Egyptian boxes with mitering and peg joinery
were auction by Christies in 2009 for $39,000.

CAIRO

- Political unrest in Egypt poses a threat to priceless antiquities, including treasured wooden sculptures and furnishings, some dating back 4,000 years or more. The Egyptian Army has been called upon to defend against vandalism and looting of the country's monuments and museums, which house chairs, beds, boxes and reliquaries built with sophisticated joinery, and showing an extensive appreciation of varying wood species and woodworking skills.

"We are deeply saddened by the devastation that took place at the Cairo Museum this past weekend. It is heartbreaking not only for our contemporaries in Egypt, but for the world as a whole," said Marc Corwin, president of American Exhibitions, Inc., which produces touring museum shows that include ancient Egyptian wood and other related artifacts. Noting their "purpose in serving as a window to past cultures," Corwin said, "Their historical value is priceless, and our hearts are a bit heavier knowing that these irreplaceable antiquities have been damaged."

Dr. Bob Brier, one of the world's foremost experts on mummies and Senior Research Fellow at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University adds, "The Cairo Museum is home to thousands of historical treasures. Anyone who has had the privilege of visiting the Museum knows these are some of the most prized artifacts in the world. To see these artifacts lying smashed on the floor is deeply troubling."

 
Damage done to this wooden statue
along with ancient model wood
boats and other priceless wood
objects were identified in TV news
videos by scholars.


Wooden sculptures, placed in the graves of aristocrats from the Middle Kingdom period, even portray ancient carpenters and joiners at work, as do wall paintings in historic grave sites. The wood objects are rare among ancient artifacts, having survived the centuries, say experts, because of the dry conditions found in the Egyptian desert. There are few wooden artifacts from such ancient times.

Author Geoffrey Killen's“Egyptian Woodworking and Furniture," which features on its cover a box from the 18th Dynasty tomb of Perpaut in Thebes, notes that ancient Egypt's woodworkers used a range of wood species in their projects, fashioning lumber with awls, chisels, saws and planes, and mitering joints.

“Probably the earliest imported timber to be used was cedar, Cedrus libani." Killen writes. "Large quantities were imported into Egypt from Lebanon." .During the reign of the Fourth Dynasty Pharoah Senferu, forty great ships sailed to the Syrian coast, where Egyptian lumberjacks felled trees, then towed the logs home for use by carpenters and joiners, "fashioning this excellent timber during the Dynastic Period,” with objects finding their way into King Tut’s tomb, along with objects of ash, including "a beautiful compound bow discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun made from this wood."

 

Box 18th Dynasty tomb of
Perpaut, Thebes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scenes painted between the 21st century and 17th century BC from a burial site near Memphis, Egypt, show woodworkers steaming and bending lumber. Steam-bent elm was used by Egyptian wheelwrights around 1600 BC.

Egyptians also made the first plywood. “The technique of laminating thin sheets of timber with the grain of one sheet being at right angles to the next, was known to Egyptian carpenters," writes McKillen, noting that six-ply wood held together with wooden pegs was found dating to the

 
 Egyptian wood craftsmen at work.

Third Dynasty.


Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.