Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 67.djvu/693

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687
USE OF METALS BY ANCIENT EGYPTIANS.

MINING AND USE OF METALS BY THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS.[1]
By Professor R. D. GEORGE,

UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO.

THE use of metals by the ancients antedates authentic history. So far as the discoveries of the archeologist have shown, the metals first used by mankind were those which occur native, such as gold, silver and copper. These three possess qualities which would appeal to the primitive workman. They are all bright and beautiful when polished, they are all malleable and easily shaped with the hammer, they respond readily to the graving tool and are highly resistant to fire. The ancient Egyptians knew, and used, gold, copper, silver, iron, lead and tin, and the alloys, bronze, brass, electron and solder. The fact that brass was used has led some Egyptologists to believe that zinc was known, but the unalloyed metal has not been found, nor do the inscriptions contain any reference to it. The majority of writers, therefore, hold that the brass was produced by mixing some ore of zinc, possibly calamine, with copper ores in the smelting furnace. The oxide of manganese is supposed to have been an article of commerce between the Bedouins of the Sinai peninsula and the ancient Egyptians.

'Nub' the Egyptian word for gold, is found in the oldest inscriptions, and at Beni-Hassan, a series of pictures dating back to the twelfth dynasty, 2130-1930 B.C., illustrate the whole process of making gold ornaments. Centuries before this, the Nubians had mined gold in the mountainous, desert regions between the Nile and the Red Sea, and it has been suggested that the name Nubia is derived from the name of the metal. The Egyptian kings of the twelfth dynasty invaded Nubia and finally annexed that part of the territory containing the gold mines, and built and garrisoned a wall which should mark the boundary between the two peoples. The mines were vigorously operated by the new owners, and the quantity of gold in the land of the


  1. The materials for this article have been drawn from many sources, and it would be impossible to give specific references, as a single sentence may contain facts taken from several writers. The principal works consulted are: Birch (ed.), 'Records of the Past'; Brugsch-Bey, 'Egypt under the Pharaohs'; Mahaffy, 'Empire of the Ptolemies'; Maspero-Sayce, 'Dawn of Civilization'; Rawlinson, 'Ancient Egypt'; Perrot and Chipiez, 'History of Ancient Egyptian Art'; Winckler, 'The Tell-el-Amarna Letters'; Adams, 'Egypt Past and Present'; Von Meyer, 'History of Chemistry'; Erman, 'Life in Ancient Egypt'; Chas. J. Alford, Eng. and Min. Jour., Vol. 73; Professor Petrie in Harper's for July, 1888.