper. In exchange for metal from Palestine and later from Cyprus, Egypt traded gold and cereals, both of which were abundantly available in Egypt. Egypt therefore had to import nearly all its copper and tin, which greatly limited its distribution to most of the population.

Copper/bronze was limited in quantity and very expensive, and most metal in Egypt was needed for weapons used by the army. The remaining metal would have been distributed among elites. The use of stone tools finally ended in Egypt when iron processing began because this metal was much cheaper than bronze, and it was also harder. However, this occurred in Egypt several hundred years later than in the neighboring countries (Text according to K.A. Bard; 2007)

Suggested Reading:

Ian Shaw (Ed)The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt ; 2000

K.A. Bard: Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt; 2007

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