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Types of wood

These are broad-leafed plants with two seed leaves. They provide hardwood timbers. Woods common in Egypt are marked red. Woods not common in Egypt but imported on a large scale are marked blue.

Acacia (Acacia species (Leguminosae-Mimosoidea))
Field maple (Acer campestre L. (Aceraceae))
A flat topped tree. Its flowers are yellow or white. The tree is common in hot deserts. Its use is limited by the small size of the timber, but nevertheless very popular. Acacia blossoms are common in garlands and collars.
A small often shrubby tree, which is often found up to an altitude of 2000 metres, especially in Europe including Turkey, but not in Egypt. It is used for a wide range of objects, for which strong wood is important (wagon-building, bows, arrows, musical instruments)
the wood is hard and durable
the wood is hard and strong

Cork wood (Aeschynomene Elaphroxylon)
Silver birch (betula pendula)
Common box (Buxus sempervirens)
A soft-stemmed shrub with large orange-yellow flowers. It is found on river-banks of rivers and lakes in Africa. It must have been imported from the lands south of Egypt. There are only a few objects.
Tree of middle size. It occurs in Europe, including northern Greece, but not in Egypt. There are only a few objects in Ancient Egypt made in this wood (bows and staves)
An evergreen tree found in moist woodland in all parts of Europe and the hills of western Syria. It is often used for sculpture and small items.
very light-weight and durable
moderately hard, but perishable
strong hard and heavy


Carob (Ceratonia siliqua L.)
African black or iron wood, Egyptian ebony (Dalbergia melanoxylon)
Sycomore fig (Ficus sycomoros)
A dark evergreen tree, which is found all around the Mediterrean, but in Egypt only found in gardens. It is used for furniture but also for mummy labels
Ebony is found in the dry savanna woodlands of tropical Africa and must have been imported from there. It is used for furniture, inlays and sculpture.
A tree with massive lateral branches. The fruits are smaller and less tasty than the common fig. The tree is sometimes represented in Egyptian art, and was very common for bigger objects.
Ancient Egyptian word: hbny
Ancient Egyptian word: nht
hard, strong and good quality
almost black colour, very hard and heavy
light and of coarse quality

Common ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.)
Storax tree (Liquidambar orientalis)
Persea (Mimusops laurifolia)
A large tree which can rise to about 45 metres. It occurs in Europe and and the Caucasus. The wood is attested in Egypt for bows and arrows.
Medium large tree, growing on some Greek islands and the Turkish mainland;only one wood fragment was found in Egypt (in the tomb of Tutankhamun)
An evergreen tree, up to 20 m high. It occurs in Egypt. The twigs and leaves are common in New Kingdom (about 1550-1069 BC) and Late Period burials. The wood is used for carpentry
hard and strong wood
light brown in colour

Olive (Olea europaea L.)
Plum (Prunus domestica L.)
Almond (Prunus dulcis)
Small evergreen tree. It is very common in the Mediterranean. The tree is mainly used for the fruits, the use of the wood is not very common. In Egypt many Late Period stelae are made from it.
Small tree, up to six metres high. The wood is similar to that of the almond.
Small tree up to eight metres high. It originated in southwestern Asia but is now to be found at many places. Used in Egypt for walking sticks and arrows.
hard, heavy and durable
strong and hard wood

Turkey oak (Quercus cerris L.)
Willow (salix subserrata)
Tamarisk (Tamarix aphylla)
Large tree found in southern and central Europe as well as in Asia Minor. Some dowels in the tomb of Tutankhamun were identified as coming from the Turkey oak.
Small tree, found on the banks and islands of the river Nile. The small scale of the plant makes it not very useful, but note a knife handle, parts of a bow, and Late Period stelae made in the material.
An evergreen tree, which can be up to fifteen metres high. It is found in Egypt. There are many objects in this wood from all periods.
hard, strong durable wood
Coarse and dense wood quality

Lime (Tillia x vulgaris Hayne)
Elm (Ulmus minor)
Christ's thorn, sidder, nabk
Large tree, sometime up to 50 m high. It does not grow in Egypt. Wood identified as lime might in fact come from other trees.
A tree of medium size, often found at shady moist places in Europe and Turkey. It is not very common in southwestern Asia. Pieces of elm were found in the chariot from the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Small up to 5 metres high tree. It is found in dry countries including North Africa. There is a wide use in Ancient Egypt, most often smaller objects such as dowels.
soft and perishable wood
tough and durable when permanently wet
hard and durable wood


Dom/doum palm (Hyphanene thebaica L.)
Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera)
A palm tree which can grow up to 10 metres high. It is common in Egypt, but there are no attestations for the use of the wood itself.
A tall palm, up to 20 metres high. It is well attested in Egypt. The wood was often used for buildings (roof timber), but not often for other object types.
hard and compact wood
soft and of poor quality


Gymnosperms (Coniferous trees)

Cilician fir (Abies cilicica)
Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani)
Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
Large tree, not securely attested in Egypt, but found in the Lebanon and in Syria. It is sometimes used for coffins and small objects.
Large tree often up to forty metres high. It is found at an altitude of over 1000 metres above sea-level. It was often used in Ancient Egypt, but always imported.
Large tree (thirty to fifty metres high), mainly growing in southwestern Asia and Greek islands. It is sometimes used in Egypt.
easily split and perishable
durable and taking a good polish
durable and taking a good polish

Grecian juniper, Eastern savin (Juniperus excelsa M)
Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis Mill.)
Common yew (Taxus baccata L.)
Medium size tree (twenty five metres high). It is usually found at a height of 300 - 3400 metres above sea level. There are few attestations for the use of the wood in Ancient Egypt.
Medium size tree (up to thirty metres). It occurs mainly in Syria and Palestine. There some examples for use of this wood.
Large tree growing in Europe and in the Taurus. Most attestations of the wood in Egypt dating from the Sixth to the Twelfth Dynasty.
hard, durable and taking a good polish
relatively strong
hard and heavy


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