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Gebel Qatrani Area, Lake Qaroun Nature Reserve

Date of Submission: 10/02/2003
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Egyptian Nationa Comission for UNESCO 17 Ismail Abo El Fotouh St. - Dokki, Cairo
Coordinates: Western Desert, Fayoum Governorate
Ref.: 1797

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The fossil ancestors of monkeys (Proconsul, elephants (Moerithrium, Arsinoetherium, etc.), and other terrestrial and marshland mammals were found in other quarries near the Fayoum Depression, particularly in Gabal Qatrani. The Fayoum Depression was inhabited by Neolithic Man whose sites reveal a remarkable stage in the evolution of the use of the stone tool artefacts. King Amenemhat of the 12`" Dynasty undertook huge engineering works, mainly the construction of a barrage at the entrance of the Fayoum Depression from the Nile, the Al-Lahoon Barrage (not functioning at present), to regulate the flow of flood waters into and out of the Dpression. At high flood, water entered into the Depression and irrigated it. It also filled in the farthest and deepest part in the north of the Depression and formed Lake Moeris, the ancient ancestor of today's Lake Qaroun. At low flood season, water flowed back from the Depression into the Nile and helped to irrigate the Delta. The basalt quarry of Widan el-Faras and the Umm es-Sawan gypsum quarries (located 20 km northeast of Widan el-Faras, both north of Lake Qaroun) are ancient quarry sites that were exploited fom at least the 3rd millennium BC (ca. 3000 BC). The basalt from Widan el-Faras was principlally used to pave the floors of the Old Kingdom (4di and 5'1' Dynasties) mortuary temples at Giza and Abu Sir. The gypsum from Umm es-Sawan was used to manufacture stone vessels associated with élite burials from as early as the Predynastic period (4th millennium BC). Both these quarries are exceptional archaeological sites as they contain rare artefactual and settlement evidence associated with a period in Egyptian antiquity that is greatly under-represented in the archaeological record. A description of and explanation of the basalt quarries, settlement and ancient quarry road at Widan el-Faras will appear in the forthcoming Journal of Egyptian Archaeology (vol. 88, 2002). It was clear from this work that the quarry holds enormous potential for future research into ancient quarrying activities and the lives of the non-dlite in the desert north of Fayoum, in antiquity. In particular, due to the rare ancient quarry road this can allow for insights into the enormous feats of mass stone transportation during the pyramid age and its connection with ancient Lake Moeris.