last revised 6 December 2013

TABLE 3:
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN GEMSTONE MINES
 

Miscellaneous notes

Mines are numbered and ordered from north to south. All mines are plotted on the accompanying maps. Coordinates for the approximate mine centers are based on the WGS 84 datum and correspond with locations visible in Google Earth.

Mine age and size are given in parentheses after the mine location. Abbreviations for age are: Paleo = Palaeolithic, Neo = Neolithic, Pd = Predynastic, ED = Early Dynastic, OK = Old Kingdom, 1IP = First Intermediate Period, MK = Middle Kingdom, 2IP = Second Intermediate Period, NK = New Kingdom, 3IP = Third Intermediate Period, LP = Late Period, Pt = Ptolemaic, R = Roman, B = Byzantine or Late Roman, and Is = Islamic. Other abbreviations include: OK:4 = Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, OK/MK = Old Kingdom and/or Middle Kingdom, and NK-R = New Kingdom through Roman Period. Size corresponds to the maximum dimension of an area of mine workings or the cumulative maximum dimensions for multiple areas of workings within a single mine. Three size classes are recognized: small (<100 m), medium (100-1000 m), and large (>1000 m).
 

* * * * * SINAI PENINSULA * * * * *

1. in Wadi Kharig [29o 3.03' N, 33o 20.91' E] (MK:12; small) -- turquoise? (not well documented)

2. at Bir Nasib [29o 2.16' N, 33o 23.83' E] (MK or NK; small) -- turquoise? (not well documented and now destroyed)

3. at Serabit el-Khadim [29o 2.06' N, 33o 27.35' E] (MK:12-NK:20; medium) -- turquoise

4. at Gebel Maghara [28o 53.83' N, 33o 22.20' E] (ED:3-OK:6, MK:12, NK:18; medium) -- turquoise

5. in Wadi Umm Themaim [28o 53.81' N, 33o 21.60' E] (MK; small) -- turquoise

* * * * * EASTERN DESERT * * * * *

6. in Wadi Abu Had [approx. 27o 45.8' N, 33o 18.6' E] (ED; small) -- amethyst

7. at Abu Diyeiba near Wadi Waseef [26o 31.15' N, 33o 49.56' E] (Pt-R; large) -- amethyst

8. at Gebel el-Ineigi [25o 13.39' N, 34o 7.56' E] (Pd; small) -- fluorite

9. at Gebel Migif [24o 48.39' N, 34o 27.18' E] (NK:18; small) -- amazonite

10. in Wadi Fayrouz at Gebel Hafafit [24o 45.29' N, 34o 34.45' E] (Pt-R; small) -- amazonite

11. at Gebel Zabara [24o 46.30' N, 34o 43.10' E] (R-Is; medium) -- emerald

12. in Wadi Sikait [24o 38.93' N, 34o 47.85' E] (late Pt-R; large) -- emerald

    Northern workings: 24o 39.56' N, 34o 48.00' E

    Southern workings:  24o 38.30' N, 34o 47.70' E

13. at Gebel Umm Harba [24o 38.52' N, 34o 49.67' E] (R; medium) -- emerald

14. in Wadi Abu Rasheid [24o 39.32' N, 34o 45.28' E] (R; medium) -- emerald

    Northwest workings: 24o 40.44' N, 34o 44.65' E

    Southeast workings: 24o 38.20' N, 34o 45.90' E

15. in Wadi Nugrus [24o 37.00' N, 34o 46.74' E] (R; large) -- emerald

    Northwest workings: 24o 37.23' N, 34o 46.36' E

    Southeast workings: 24o 36.78' N, 34o 47.13' E

16. at Umm Kabu [24o 35.30' N, 34o 53.60' E] (R; large) -- emerald

17. in and near Wadi el-Hudi [23o 57.56' N, 33o 8.15' E] (MK; medium) -- amethyst

    Northern workings: 23o 58.19' N, 33o 7.75' E

    Central workings: 23o 57.69' N, 33o 7.84' E

    Southern workings: 23o 56.81' N, 33o 8.86' E
 

* * * * * RED SEA * * * * *

18. on Zabargad (St. John's) Island [23o 36.10' N, 36o 11.48' E] (Pt-R; medium) -- peridot

* * * * * WESTERN DESERT * * * * *

19. at Stela Ridge near Gebel el-Asr [22o 54.00' N, 31o 19.00' E] (MK with OK & R traces; medium) -- carnelian and other varieties of colored chalcedony, including bluish white and green


DESCRIPTION OF MINED EGYPTIAN GEMSTONES AND THEIR ANCIENT NAMES

Amazonite (also amazonstone and green feldspar): translucent to opaque; light to medium green to mainly bluish-green; microcline feldspar [KAlSi3O8]. Ancient names: nSmt [neshmet], also possibly also Hsg [heseg] (Egyptian); probably smaragdos and possibly also iaspis (Greek); smaragdus and possibly its sub-variety galactites (Roman).

Amethyst: transparent; light to dark violet or purple; macrocrystalline quartz [SiO2]. Ancient names: Hsmn [hesmen] (Egyptian); amethystos/amethystus (Greek/Roman).

Carnelian and other chalcedonies: translucent; mainly fibrous/chalcedonic microcrystalline quartz [SiO2] = chalcedony. Three color varieties at Stela Ridge:

(1) carnelian or cornelian -- medium to dark orangy red, brownish-red or red (note that during the Roman period, but possibly earlier as well, carnelian color was often enhanced by heat treatment) plus sard -- medium to dark orangy brown, reddish- to yellowish-brown or brown, and gradational with carnelian. Ancient names: Hrst [herset], and also occasionally Hrst dSr [herset deser] and Drtt [djertet] (Egyptian); sardion (Greek); sarda (Roman).

(2) common chalcedony -- white or pale gray to mainly bluish white/gray. Ancient names: probably Hrst HD [herset hedj] (Egyptian); Greek unknown; probably leuachates and also possibly cerachates and ceraunia (Roman).

(3) green chalcedony -- light to medium green. Ancient names: possibly prDn [predjen] (Egyptian); probably prasinos or prasitis (Greek); prasius (Roman).

Emerald (or green beryl): mainly light to medium green and translucent; rarely dark green and transparent; beryl [Be3Al2(Si6O18)]. Ancient names: smaragdos/smaragdus (Greek/Roman).

Fluorite or fluorspar: transparent to translucent; commonly light or bluish green or yellow, but other or multiple colors are possible [CaF2]). Ancient names: probably murrina or myrrhina (Roman).

Peridot: transparent to translucent; light to medium yellowish-green; olivine [(Mg,Fe)2SiO4]. Ancient names: topazos/topazus and occasionally topazion and bazion (Greek/Roman).

Turquoise: opaque; light to medium green to greenish-blue or light blue with the blue color degrading over time to green; turquoise [CuAl6(PO4)4(OH)8▪5H2O]). Ancient names: mfkAt [mefkat] (Egyptian); probably smaragdos (Greek); callaina (Roman).


James A. Harrell
Professor Emeritus of Archaeological Geology 
Department of Environmental Sciences
The University of Toledo


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