Grinder - ROM2018_16145_19



Geography: Excavated at Abydos, Egypt
Date: c. 2686-2125 BC
Period: 3rd-6th Dynasty, Old Kingdom
4.8 × 5 × 2.8 cm
Object number: 905.2.86
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

This biconical-shaped stone tool has circular grinding marks on both upper and lower surfaces. It is made of quartzite, one of the hardest stones worked by the ancient Egyptians.  The elongated disc shape with opposing side notches at the midpoint would fit nicely into the  forked end of a vertical drive shaft, such as reconstructed in the ROM stone-vessel drill or as depicted in the determinative sign used in the writing of the Egyptian word for craftsman (Gardiner sign list U25). This depiction of a stone-vessel drill has a horizontal line placed across the ends of the fork at the base of the tool. While it is possible that this horizontal represents a ‘wear peg’ placed over a vertical stone borer, more likely it represents a figure-eight shaped drill bit, such as this piece. 

Denys Stocks (Experiments in Egyptian Archaeology 2003 pp. 161-2) has demonstrated that figure-eight shaped stone borers could be used to hollow out the interior of stone vessels. Most likely the central core of these vessels was drilled out with a copper tubular drill; then successively larger figure-eight borers could be used to undercut the area beyond the central opening of the vessel. Although the work of shaping a stone block and polishing a shaped stone vessel were time-consuming, they are not necessarily demanding of great expertise.  The hollowing out of a stone vessel is another matter; great technical skill was required to set up the tubular drilling mechanism to remove the core of the vessel, using the right amount of abrasive and drilling the symmetrical core to the proper depth. The insertion of the figure-eight shaped borer and the widening out of the hollowed out area was delicate work with further complicated decision-making;  no doubt this required expertise is the reason that the stone-vessel drill was used by the Egyptians as the sign epitomizing the specialized work of skilled craftsmen.

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