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Cracking the Riddle of Ancient Stone Sinks and Their Origins

December 18, 2017

The geographical origin of the rock used to make a hand carved stone sink is a crucial piece of the puzzle needed to fully understanding the historical background behind a rare artifact sink.


Beautiful old hand carved limestone sink

A stone “Quarry” can be defined as the precise location from which the sink rock originated from.

In most cases the rock used in the sink sculpture is taken from an outcrop of an exposed rock ledge or cliff, and the location of that outcrop would be the ultimate desired goal of the source determination.


Natural limestone sink in a powder room

Some outcrops could be quite small, such as a pit in the ground from which some blocks were hand carved by rural artisans to make smaller backyard sinks or ‘Potato washing’ sinks back in the Medieval era.


This beautiful limestone sink has been incorporated in a French country house powder room to fit it’s old world looking environment

In other cases a natural formation stone outcrop originating from a geologically limestone rich region like Malta, Corsica, Sicily or Carrara could consist of a very large exposure extending hundreds of yards or more. In the case of a very large quarry, localization of the source to some smaller area within the larger area may be desired.


Gothic Style powder room with a fully carved limestone sink

It is possible that a boulder or smaller chunks of rock could serve as the source material of some of our antique reclaimed stone sinks, and these may have been collected from areas that are distant from the actual geographical location of the quarry. It is rarely the case but these kind of ‘out of place’ anomalies have been known to take place on many occasions. kitchen-living-country-living-limestone-sink

A common example may include random boulders moved by glaciers, big rock chunks that have broken off of a cliff and have tumbled down a steep hill landing kilometers away from their original point of creation. We have also noticed many old sinks the have very smooth underbelly parts due to them being pebbled down streambeds, immersed perhaps even in water ending in a bedrock of a dried up lake or river.


Dazzling marble pedestal sink

One well-known example in popular culture of such out of place rocks used in major construction is Stonehenge, which some argue was constructed from glacial boulders that were far removed from their original source site due to natural

What is the relationship between the quarry location and the location at which the rock was shaped into an beautiful stone sink one would ask?


Mid century style bathroom with an antique limestone sink

Some lovely carved stone artifact sinks could have been shaped at the quarry site, but blocks of rock could also have been transported from a quarry to the carvers’ workshops, which could be at distant locations provided the patron commissioning this sink had the necessary means to cover the extra transportation costs incurred by the carver.


Old Mediterranean bathroom with a reclaimed stone sink

Pebbles or small rocks could, of course, be easily transported long distances on the back of a mule or in pulled horse or ox carriages from the points at which they were collected.

To crack that riddle it is important sometimes to acquire all types of background data surrounding each sink. It is harder said than done to characterize rocks and boulders of original stone material in sufficient detail to determine whether the sink rock came from random location or a specific quarried source.powder-room-with-antique-reclaimed-limestone-sink

The nature of the rock being sampled is one factor that needs to be considered, and whether the rock type is present in more than one horizon (or layer) that was formed during distinctly different geological events. residential-bathroom-old-french-limestone-sink-reclaimed-oldjpg

Were old stone sinks reclaimed from the same structure were all sculpted and carved in the same workshop within a narrow time frame, or produced in a general area in proximity to a certain quarry but at different times by different artists?

Was the material exported to several sites from one quarry? Or are these sculptures even from a single quarry?

Spanish Hacienda Revival Style Powder Room Sink by Ancient Surfa

Spanish Hacienda Revival Style Powder Room Sink by Ancient Surfaces

Sometime the beauty of old carves limestone sinks lays in the never ending mystery behind each piece and in the hidden story of their varied origins and creation. The answers for now seem to elude us no matter how many data point we gather on those brilliant sinks.

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