In many Predynastic burials the crouched body was placed in a simple box or on a frame of wood which had been covered with plant stems. Much of this early timber has decayed but from surviving pieces showing the corners and edges it is possible to identify a number of woodworking joints. The majority of boxes have butt-jointed corners held together with wooden pegs or tied with n. Butt-joint.

12. Box and frame corner joints: a, half-lap; b, simple mitre; c, shoulder-mitre; d, double shoulder-mitre; e, mitre-housing; f, dovetailed mitre-housing.

leather thongs which passed through holes in the joining members (figure 11). Other corner joints commonly used from the earliest times were the half-lap, simple mitre, shoulder-mitre, double shoulder-mitre, mitre-housing and the dovetailed mitre-housing (figure 12). Carpenters used the most complex of these joints on the largest of boxes as well as the smallest ivory jewel cases. Carpenters and joiners were unable to use long lengths of timber for the length was determined by the height of the sawing post it was converted against. Longer rails were manufactured by scarf-jointing short rails together and locking them into position by using a butterfly cramp (figure 13). Unusually long solid pieces, used in major constructional works, were not converted by sawing but prepared directly from the log.

13. Scarf-joint with butterfly cramp.

  1. Mortise and tenon joint.
  2. Dovetail joint.

The bark and sapwood were removed by axe to expose the heartwood. The surfaces would then be trued with an adze, (figure 22), an ancient tool used very much like a modern plane.

The earliest extant mortise and tenon joint (figure 14) is seen in First Dynasty bed-frame construction, while dovetail joints (figure 15) are identified on the roof bars of a Fourth Dynasty bed-frame canopy which was discovered in the tomb of Queen Hetepheres at Giza.

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