Quarry marks in Partition B, Main Quarry at Gebel el Silsila: remarks on their meaning and function

Maria Nilsson, John Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Famous for its many New Kingdom stelai and funerary shrines, Speos of Horemheb and magnificent quarries, this paper presents a preliminary report on a lesser acknowledged feature of Gebel el Silsila: its quarry marks. Focusing here on the northern section – Partition B – of Silsila East’s Main Quarry, seventeen individual quarry faces display totally 376 quarry marks, which have been divided into 29 groups based on form and characteristics. By far the most common mark is the harpoon, followed by horned altars and hourglasses. Quarry marks appear as singulars or in groups, located on all heights and in all displayed directions. While these marks are commonly dismissed as ‘mason’s marks’ or identity marks that provided the name of a contractor, individual stone cutters, or teams, they have never before been fully classified or studied, thus resulting in a possible misconception of their meaning and function. By establishing form, analysing contextual references, and using contemporary pseudo script for comparison, the preliminary results of Partition B indicate instead primarily a symbolic meaning.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Classical Archaeology and Ancient History


  • Gebel el Silsila
  • quarry marks
  • graffiti
  • pseudo script
  • Roman Egypt


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