National Geographic : 1941 Oct
An XIth Dynasty Carpenter's Shop LCK of good native timber woods and metal fastenings combined to make the Egyptian carpenter a past master in his craft. He learned to produce sizable boards and beams by the patient and artful piecing together of the short and narrow cuttings obtainable from his scrubby local trees sycamore fig, acacia, tamarisk, sidder, and willow. Using as fastenings only tapered and straight hardwood pegs, he managed by skillful joinery to construct coffins, shrines, boxes, sledges, doors, and articles of furniture, many of which remain strong and rigid to this day. At an early period the Egyptians began importing wood, the timber fleet plying between the Delta and the Syrian coast bringing cargo after cargo of cedar, cypress, fir, and pine from the Lebanon. The caravans and boats of the upper Nile also supplied the workshops with Sudanese ebony and other tropical woods. Good wood, however, remained a costly luxury and was always used with the utmost care, considerable labor and skill often being expended to obtain a fine, massive effect with the minimum outlay of material. The sides and ends of the coffin under construction on page 457, for example, are tapered in thickness from top to bottom, so that the visible top edges of the finished box will display a massiveness suggesting the presence of almost twice the amount of wood actuallyused. In addition to the pegged tenon andoverlapped mitre joints appearing in this coffin, theEgyptian carpenter was acquainted with most of the devices known tothemodern cabinetmaker, including the various rabbet, dado, andlap joints, and the dovetail. His bronze cutting andboring tools-saw, adze, axe, chisel, knife, scraper, andbow drill-were equipped with hardwood handles. His mallet andsquare were ofhardwood, and his whetstone usually ofquartzite. The "plane" used by theman inthe center of thepicture is a lump of sandstone with acarefully flattened abrading surface. Other abrasives, such asfinesand, were employed for giving the wood surfaces asmooth, even finish. Aglue, much like modern carpenters' glue, andacoarse "crack filler" were also used by the ancient Egyptian worker inwood. When finished, the coffinand itslidwill becoated inside and out with a thin layerofstucco, painted inbrilliant colors, and inscribed with appropriate funerary texts. Promi nent on its left side will bethe great pair ofpainted eyes, through which its deceasedoccupant may gaze forth each morning toward the east and therising sun.