Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stone Work of the Ancient World

Alice C. Linsley

One of the earliest occupations of Man was stone work. Sharp-edged flakes, flake fragments, and cobbles have been dated to between 2.5 and 2.6 million years. These were discovered at three sites along the Gona River in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Similar stone tools, known as Oldowan, have been found at Omo in southern Ethiopia, Lokalalei in northern Kenya, and Hadar, five miles east of the Gona River study area.

At Kathu in South Africa, archaeologists collected many thousands of stone tools and products of tool making in a few sample pits over a several acres. The archaeologists estimated that there are on average 900 artifacts per 100x100x10 cm volume of material in this area with much of the area up to 2 meters deep in artifact rich soils. This high concentration of stone artifacts along with available source rock in nearby outcrops suggests that this was a tool making center between 800,000 and 500,000 years ago. (Also see Foley RA, Lahr MM (2015) Lithic Landscapes: Early Human Impact from Stone Tool Production on the Central Saharan Environment.)

On the Arabian Peninsula, the Qafzeh population created stone tools 125,000 years ago at Jebel Faya. These suggest that humans reached the Arabian Peninsula not from the Lower Nile Valley 119,000 to 81,000 years ago or from the Mediterranean shores 65,000 to 40,000 years ago, but much earlier from the Horn of Africa. The oldest tools were dated to approximately 120,000 years ago, and included denticulates, end-scrapers, foliates, hand axes, and side-scrapers.

Stone knapping involved health hazards for the workers. The inhalation of siliceous dust would have led to lung disease. The fact that this work was done most often in the open air improved the working conditions. When mining operations began, the risk of the disease increased. Neolithic miners and Egyptian mine workers suffered from the disease, but the workers who mined in the Lebombo Mountains 90,000 years ago would have suffered from respiratory problems also.

Some prehistoric stone artifacts were not used as tools. The Blombos Cave Plaque, dating to 80,000 years PB, may have served as a calendar or a counting device.

Blombos Cave Plaque
The Lebombo Mountains of South Africa mines were in operation between 100,000 and 80,000 years ago. These were not small hallows in the earth, but major mining operations in which thousands of mining tools have been found. Red ochre was extracted from large mining operations in the Lebombo Mountains. Red ochre was used almost universally in the burial of nobles between 45,000 and 2000 B.C.

The oldest known stone temple is at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey. Göbekli Tepe is classified as a Pre-Pottery Neolithic site (PPN). It is designated PPNA (ca 10,500 to 9,500 BC) which puts it in the same class as Jericho, Netiv Hagdud, Nahul Oren, Gesher, Dhar', Jerf al Ahmar, Chogha Golan and Abu Hureyra. This site is located in the "land between the rivers" and was an ancient crossroads. The temple here predates by about 3000 years the oldest temple built by Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors at Nekhen.

Menhir in County Cork, Ireland

Circles of Standing Stones

Circles of standing stones have been found in many parts of the world, including Armenia, Britain, Czech Republic, France, the Horn of Africa, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Scandinavia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey. The majority are found in Britain, Ireland, and Brittany, suggesting that this is a practice of populations in Y-DNA Haplogroup R1b (which were dispersed by 40,000 years ago). In Scotland, 508 such sites have been identified. There are 343 in Ireland; 316 in England; 81 in Wales; 49 in Brittany; and 6 in the Channel Isles.

Tombs at Nekhen
This 18th Dynasty tomb is heavily carved as befits the tomb of an Overseer of Stone Carvers.

Nekhen is the oldest known site of Horite worship is Nekhen on the Nile (4200 BC). This settlement predates the building of the Great Pyramids at Giza and the step pyramid of King Djoser (Third Dynasty). The oldest known tomb, with painted mural on its plaster walls, is located in Nekhen and dates to c. 3500–3200 BC.

Many artifacts of great importance have been found at Nekhen. These include funeral masks, statues, jewelry, beer vats, large flint knives, and the pillared halls characteristic of later Egyptian monuments and temples. Nekhen is where the oldest life-sized human statue was found: a priest from the temple of Horus, dated about 3000 BC.

The oldest known temple (c. 5000 BC) to have association with Abraham's ancestors is the predynastic temple at Nekhen. The temple was located on the Nile, making it easier for temple officials to weigh and measure goods and assess tolls on the vessels that docked there. The temple consisted of a large oval courtyard surrounded by a mud-plastered reed fence. The courtyard was paved with multiple layers of compressed mud. This temple closely resembles shrines depicted on seals from the First Dynasty.

A later temple (c.3500 BC) was built within the precincts of the city. The earliest phase of this temple was a circular stone wall surrounding a large mound of sand supported by limestone blocks on which there may have been an Early Dynasty shrine. A number of limestone fragments, likely the footings for large pillars, were found within the stone enclosure wall. The central shrine consisted of three rooms and four 20-foot high wood pillars. Animals, including cattle, goats, fish and crocodiles, were sacrificed in the oval courtyard.

By this time, Nekhen had a population estimated at 10,000 inhabitants and was the most important settlement along the Nile. The city stretched for over two miles along the edge of the floodplain and was an important shrine city and commercial center. There were stone masons, weavers, potters, and beer brewers. Metal workers crafted sacred objects of gold and copper. 

Narmer Palette

In 1898 J.E. Quibell and F.W. Green found the macehead of Scorpion and the macehead and palette of Narmer at the main deposit of the temple of Horus. Also found at Nekhen were a seated red pottery lion and the great gold plumed falcon representing Horus, the son of Ra. Nekhen was named for Horus of the Falcon: Nekheny.

Stone tombs of El-Amarna

The capital of Akhenaten is at ancient Amarna, about 365 miles south of Cairo. It is set between cliffs at a narrow stretch along the Nile. 

Tomb of Tutu
Tutu was a very high ranked ruler-priest of Akhenaten. His titles included:

Overseer of all the craftsmen of the Lord of the Two Lands (Upper and Lower Nile)
Overseer of all the works of His Majesty
Overseer of silver and gold 
Chief spokesman of the entire land

Tombs at Giza and Abusir

Egyptian archaeologists discovered a 4400-year-old tomb, south of the cemetery of the pyramid builders at Giza, Egypt. The ancient tomb was unearthed near the pyramid builder's necropolis. The tomb belongs to a priest named Rudj-Ka (or Rwd-Ka), and is dated to between 2465 and 2323 BCRudj-Ka was a priest who performed purification rituals for those who bore blood guilt and who had become contaminated through contact with blood or a corpse.

The tomb of Shepseskaf-ankh is the third tomb found at Abusir belonging to a priest-physician (wab sxmt or wab sekhmet). A huge false door inside the offerings chapel carries the names and titles of the tomb owner: “Priest of Re in the Temples of the Sun” and “Priest of Khnum” with other titles that indicate the high rank of this ruler-priest. Originally the huge limestone tomb was marked by a pyramid. The discovery was made at Abusir near Cairo, not at the Abusir in Sudan.

The Czech mission, led by Miroslav Barta, stated that the construction of the tombs in Abusir began during the mid 5th Dynasty and many priests and officials who worked in the Abusir Pyramid complex of the 5th Dynasty and the Sun Temples were buried there.

Tombs built by the Hittite sons of Heth

Sarah died at Hebron (Arba) (Gen. 23:2-11) and Abraham requested a burying place for her of the sons of Heth. They offered him his choice of their stone tombs. It is likely that the deed to the cave with these tombs was part of the property that Abraham passed to his son Isaac (Gen. 25:5–6). According to Genesis 49:29, the cave tombs that Abraham bought with the field of Ephron were used to bury Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah.

Many tombs from the Early to the Middle and Late Bronze Ages have been found throughout Palestine. The most usual tomb was a natural cave or chamber reached through a vertical shaft which could be sealed by a stone slab (see image above). This is probably the type of burial place Abraham purchased from the Hittites who recognized him as "a great prince among us" (Gen. 23:6).  Genesis 10:15-19 indicates that the people of Heth were kinsmen of Abraham. They too were descendants of Noah from whom came Sidon and Heth.

HT is the Hebrew and Arabic root for copper - nahas-het. Nahash means serpent. As an adjective it means shining bright, like burnished copper. The clans of HeT were Bronze Age copper smiths who ranged from Timnah to Anatolia. The serpent image was sacred for them, just as it was for Moses the Horite ruler who fashioned a bronze serpent and set it on the standard (Numbers 21:9).

Royal Tombs in Anatolia

Royal tombs made of stone have been discovered in Alaca Hüyük and Horoztepe in Anatolia, dating to c. 2400–2200. The word "tepe" means hill in Turkish. "Horoz-tepe" is a reference to Horus and his devotees, the Horite ruler-priests, who were in Anatolia.  They are referenced in ancient texts as the Nes. In addition to stone work, they were smiths who introduced iron work to Anatolia. They called themselves the Nes (NS) and their language was called Nesli. Many magnificent artifacts have been recovered from these tombs, including this Sun disk from Alaca Hüyük (shown right).

Other rock tombs in Anatolia include stone sarcophagi and pillar tombs. The rock cut tombs at Myra resemble the rock-cut facades at Petra.

Rock-cut tombs at Myra

Rock-cut tombs at Petra (Note the red Edomite soil.)
Photo: Dennis Jarvis

The 3-story stone temple at Petra exhibits the typical Divine Triad of Supreme God, the Divine Son Horus, and the Mother Goddess Hathor. The connection to the kings of Egypt is evident in the name of Petra's central temple: Qasr al-Bint al-Faroun which means "The Fortress of the Daughter of Pharaoh." Its walls rise to over 75 feet. The temple was built between the late first century BC and the first century AD. Its precinct covers about 81,376 square feet or 7,560 square meters. A large open plaza was lined with 120 columns. The columns were adorned with Asian elephant-head capitals and provide evidence of connections between ancient Edom and India and other lands of the ancient Near East.

Tombs and Mining Operations

Oral tradition holds that the ruler-priest Joseph Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and a follower of Jesus, came to Cornwall in connection to mining operations there. Because mining and tomb construction involve the same skills and knowledge, these were the work of a select group who were related to the ancient priestly families. The same was true for metal work. Aaron fabricated the golden Horus calf and Moses made the bronze serpent. Along the Nile, royal priests were involved in the construction of tombs. From the time of the earliest pharaohs mining and tomb construction were the work of ruler-priests.

There is no reason to doubt the historicity of Joseph Arimathea's connection to Cornwall. He had business in Cornwall as a metal tradesman and a mining expert.  Joseph provided the tomb where Jesus was laid to rest. It was his own tomb, so it was fitting for a priest of an ancient royal bloodline.


  1. Very nice Alice love the dissertation.

  2. Might we consider that in the Igbo community of Ugwuele, Abia State in Nigeria there exists a stone age site that provides evidence that humans inhabited the region as far back as 250,000 years ago? It is the largest stone tool and handaxe factory in Nigeria, and possibly in the world. This is an ignored fact probably because West Africa is the least researched of all areas on the African continent.

  3. You make a good point! I think of the stone bnbn found in Lejja, Nigeria. I have a photo of it somewhere. Taken by Dr, Catherine Acholonu. I'm not sure how old it is, certainly not as old at the site you mention.


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