Cutting granite with bronze or iron tools?
A new method by Franz Löhner
For the construction of Khufu's pyramid granite was used for the first time on a grand scale, mainly for the burial chamber, the passages and for the sarcophagus. This page is about how the hard granite could be split and cut. Franz Löhner shows, that granite can't be processed without iron tools!
Stone suited for splitting? - Granite from Assuan - Tools for splitting and cutting granite - Comparing with the present-day processing of granite - Sawing granite - Origin of Egyptian iron - Limestone
A simple solution / method? - Historical sources - Questioning this method - Sources
Franz Löhner doesn't allege, that the ancient Egyptians already knew the difficult and elaborate procedure of making wrought iron - but, that they acquired the valuable iron by trading. The Egyptian smiths then made tools from this iron or at least were able to maintain (= temper and sharpen) the tools acquired.
Which stone is suited for splitting?
Granite as well as limestone has to be split to obtain stone blocks that can be used for building purposes. Because granite is a crystalline rock and limestone a sedimentary rock the methods to do this differ in details. A quarry stone - and only this kind of stone can be used for a building like the pyramid - is a stone broken or split off.
Any stone, that has fine cracks or break lines is unsuitable for building. Suitable is only the healthy stone, the stone which is intact in its natural state of composition and aggregation with its structure the way it was grown. This is the reason why working the stone with the help of fire, heat or cold will not result in a stone that can be used for building. Heat or cold creates fractures and fissures and destroys the inner structure of the stone.
To build the pyramids the ancient Egyptians only used building stones made from granite and limestone in perfect condition and that is only a stone which has been split off.
Processing the granite from the quarries in Assuan (Aswan)
In the granite quarries in Assuan the stone working was done as follows: Granite grows in layers or sheets (beds). Quarrying takes a keen eye to determine the grain of the rock. The foreman (or rockman) chooses the place where the rock is intact. Then the stone is cleaved from the rock face by driving in wedges. A series of holes is now drilled along the line to be split, using a chisel (not a drill!).
Since granite is one of the hardest varieties of natural building stone, this can only be done with a chisel forged from wrought iron. With tools made from copper this type of stone simply can't be cut.
To cut stone in such a way, a man sits on the stone block and three men hit the iron chisel in turns with sledgehammers. After each blow the chisel is turned by an eighth, until the hole is 10 to 15cm deep. A series of these holes is driven along a line which is determined by the quarry master. Now wrought iron wedges are put into all the holes of the line (= splitting holes). They are well lubricated and then driven into the rock between two metal shims (or feathers - narrow at the top and flaring outward so that you can grip them). Each wedge is pounded once, moving down the line in consecutive order. When the wedges are all driven in deep enough, the granite is forced apart, breaks and starts to split along the line of holes. This break - along the so called cleavage plane - is very even and the stone has to be worked only very little to achieve a smooth surface. Sledgehammers used for this kind of work have a special shaft which is more elastic, so it puts less strain on the workers.