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Ancient Woodworking

Screen Shot 2013 06 27 at 10 39 55 AM

I had occasion to visit a wonderful museum called the Oriental Institute on the University of Chicago campus a couple of years ago. They have a vast collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts (mummies anyone ?) including some 4000 year old furniture. Dry Egyptian climate really favors wood preservation since wood rotting fungi depend on moisture. The picture below shows the joinery used by an ancient craftsman in making a bed. Its’ mortice and tenon joinery is similar to what you see today, but it is secured with not so common leather lashings. (I suspect the leather in the picture is not very old, though the placement of the holes sure indicate that lashing was used originally.) Modern homes have climates favorable for wood longevity and I wonder if any of my toys will be around in 100 years. 4000 years is too long to think about.

Old egypt woodworking

A person walking in the woods or along the shore is apt to pick up a stick, break it to length, snap off the twigs, tidy the bark. This is basic woodworking….This is the first tool. But naked wood isn’t much more durable then flesh. Few ancient artifacts of wood have survived, which is probably why the Stone Age is considered so important. But the Wood Age must have come first, and is still with us. Wood is our favorite material, so much so that we try to make acres of plastic laminate look just like it.

Fine Woodworking Biennial Design Book – 1977


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