Fritz Mangartz/Olaf Pung:
Use of wooden wedges in stone quarrying
If there is one thing that most people remember about ancient stone quarrying techniques, it is that wooden wedges soaked in water to make them swell were used to split the stones. However, today experts are divided in their opinion as to whether this method was actually used. Previous research on the splitting of stones with wooden wedges by soaking them in water focused on two questions: Does wood as it swells create enough pressure to split stone and was this method actually used in ancient stone quarries? The effectiveness of this method was never really doubted until the 1960s. Both in technical historical and folkloric literature, splitting stones with water-soaked wooden wedges was always described as a standard method and never as an oddity.
The article first analyses the different research theses on this subject and then examines the physical and technical foundation of this method in great detail. The authors then provide archaeological and historical sources as proof of the many methods which used wooden wedges to split stones. They conclude that swelling wood creates enough pressure to split stone and that this method was actually already employed in ancient stone quarries.