How did Egyptians carve stone?

Oct 2012
I've read that in ancient Rome, bronze tools were used for carving stone; I assume this was true in ancient Greece as well. What did the Egyptians use? I once read that the great obelisks were tapped out of the surrounding stone using nothing more that pieces of a harder stone. What about the great blocks for the pyramids and Temple of Luxor? What tools did they use to carve those intricate bas-reliefs on the walls?


Forum Staff
Oct 2011
Italy, Lago Maggiore
You see, I live in an area of the Italian Alps where there are quarries of marbles. For young lazybones those quarries are a threat: study or we will send you to the quarry of marble!

Today they use modern techniques, but ancient tricks are still known [the quarry near to my home supplied marble for medieval cathedrals]. When you cannot rely on metal tools you can rely on ... wood and water. Stones like marble limestone ... can present natural fissures. If you put in those fissures some wooden wedges and then you pour water on them ... they will absorb the water and this will dilate them. If this happens in correspondence with a fissure the stone will break, no way.

Todd Feinman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2013
Planet Nine, Oregon
Egyptians used hammer stones, copper and bronze chisels, mallets, and they would break off large sections of rock by hammering in wooden wedges along a fault and pouring water on them causing them to expand, breaking off large sections of stone.
Jan 2011
Experiments in Egyptian archaeology - Stoneworking technology in Ancient Egypt, by Denys A. Stocks, 2003


Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
Can anyone recommend a good study describing these ancient techniques?
As well as written studies, there is some evidence lying around of unfinished stone or stone at various stages through the process. Eg ;


Sep 2012
London, centre of my world
That must have been back breaking work, yet there must have been literally a thousand tons carved each and every year.

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
I've read that in ancient Rome, bronze tools were used for carving stone; I assume this was true in ancient Greece as well.
In *Bronze Age* Greece, sure, they'd use bronze tools. But Rome and Classical Greece were *Iron Age* cultures, and used iron and steel tools. Bronze certainly had its place and makes good tools, but Romans and Greeks used iron.