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Ancient Egyptian woord working at the Manchester Museum

February 9, 2013

As advertised on the Egypt at the Manchester Museum blog today we had a chance to see Dr Geoffrey Killen demonstrate how ancient Egyptians would have made their wooden items.

Dr Geoffrey Killen began by explaining a little bit about the tools used by the ancient Egyptians. For example: their saws were both similar and very different to our modern day ones. On a modern saw the teeth are set in both directions whereas the ancient Egyptian version would have all teeth pointing in the same direction. As a result you’d have to correct it constantly to make sure you get a straight cut. Correcting would be necessary anyway as they were not strengthened at the top. Also, the teeth would point backwards (meaning the backwards movement would do the actuall cutting) as opposed to the forward pointing position of modern saws.

He also showed how the chisel worked. The chisel would be hit with a wooden mallet to create holes in the wood. He explained that the Egyptians already knew the characteristics of timber as they would never try to make a hole with the grain – the wood would split in that case.

Ancient Egyptian wood working demonstration
© All Rights Reserved

During the demonstration Dr Killen explained that hand axes would be used to shape the wood and stones to smooth it. Thanks to the questions of some very interested children he went on to say that the wood often came from other countries. The Egyptians were known for their trade (after all, they had the Nile as a ‘highway’ to other countries). Cedar and a variety of ebony were some of the kinds of wood they would bring back from abroad.

Part of the demonstration was the bow drill for which he needed the help of two lovely assistants.

Ancient Egyptian wood working demonstration
© All Rights Reserved

Especially for this demonstration some items had been taken out of storage. Dr Killen was kind enough to explain a little bit about these items as well – for example, the stool that can be seen below. This one is quite nicely decorated (note the red paint on the side!) and it’s clear to see how it has been put together.

Ancient Egyptian wood working demonstration
© All Rights Reserved

While I was at the museum I had a chance to take yet more photos of the items on display at the Ancient World galleries. I have added them to my Manchester Museum set on Flickr. There are a few more photos of the wood working demonstration in this set as well.

  1. Campbell@Manchester permalink

    Reblogged this on Egypt at the Manchester Museum and commented:
    Great blog by Nicky on our woodworking session with Geoff Killen on Saturday

  2. Johnd118 permalink

    Good blog! I really love how it is easy on my eyes and the data are well written. I am wondering how I could be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your feed which must do the trick! Have a nice day! dafackgecbek

  3. Medhat abd allah permalink

    I am Dr medhat abd allah head of wood lab,conservation center,the Grand Egyptian Museum.
    how to contact Dr Dr Geoffrey Killen,
    please send me hi E-Mail.

    • Hi Medhat,

      I do not personally know Dr Geoffrey Killen. I think it would be best if you try to find further information via Google. Good luck!

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