• Keywords: Egypt Cultural Landscape, Gebel Qatrani, Widan el-Faras, Umm es-Sawwa, basalt quarries, gypsum quarries, Qasr el-Sagha, Fayoun Depression, Lake Qarun, Lake Moeris.

1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES

1.1 National and International Classification Lists

Guebel Qatrani is included in the Tentative List of UNESCO (date of Submission: 10/02/2003) in category: Mixed. According to Med-o-Med, this site has also enough cultural values to be considered as a cultural landscape. In the general Fayoum area, there are currently two protected areas: Lake Qarun Protected Area and Wadi el-Rayyan Protected Area. Both areas were declared protected in 1989 through Prime Ministerial Decree # 943. Wadi el-Hitan is considered part of Wadi el-Rayyan Protected Area and was awarded status as a World Heritage Site in 1985.

1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology

Organically evolved landscapes
Relict (or fossil) landscape

1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med

Description

The entire landscape of the Fayoum depression encompasses millennia of human activity, with remains from the pre-dynastic to the Coptic and Islamic periods. Gebel Qatrani is a mountain in Muhafazat, located in the Fayoum Depression. All this area has special interest because of the ancient quarries wich are located there, mainly Widan el-Faras and Umm es-Sawwan. The basalt quarry of Widan el-Faras and the Umm es-Sawan gypsum quarries (located 20 km northeast of Widan el-Faras, both north of Lake Qaroun) are ancient quarry sites that were exploited fom at least the 3rd millennium BC (ca. 3000 BC). More details: -Widan el-Faras, meaning “Ears of the Mare”, are two prominent peaks in Gebel Qatrani, a large escarpment capped with basalt flow, where the ancient and modern quarries are located. The Widan el-Faras area lies in the northern part of the Fayoum depression and represents an important part of the history of the Fayoum, and of ancient Egypt. The basalt quarries themselves, the oldest paved road in the world, several smaller flint and limestone extraction sites and habitation sites together form an industrial quarry landscape of great importance. Hundreds of quarries are known and documented in Egypt, but Widan el-Faras is exceptional in being one of the few old hard stone quarries known. The quarry landscape is divided into five different areas: 1. East Quarry 2. West Quarry 3. Basalt block area (previously, “Quarrymen’s camp”) 4. Encampment area 5. Ancient paved quarry road from the quarries to Qasr el-Sagha, including the quay area. -Umm es-Sawwan is likewise unique and constitutes the only known quarry for alabaster gypsum in the country. Landscape archaeology in Egypt is often limited because of modern activities and destruction, and it is rare to have access to a large area where the interplay between historical features all related to one activity in the landscape can be studied, rather than mere isolated sites. Gebel Qatrani has also geological importance. The existence of important fossil finds in the northern area was confirmed during the QuarryScapes survey in the spring of 2006. The fossil ancestors of monkeys (Proconsul, elephants (Moerithrium, Arsinoetherium, etc.), and other terrestrial and marshland mammals were found in other quarries near the Fayoum Depression, particularly in Gabal Qatrani. The Fayoum Depression was inhabited by Neolithic Man whose sites reveal a remarkable stage in the evolution of the use of the stone tool artefacts. There is also aesthetic interest: Typical of the Widan el-Faras landscape are the silicified forests, large scatters of broken pieces of wood and tree trunks visible as dark patches in the desert. In summary, there are many elements to considers the Gebel Qatrani area as a Cultural Landscape.

2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY

  • Current denomination Gebel Qatrani, Widan el-Faras and Umm es-Sawwan.
  • Current denomination Gebel Qatrani, Widan el-Faras and Umm es-Sawwan.
  • Original denomination Gebel Qatrani, Widan el-Faras and Umm es-Sawwan.
  • Popular denomination Gebel Qaṭrâni is also known as Gebel Qatrani, Gebel Qaṭrâni, Jabal Qatrani, Jabal Qaţrānī.
  • Address: Gebel Qatrani (Gebel Qaṭrâni) is a mountain in Muhafazat al Fayyum (Al Fayyum), Egypt (Africa) with the region font code of Africa/Middle East. It is located at an elevation of 334 meters above sea level.
  • Geographical coordinates: 29°40'0" N 30°37'0" E
  • Area, boundaries and surroundings: Gebel Qatrani (Gebel Qaṭrâni) is a mountain in Muhafazat al Fayyum (Al Fayyum), Egypt (Africa) with the region font code of Africa/Middle East. It is located at an elevation of 334 meters above sea level.
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GEBEL QATRANI AND THE ANCIENT QUARRIES OF WIDAN EL-FARAS AND UMM ES-SAWAN, IN FAYOUM DEPRESSION (EGYPT)

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GEBEL QATRANI AND THE ANCIENT QUARRIES OF WIDAN EL-FARAS AND UMM ES-SAWAN, IN FAYOUM DEPRESSION (EGYPT) 30.000000, 30.616667 GEBEL QATRANI AND THE ANCIENT QUARRIES OF WIDAN EL-FARAS AND UMM ES-SAWAN, IN FAYOUM DEPRESSION (EGYPT) (Directions)

3. LEGAL ISSUES

  • Owner: Fayoum Governorate.
  • Body responsible for the maintenance: Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).
  • Legal protection: The management of all archaeological sites in Egypt is the responsibility of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), belonging to the Ministry of Culture. The SCA employs a large number of archaeologists, conservators and site guards, but is plagued by a lack of adequate funds, training and expertise, as well as necessary technological equipment. SCA recognizes three different kinds of legal status of archaeological sites and buildings. Sites that are the Property of the SCA mean that the SCA owns the land and has control over construction and development. Sites under SCA Supervision are situated on private land but no development or changes can be made that could potentially damage the archaeological remains. Finally, sites Under Registration Request are sites in the process of becoming officially registered and legally protected. Large groups of Egypt’s cultural heritage are currently unregistered with a clear signal that these sites have little or no historical value. Groups include quarries, several prehistoric areas, as well as large parts of the modern architectural heritage represented in the major cities. No archaeological remains within the Widan el-Faras quarry landscape are officially owned by the SCA, not even the Qasr el-Sagha temple although it does have a site guard. This means that the SCA have no means of adequately protecting the site, and that it is not part of any future development plans for the historical remains of the greater Fayoum area. However, recently the SCA has taken an active interest in Widan el-Faras and has been an instrumental factor in the attempts at stopping the modern quarrying activities on the top of the plateau. In the general Fayoum area, there are currently two protected areas: Lake Qarun Protected Area and Wadi el-Rayyan Protected Area. Both areas were declared protected in 1989 through Prime Ministerial Decree # 943. Wadi el-Hitan is considered part of Wadi el-Rayyan Protected Area and was awarded status as a World Heritage Site in 1985.
  • Public or private organizations working in the site: Several key organizations are stakeholders in the Widan el-Faras quarry landscape. A brief outline of stakeholders is provided here, and will be analyzed in further detail in the site management plan. Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs – EEAA and NCS EEAA (Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency) is the department responsible for environmental protection throughout the country while the NCS (Nature Conservation Sector) is responsible for Protected Areas, including Lake Qarun Protected Area and Wadi Rayyan Protected Area. They are therefore one of the main stakeholders of the Widan el-Faras landscape, part of which is already part of the Lake Qarun PA. The possibility of widening this Protected Area to include more or all of Widan el-Faras needs to be evaluated. Ministry of Culture – SCA and EAIS SCA (Supreme Council of Antiquities) is the main body responsible for documenting and protecting cultural heritage. EAIS is the official GIS centre of the SCA and is developing a database of registered, official sites in Egypt with updated maps and site borders. SCA is also a main stakeholder and steps should be taken in order to declare parts of the landscape registered, giving it at least a minimum form of protection against exploitation and destruction. EAIS (Egyptian Antiquities Information System) is the official GIS centre of the SCA and is working on developing GIS (including digitizing site maps and creating a database over archaeological sites) in Egypt. Ministry of Petroleum – EGSMA EGSMA (Egyptian Geological Survey and Mining Authority) evaluates the potential of mining and quarrying activities. They will be instrumental in establishing areas of exploitation on the Widan el-Faras plateau, and ensuring that the limits of these areas are kept.

4. HISTORY

Historical Information on the quarry landscape of -Early exploitation of the area (Palaeolithic/Neolithic) The earliest evidence of hunter-gatherers along the shore date to about 10 000 years ago with substantial evidence for fishing and hunting activities and associated tools and technology. Fayoum is rightly famous for its fifth millennium Neolithic remains, extensively documented by Caton-Thompson and Gardner during their excavations in the 1920’s. During this period, farmers established small communities along the northern shore of Lake Qarun. Domesticated sheep and cattle were kept, and wheat and barley grown, although traditional hunting and fishing activities continued to be a large part of the diet. Houses were most likely constructed of temporary reed shelters and it is possible that settlements shifted or were partially flooded during high Nile floods. Similarities in technologies exist both between other sites in the Western Desert and the Near East, and the Fayoum sites are crucial in understanding the developments in early farming, increased social complexity, and prehistoric interaction between Egypt and the ancient Near East. the Fayoum sites are crucial in understanding the developments in early farming, increased social complexity, and prehistoric interaction between Egypt and the ancient Near East. -Pre-dynastic and Early Dynastic There is not much activity documented in the northern Fayoum desert during these periods. The stone most likely comes from the Umm es-Sawwan quarry, although other, as yet unidentified sources are also possible. Transport between Umm es- Sawwan and the Nile valley during this period probably took place through the northern desert straight to the Memphis area, and not south to the Fayoum. It seems likely that the lack of activity in the northern Fayoum desert can be linked to increased nucleation of sites during the fourth millennium BC, where in particular the Upper Egyptian Nile valley became the centre of increasing social stratification, technological improvements, and developments in funerary rituals. However, small-scale settlements undoubtedly continued to exist along the rich shores of Lake Qarun although by now isolated and away from the rapid social and economic developments in the Nile valley. -Old Kingdom The scarce evidence of Early Dynastic exploitation of the landscape in the northern Fayoum desert changes drastically with the onset of the Old Kingdom. Starting from the Fourth Dynasty, the basalt quarries at Widan el-Faras were opened and the stone was used in several royal construction projects, including four pyramid complexes in the Memphite area. The level of Lake Moeris was approximately 20 meters higher than today which enabled transport by water to the Nile valley, where it could then be shipped upstream to the pyramid fields. The basalt quarries should be seen as part of a wider network of associated infrastructure, temporary settlement sites and continuing working at other quarries, such as the gypsum quarries at Umm es-Sawwan. Links were made directly to the Nile valley (the pyramid fields) by the track passing by Umm es-Sawwan, and to the settlements of the Fayoum and the canal linking the lake to the Nile. -Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom and Late Period In general, the Middle Kingdom was a period of immense activity in the Fayoum depression as increased control of the Bahr Yosef canal through the Hawara pass led to expanded agricultural areas and prosperity for the region as a whole. The basalt quarries at Widan el-Faras were not re-opened and only small pieces of basalt statuary and reliefs have been found in Egypt from the Middle Kingdom to the Late Period. It is likely that the objects dating to these periods were made from reused blocks already present in the Nile valley (chiefly at the pyramid sites) or picked up by the quarry area itself. -Graeco-Roman and Coptic periods Following the conquest of Alexander in 332 BC and the increased incorporation of Egypt into the Mediterranean sphere, Fayoum was a key factor in the prosperity of the country. Large-scale agricultural and urban development characterises the Fayoum depression during these periods and remains of towns, farmsteads and irrigation systems have been extensively documented. During the Ptolemaic period (332-30 BC), the level of the lake was drastically reduced due During the Ptolemaic period (332-30 BC), the level of the lake was drastically reduced due to increased regulation of the Hawara channel and the construction of several dikes.It was not until the Roman period that quarrying was again resumed in a limited section of the Eastern Quarry. The Fayoum is an important area in the history of early Christianity in Egypt with a large number of monasteries and churches dotted around the lake area.

5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION

5.1. Natural heritage

  • Heritage: Rural
  • Geography: High Mountain
  • Site topography: Natural
  • Climate and environmental conditions: No details.
  • Geological and Geographical characteristics: The Fayoum depression is one of several depressions in the Western Desert, situated in an Eocene limestone plateau which covers large parts of the desert. Most of them consist of an escarpment to the north which gently slopes down to the south. Geologists now agree that the Western Desert and its depressions were primarily formed by wind erosion, and not as a result of tectonic activity. The total area of the Fayoum depression is 1700 sq km with the lowest point being 45 meters below sea level . The oldest rock units in the Fayoum date to the Middle Eocene era, while most of the northern part consists of Upper Eocene limestone, shale and marl bands (including the Qasr el-Sagha formation). Large numbers of vertebrate and invertebrate fossil remains have been found in these rock units. The Gebel Qatrani (with its basalt sheet) is a sandstone promontory of this northern plateau to the northwest of the depression dated to the Oligocene era, overlaying the older Qasr el- Sagha formation. 4.2 Palaeontology The Fayoum depression has been much studied by geologists and palaeontologists since the 19th century. The recent declaration of Wadi el-Hitan (Whale Valley) as a Natural World Heritage site in 2005 has brought attention to the importance of the natural landscape of the Fayoum and its place in the history of early mammal development. The fossils collected in the Fayoum depression constitute the most well-known faunal assemblage from Africa. The important fossils date to a period between the late Eocene and early Oligocene when the area consisted of several swampy rivers with a tropical animal and plant life. The many geological surveys undertaken in the area have led to the discovery of a number of important species, both ancestors of current animals as well as now extinct species. Important animals include giant sea snakes, the oldest known elephant(Paleomastodon) four-horned ungulates and several new primates. The most famous animals, which have given Wadi el-Hitan its name, are of course the remains of, providing new evidence on the development of modern whales and their origin from land-dwelling, hoofed animals with hind legs, not flippers. The Fayoum area is by no means exhausted in terms of fossils, and it is thus vital that the area remain protected for future generations. Wadi el-Hitan is today part of Wadi Rayyan Protected Area to the south of Lake Qarun, but important fossils have been found to the north of the lake as well, in the Qasr el-Sagha formations. Typical of the Widan el-Faras landscape are the silicified forests, large scatters of broken pieces of wood and tree trunks visible as dark patches in the desert. The existence of important fossil finds in the northern area was confirmed during the QuarryScapes survey in the spring of 2006.
Water resources:
Lake Qarun has been a source of fish and a habitat for waterfowl since time immemorial. The lake's main water source is drainage from agricultural land, which enters through two major drains called el-Batts and el-Wadi. This water has become increasingly saline as agriculture has intensified and the water is now more saline than seawater. Freshwater fish and invertebrates have largely disappeared and marine species have been introduced. This lake is of international importance for wintering waterbirds including Black-necked Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis, and Northern Shoveller, Anas clypeata. A fruitful day can be spent here in el-Fayoum (1h30 driving distance from Cairo) seeing the numerous ancient sites including the small but excellent museum.
Land uses and economical activities:
Fayoum is one of the most historically rich areas of Egypt and the landscape encompasses millennia of human activity, with remains from the pre-dynastic to the Coptic and Islamic periods. The name Fayoum comes from the Coptic phiom, referring to Lake Moeris, the large lake which enabled large-scale settlement and exploitation of the area. Without the lake and its rich resources in terms of food and fresh water, occupation of the depression would most likely have been on a scale similar to the other oases in the western desert. Instead, the oasis became the home of some of the earliest agricultural communities in Egypt, and remained an important area for food production throughout the pharaonic period. It was sacred to the crocodile god Sobek, and large settlements, temples and cemeteries from all periods of Egyptian history were established along the lake.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:
Along the fertile shores of Lake Moeris some of the first agricultural communities in the world developed, and the remains of these villages are key sites in the archaeology of early Egypt. The natural landscape is equally important, with fossilised remains of fauna and flora showing the evolution of early mammals and sea creatures.

5.2. Cultural Heritage

A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general

Architectonical elements /Sculptures:

The Fayoum is an important area in the history of early Christianity in Egypt with a large number of monasteries and churches dotted around the lake area.

Art pieces, artesany, furniture and other elements:

Gebel Qatrani area is famous for its Graeco-Roman and early Christian settlements, the large numbers of papyrus found here and of course the Fayoum portraits, early Roman period mummy portraits showing a blend of Ancient Egyptian and Classical influences.

In the case of gardens: original and current style:
It is not the case. The most significant feature of the Fayoum area is the large Lake Qarun, ancient Lake Moeris, already described in the file: "Fayoum Oasis and Lake Qarun"
Domestic, industrial ensembles, energy related systems:

Lake Qarun

B) Related to ancient remains

  • Archaeological components:

    Synthesis of main elements of the Widan el-Faras and Umm es-Sawwa, in Gebel Qatrani: -Widan el-Faras: basalt quarries The area has been investigated by several geological and archaeological surveys. Two main quarries have been located on top of the escarpment at Widan el-Faras. The Eastern Quarry extends for about 800 meters, and contains the remains of four quarries while the Western Quarry is much smaller with a length of about 60 meters. The actual extraction locations are characterised by small depressions and benches and are often quite difficult to define. The workers did not dig into the mountain itself, but moved horizontally along the edge. Old Kingdom stone mauls and other tools have been recorded on the escarpment, including large numbers of diorite pounders made of imported stone. The basalt on top of the escarpment was most likely quarried by using levers to split and remove the blocks, which were then tumbled down the slope and taken to the road (alternatively, taken down with ropes). The Roman pottery at Widan is dated to the fourth to sixth centuries AD, and suggest it comes from Christian ascetics who withdrew to the desert. However, there is also evidence of Roman quarrying on the plateau, as shown by the presence of distinctive wedge holes and the pottery is most likely related to that activity. -Widan el-Faras: settlements There have been identified several circular depressions below Widan el-Faras as remains of the quarrymen’s camp from the Old Kingdom. They measures between 2 and 7 meters in diameter with surface pottery dating to the Fourth Dynasty and the Roman period. The depressions were marked by basalt debris, suggested to be the remains of low windbreaks. They also mentioned the possibility of the area being used for the trimming of stone blocks, a suggestion confirmed by more recent archaeological surveys. This survey significantly lowered the number of existing stone circles from 160 to It is possible that some trimming also was undertaken in this area and large numbers of fragmentary and complete pounders have been recorded here. -Widan el-Faras: road It is the oldest paved road in the world, and is therefore of immense interest not only for ancient Egyptian history but for the development of transportation technologies worldwide. Its remaining total length measures 11.5 km (Storemyr 2003, 11) and consists of a 2.10 meters wide flagstone paving made of flat limestone, sandstone and basalt pieces as well as parts of silicified wood. All these material were readily available in the vicinity and would thus have been easy to repair as needed. It runs in a roughly direct line from the vicinity of Qasr el-Sagha (the shoreline of Lake Moeris) to Widan el-Faras, where it branches out to form several smaller tracks connected to separate quarry areas. It is unclear for how long this road was in use and exactly how the stone was transported to the quay area. -Widan el-Faras: quay and harbour area The quay area itself is difficult to interpret. A long promontory (311x19meters) is located close to the terminus of the paved road. The surface is covered with broken blocks and small pieces of basalt, some scattered potsherds (Old and Middle Kingdom) and stone tools. Some of the basalt blocks are arranged in circles around shallow depressions and it is possible that some basic trimming of the stones also took place here, like in the encampment area. Closer to the ancient shoreline of Lake Moeris there are four large promontories, circa 22 m high. Although natural in origin, the sides have been reinforced with limestone and sandstone slabs. They have been interpreted as the harbour area, where the basalt blocks were loaded onto boats or barges during flood levels, although it is difficult to see how the ridges could withstand erosion for a longer period of time. -Qasr el-Sagha temple and environs There are abundant Old Kingdom remains in the area around Qasr el-Sagha with characteristic flint tools, diorite pounders and potsherds. Further west, in the so-called L. Basin, an Old Kingdom village was recorded although no traces of structures were found. This small sandstone temple was never finished but contains seven small shrines and a transverse room. Middle Kingdom rock-cut tombs and shaft tombs have also been recorded around Qasr el- Sagha. The settlement lay to the west of the temple and was probably inhabited from the Middle Kingdom until the end of the Second Intermediate Period. The settlement was laid out in a planned form with a surrounding wall and a central street connecting the two main entrances. Regular domestic areas, pottery, stone vessels and numerous small objects were found in the settlement. Pottery from the Middle Kingdom has been noted in the quay area but could easily be connected to activity at the nearby temple. -Umm es-Sawwan: gypsum quarries The alabaster gypsum quarried was used for vase making and more than three thousand unfinished vases were recorded at the site during the course of the excavations. The crushed gypsum was also used as mortar in the vast Memphite tomb cemeteries of the Old Kingdom. Unlike the transportation of the basalt, which was done across Lake Moeris, the gypsum could have been brought across land directly to the pyramid fields by a track terminating at Dahshur, near the Mastabat Fara’un (the “Dahschurstrasse”). This was not a paved road, but rather a wide cleared strip of ground. During the excavations of Caton-Thompson and Gardner an Old Kingdom date was established based on shreds, crescent-type drills and pebble hand-picks. Literally thousands of unfinished stone vases were strewn across the area, showing the extent to which gypsum was quarried and used. -Umm es-Sawwan: settlements Several workshops and possible settlement areas were identified during the first excavations of the site by Caton-Thompson and Gardner (1934). They reported over two hundred stone circles, placed on the edge of the scarp. Previously believed to be the foundations of hut shelters, they are now interpreted as workshop areas with abundant evidence of gypsum production but no living floors or domestic pottery. This highlights the difficulties in interpreting quarry related materials, and shows the importance of renewed investigations and surveys – not only for the local history of the Widan el-Faras landscape but for the technological development in Egypt as a whole.

  • Historical routes:

    In antiquity, the stone was quarried and transported down from the escarpment along the paved road to the quay area near Qasr el-Sagha. From there, it was shipped across the Fayoum and then upriver to the pyramid sites on the western bank of the Nile. The usefulness of basalt as a building stone decreased at the end of the Old Kingdom’s Fifth Dynasty as lower levels of Lake Qarun (Lake Moeris in antiquity) made the transport too costly and difficult. From that period onwards, only statuary and smaller reliefs of basalt are known.

C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values

  • Population, ethnic groups: No details.
  • Languages and dialects: No details.
  • Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: No details.

5.3. Quality

Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:
The site is currently being threatened by a number of man-made factors, chiefly the quarrying activities which has already destroyed large parts of the Old Kingdom quarry remains on top of the plateau. Increased traffic as a result of modern quarrying and tourism in the area is further damaging remains in the vicinity such as the paved road and smaller quarries and camp sites. Today, there is a need to integrate the known human activities and the historical remains of the northern desert with site management of the Fayoum depression as a whole. Current destructive exploitation of the area should be stopped, and the protection of the area and its important cultural and natural remains consolidated. As an early stone quarry with associated infrastructure, the archaeology of the Widan el-Faras landscape is not only relevant to the history of ancient Egypt, but to the development of stone technologies throughout the world. There is still much to discover in the area regarding prehistoric and pharaonic use of the landscape, and like the famous Wadi el-Hitan (Whale Valley) in the southern part of the Fayoum, the possibility of unearthing important fossils is great.
Quality of the night sky, light pollution and possibility to observe the stars:
Deserts are privileged sites to breath in silence, to find ourselves and to observe the pure beauty of nature, including the stars that are brighting in the night sky, free of light pollution.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:

-Gebel Qatrani area -The ancient quarries of Widan el-Faras and Umm es-Sawwa. -Qasr el-Sagha -Lake Qarun

6. VALUES

Tangible

  • Aesthetic
  • Archaeological
  • Geological/Geographical
  • Living heritage
-Aesthetic: One of the main tangible values of Gebel Qatrani is its beauty and quality of its landscape, as a picture of human interaction with the desert. -Archaeological and Living Heritage: The basalt quarry of Widan el-Faras and the Umm es-Sawan gypsum quarries (located 20 km northeast of Widan el-Faras, both north of Lake Qaroun) are ancient quarry sites that were exploited fom at least the 3rd millennium BC (ca. 3000 BC). The basalt from Widan el-Faras was principlally used to pave the floors of the Old Kingdom (4di and 5'1' Dynasties) mortuary temples at Giza and Abu Sir. The gypsum from Umm es-Sawan was used to manufacture stone vessels associated with élite burials from as early as the Predynastic period (4th millennium BC). Both these quarries are exceptional archaeological sites as they contain rare artefactual and settlement evidence associated with a period in Egyptian antiquity that is greatly under-represented in the archaeological record. -Geological: Typical of the Widan el-Faras landscape are the silicified forests, large scatters of broken pieces of wood and tree trunks visible as dark patches in the desert. The existence of important fossil finds in the northern area was confirmed during the QuarryScapes survey in the spring of 2006 The oldest rock units in the Fayoum date to the Middle Eocene era, while most of the northern part consists of Upper Eocene limestone, shale and marl bands (including the Qasr el-Sagha formation). Large numbers of vertebrate and invertebrate fossil remains have been found in these rock units. The Gebel Qatrani (with its basalt sheet) is a sandstone promontory of this northern plateau to the northwest of the depression dated to the Oligocene era, overlaying the older Qasr el- Sagha formation. The fossil ancestors of monkeys (Proconsul, elephants (Moerithrium, Arsinoetherium, etc.), and other terrestrial and marshland mammals were found in other quarries near the Fayoum Depression, particularly in Gabal Qatrani.

Intangible

  • Historical
-Historical/Social Significance: The Fayoum Depression was inhabited by Neolithic Man whose sites reveal a remarkable stage in the evolution of the use of the stone tool artefacts. King Amenemhat of the 12`".
Universality:
The entire landscape of the Fayoum depression encompasses millennia of human activity, with remains from the pre-dynastic to the Coptic and Islamic periods. It is famous for its Graeco-Roman and early Christian settlements, the large numbers of papyrus found here and of course the Fayoum portraits, early Roman period mummy portraits showing a blend of Ancient Egyptian and Classical influences. Along the fertile shores of Lake Moeris some of the first agricultural communities in the world developed, and the remains of these villages are key sites in the archaeology of early Egypt. The natural landscape is equally important, with fossilised remains of fauna and flora showing the evolution of early mammals and sea creatures. The Widan el-Faras area lies in the northern part of the Fayoum depression and represents an important part of the history of the Fayoum, and of ancient Egypt. The basalt quarries themselves, the oldest paved road in the world, several smaller flint and limestone extraction sites and habitation sites together form an industrial quarry landscape of great importance. Hundreds of quarries are known and documented in Egypt, but Widan el-Faras is exceptional in being one of the few old hard stone quarries known. Umm es-Sawwan is likewise unique and constitutes the only known quarry for alabaster gypsum in the country. Landscape archaeology in Egypt is often limited because of modern activities and destruction, and it is rare to have access to a large area where the interplay between historical features all related to one activity in the landscape can be studied, rather than mere isolated sites. The site is currently being threatened by a number of man-made factors, chiefly the quarrying activities which has already destroyed large parts of the Old Kingdom quarry remains on top of the plateau. Increased traffic as a result of modern quarrying and tourism in the area is further damaging remains in the vicinity such as the paved road and smaller quarries and camp sites.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:
-Living heritage: the traditional activity linked to the quarries show the way of living of ancient civilization. -Archaeological values already described in this file.

7. ENCLOSURES

Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):

Gebel Qatrani and the ancient quarries of Widan el-Faras and Umm es-Sawan, in Fayoum Depression is included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.

Bibliography:

http://www.unesco.es http://www.naya.com.ar/eventos/arq_hist/mesas.htm http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/why-unesco-can%E2%80%99t-save-fayoums-gebel-qatrani http://www.quarryscapes.no/egypt_nort.php http://www.fayoum.gov.eg/Tou/Protect/Qaroun/default.aspx -Gingerich, P. Oligocene age of the Gebel Qatrani Formation, Fayum, Egypt. Museum of Paleontology and Department of Geological Sciences, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1079, U.S.A, 1993. -Havell, J.A and Bown, T. An Old Kingdom Basalt Quarry at Widam-El Faras and the Quarry road -Heldal, T. Blowam, E. Gypsum quarries in the northern Faiyum quarry landscape, Egypt: a geo-archaeological case study. -Integrated Management of Qarun Protected Area. Technical Evaluation. EEAA, 2002. -North South Consultant Exchange (NSCE). Site Management Concepts for Widan el Faras, Northern Fayoum, Egypt, 2008. -World Heritage Nomination – IUCN. Wadi al-Hitan (Whale Valley) Egypt ID No 1186, 2005.

Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías