Aswan Quarry and the Unfinished Obelisk Scoop Marks

Mon, Oct 25: Aswan, Egypt

Welcome to the Aswan Quarry. Home of the 1,200 ton Unfinished Obelisk and the scoop marks. The story is, that a cracked formed while they were cutting it out so they abandoned it. One of the few times in history that we celebrate a job NOT done.

It’s stunning to come here and and imagine all the rose granite obelisks, large blocks, and the rough cut multi-ton statues that were quarried, then transported hundreds of miles away. This goes way beyond copper chisels and dolerite pounders. Surely there was a far more efficient way to quarry stone. Enter the scoop shaped tool marks.

TIP: Be on the lookout for hand sized, dark gray, dolerite stone pounders around the quarry. Try your luck at quarrying granite and see how realistic that theory is.

aswan quarry scoop marks
Aswan Quarry Scoop Marks

What are the Aswan Quarry Scoop Marks?

Someone sure went crazy with a scooping machine at the Aswan Quarry. What scoops granite like butter? I have no clue, but there are many examples of these scoop marks, and they are far too evenly sized to be made by hand.

One thing for sure that doesn’t leave scoop marks in granite; those dolerite pounding stones. Some archeologists claim that these stone pounders could be used to quarry and shape granite. We put that to the test in the video at the end of this post.

What caused the Aswan Quarry scoop marks?

Today, nobody knows what caused the scoop marks around the unfinished obelisk. Engineer Christopher Dunn suggests it was a machine with a pivoting arm that could scoop under the obelisk. Brien Foerster thinks it was vibrational technology. Some archeologists say it was the dolerite pounding stones.

If you visit the Aswan Quarry, it doesn’t take much critical observation to see that the scoop marks were not caused by dolerite pounders. We can agree that the scoop marks was caused by some lost ancient technology.

My theory: We don’t see any of the scooped granite around. That suggests it was not actually scooped by rather broken-down by a tool that left a scoop-shaped trail. That would be consistent with a rotating cylindrical-shaped tool. And I’m going to say it was powered by the device referred to as the Djed pillar.

The unfinished obelisk has scoop marks?

Yes, in the following photo you can see that there are scoop marks on the unfinished obelisk itself. The scoop marks actually go around and under the obelisk as well as in the surrounding bedrock. It’s almost like the granite was softened like butter and scooped out with a shovel.

People looking at the Unfinished Obelisk scoop marks at Aswan Quarry
The Unfinished Obelisk is massive compared to the size of people. How were they planning to move it?
Also notice all the scoop marks on and around the obelisk.

If you liked the unfinished obelisk, you’ll want to check the unfinished T-shaped pillar at Karahan Tepe, Turkey.

Additional photos from the Aswan Quarry from the UnchartedX Egypt Tour

Could stone pounders quarry granite in Aswan?

No. One of the common mainstream theories is that dolerite stone pounders were used to quarry granite. There are a bunch of these stone pounders in the quarry that you can use to test your strength and skill. I tried my hand at stone pounding, and here is the result:

I got an E for Effort!

From this simple demonstration, you can easily see that dolerite pounders could not accomplish anything other than some fine-tuning of granite surfaces. Certainly they are not responsible for all the Aswan Quarry scoop marks.

Some have shown that you can increase the effectiveness of the stone pounders by heating the underlying granite with fire. While heated granite does give way at a faster rate, the question is if it is a meaningful improvement.

What to do after quarrying a multi-ton obelisk?

The Aswan Quarry is just the first step. Even if you are able to figure out the scoop marks and determine how a multi-ton obelisk was quarried – including the final bit of separating the obelisk from the bedrock without getting crushed to death.

There is still the issue of moving the obelisk to its final destination hundreds of miles away. And not just once, as there are hundreds of them all over Egypt. Did they move the obelisks with ropes? How thick, how strong, and how many ropes would it take? So many questions..

There’s more mysteries to explore at the nearby Temple of Horus and Temple of Sobek.

Want more on quarries?, here’s a wiki on other Aswan Quarries.

How do you think the Unfinished Obelisk in the Aswan Quarry was shaped? How do you think you’d do with a dolerite stone pounder? Let us know in the comment section below.

Part of the Ben UnchartedX Egypt Tour


  1. Why did you smack the two rocks together? That makes no sense. Do those scoop/ripple marks look like they were created by bumping rocks against each other!!?? Next time try rubbing the dolerite against the granite in a smooth forward-backward motion like you’re trying to create a single ripple from the pattern beside the obelisk. That’s a pattern created from repeated rubbing… not striking.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Striking rocks could shatter / chip the granite which would be faster than sanding, particularly if as some have claimed, that fire was used to weaken the granite. Either way though, it would seem they would’ve used some sort of mechanical leverage to increase the striking or rubbing force.

  2. Very cool pictures, I had no idea this place existed. To me those scoop marks look a lot like some sort of tire tread. Don’t ask me how that could have happened!

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