vorige Hefte

Jürgen Becker:
Earliest tunnel construction in ancient Egypt

According to Dr. Klaus Grewe, one of the most profound experts on ancient tunnel construction, the Eupalinos tunnel on Samos from around 600 BC may be regarded as the first tunnel of antiquity that was planned as an engineering project. Its features include proceeding from opposite points and several systems of surveying marks that provide evidence even of changes to plans during construction.

Whenever it is a matter of early cultural achievements, including sophisticated technical ones, ancient Egypt should always be considered. During the course of many years of investigations (since 1992) on the site of the construction of the Egyptian pyramids, apart from questions relating to construction engineering, the writer of this article has engaged especially with the aspect of this complex relating to the archaeology of mining. He has gained new knowledge about the extremely efficient technologies of the pyramid builders which were indispensable for completing construction as quickly as possible in case the pharaoh were to die prematurely: procedures to gain huge volumes of stone quickly and to use them even when sinking voluminous, open ditches up to 30 metres deep for systems of corridors and chambers, or to move them into place in a tunnel construction to the same depth. A closer examination of these systems led to tunnel construction in the ancient realm of Egypt (around 2700 to 2100 BC) from a simple tunnel to entire systems of tunnels. Tunnel construction and mining are different in detail, but, on the other hand, also very closely related. Apart from that, tunnel construction has its origins in mining. Therefore, it is appropriate here to give a concise presentation of the outstanding example of the earliest construction of tunnels in Egypt.