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trees of native growth afforded timber either for building, or for
The principal uses of the date and dôm trees have been already mentioned.*
For coffins, boxes, tables, doors, and other objects, which required large and thick planks, for idols and wooden statues, the sycamore was principally employed; and from the quantity discovered in the tombs alone, it is evident that the tree was cultivated to a great extent. It had the additional recommendation of bearing a fruit, to which the Egyptians were very partial; and a religious prejudice claimed for it, and the Persea, the name and rank of sacred fruit-trees. It is even now looked upon with favour; and when a foreigner is leaving the country, his Egyptian friends ask him if he has ever eaten any sycamore-figs, and on his answering in the affirmative, express their delight at the prospect of his return, saying, "whoever has eaten sycamore-figs is sure to come back to Egypt.'
The tamarisk was preferred for the handles of tools, wooden hoes, and other things requiring a hard and compact wood; and of the acacia were made the planks and masts of boats, the handles of offensive weapons of war, and various articles of furniture. Large groves of this tree were cultivated in many parts of Egypt; especially in the vicinity of Memphis and Abydus; and besides its timber, the acacia was highly valued for the pods it produced, so useful for tanning, and. for the gum, which exudes from the trunk and branches, now known under the name of gum Arabic. This tree is not less prized by the modern Egyptians, who have retained its name as well as its uses; sont being applied to this species of acacia, both in Arabic and the ancient Egyptian language.
Besides the Sont, or Acacia (Mimosa) Nilotica, the Sellem, Sumr, Tulh, Fitneh, Lebbekh, and other acacias, which grew in Egypt, were also adapted to various purposes; and some instances are met with of the wood of the Egleeg † or Balanites Ægyptiaca, and of different desert trees having been used by the Egyptian carpenters.
For ornamental purposes, and sometimes even for coffins, doors, and boxes, foreign woods were employed; deal and cedar were imported from Syria; and part of the contributions, exacted from the conquered tribes of Ethiopia, and Asia, consisted in ebony and other rare woods, which were annually brought by the chiefs, deputed to present their country's tribute to the Egyptian Pharaohs.
Boxes, chairs, tables, sofas, and other pieces of furniture were frequently made of ebony, inlaid with ivory; sycamore and acacia were veneered with thin layers, or ornamented with carved devices, of rare wood, applied, or let into them; and a fondness for this display suggested to the Egyptians the art of painting common boards, to imitate foreign varieties, so generally adopted in other countries at the present day.
The colours were usually applied on a thin coating of stucco, laid smoothly upon the previously prepared wood, and the various knots and grains, painted upon this ground, indicated the quality of the wood they intended to counterfeit.
The usual tools of the carpenter were the axe, adze, hand-saw, chisels of various kinds (which were struck with a wooden mallet), the drill, and two sorts of planes (one resembling a chisel, the other apparently of stone, acting as a rasp on the surface of the wood, which was afterwards polished by a smooth body, probably also of stonef); and these with the ruler‡, plummet, and right angles, a leather bag containing nails, the hone, and the horn of oil, constituted the principal, and perhaps the only, implements he used.
Some of the furniture of their rooms, the work of the cabinetmaker, I have already noticed]], as well as the perfection to which they had arrived in the construction of the chairs and ottomans of their saloons; nor can I omit the mention of the art of dovetailing, already practised in the earliest Pharaonic ages, or the mode of applying two planks together in the same plane, by means of broad pins, or tongues, of hard wood. Of the former numerous + Woodcuts 89, fig. 3, 392. Woodcut 396, e. § Woodcut 390, part 2, fig. v; and 396, f. In vol. i., pp. 59 to 72, and 158 to 164.
* Woodcut 395.
instances occur, both in large and small objects, and no illustration of it is required; the latter is peculiar, and shows the great care taken to make every thing durable, which characterizes all the works of the Egyptians.
When two boards are joined together by our modern carpenters, they fix small round pins horizontally, into corresponding parts of the edges, which are then applied together, so as to form as it were
a single piece; but the cautious Egyptian carpenter was not content with this; and having used flat pins for the purpose about two inches in breadth, he secured these again, after the boards had been put together, by round pins or wooden nails, driven vertically through the boards, into each of the flat pins; and thus the possibility of the joint opening was effectually prevented, even should the glue, which was added as in our modern boxes, fail to hold them.
After the wood had been reduced to a proper size by the saw, the adze was the principal tool employed for fashioning it; and from the precision with which even the smallest objects are worked with it at the present day, by the unskilful carpenters of modern Egypt, we may form some idea of its use in the hands of their expert predecessors.
Many adzes, saws, and chisels, have been found at Thebes. The blades are all of bronze, the handles of the acacia or the tamarisk; and the general mode of fastening the blade to the handle appears to have been by thongs of hide. It is probable that some of those discovered in the tombs are only models, or unfinished specimens ; and it may have been thought sufficient to show their external appearance, without the necessity of nailing them, beneath the thongs; for those they worked with were bound in the same manner, though I believe them to have been also secured with nails. Some, however, evidently belonged to the individuals in whose tombs they were buried, and appear to have been used; and the chisels often bear signs of having been beaten with the mallet.
The drill is frequently represented in the sculptures. Like all the other tools, it was of the earliest date, and precisely similar to that of modern Egypt, even to the nut of the dóm* in which it turned, and the form of its bow with a leathern thong.
The chisel was employed for the same purposes, and in the same manner, as at the present day, and was struck with a wooden mallet, sometimes flat at the two ends, sometimes of circular or oval form; several of which last have been found at Thebes, and
*Woodcuts 390, part 2, fig. s; and 395 ; and vol. i.
are in our European museums. The handles of the chisel were of acacia, tamarisk, or other compact wood; the blades of bronze; and the form of the points varied in breadth, according to the work for which they were intended. The hatchet was principally used by boat-builders, and those who made large pieces of framework; and trees were felled with the same instrument.*
Veneering and the use of glue.
e, a ruler; and ƒ, a right angle, similar to those used by our carpenters. a, a piece of dark wood applied to one of ordinary quality, b.
Fig. 2 is grinding
i, glue-pot on the fire.
c, adze, fixed into a block of wood of the same colour as b. g, a box.
j, a piece of glue.
Fig. 3 applying the glue with a brush, p.
*Woodcut 363, above in p. 18.
The mode of sawing timber was primitive and imperfect, owing to their not having adopted the double saw; and they were obliged to cut every piece of wood, however large, singlehanded. In order, therefore, to divide a beam into planks, they placed it, if not of very great length, upright between two posts, firmly fixed in the ground, and being lashed to them with cords, or secured with pins, it was held as in a vice.†
Among the many occupations of the carpenter, that of veneering is noticed in the sculptures of Thebes, as early as the time of the third Thothmes; and the application of a piece of rare wood of a red colour, to a yellow plank of more ordinary kind, is clearly pointed out. And in order to show that the yellow wood is of inferior quality, the workman is represented to have fixed his adze
Woodcut 398, a.