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Engraving: Carving Out History

The act of engraving has been performed by humans since we first began to walk the earth. Ancient man first produced engravings around 500,000 years ago and evidence found in the Serengeti Plains in Africa, the so called Cradle of Life, has provided evidence that man engraved far earlier than he began to clearly express himself verbally.

Engraving as an Early Form of Expression

The early examples of engravings come in the form of shapes and basic lines cut into caves in which cavemen and women once lived. Man’s ability to develop intelligence evolved along with the ability to express such intelligence, either in the form of verbal or written communication.

Image Source:  J Q Jacobs

Engraving as Art

A more recent example of an early engraving was found in Austria. The renowned statuette of Venus of Willendorf is estimated to have been created between 40,000 – 15,000 BC and is one of the earliest known examples of man using a more artistic level of intelligence to produce a well crafted object as a result of engraving.
Image Source : Matthias Kabel

Ancient Egypt: Engraving Goes Somewhat Mainstream

The engravers that operated during Ancient Egyptian times (circa 3500 BC) were employed to produce engraved objects on a more widespread scale. Indeed, there have been numerous archaeological digs over the past 200 years that have unearthed several ‘scarabs’ that have dated back from the Ancient Egyptian era. A scarab was a carving that was shaped into an oval and made to resemble a scarab beetle, an insect that held pertinent connotations with the Egyptian afterlife and was elevated to almost sacred status within Ancient Egyptian society.

Scarab Beetlemania!

The scarab was worn by the Ancient Egyptians as an amulet around the neck and the rounded back of the beetle-shaped amulet was marked by designs and engravings. The flatter, underside of the amulet was engraved with hieroglyphics that documented prayers for the dead and the recording of notable events in the Ancient Egyptian calendar.

The scarab is considered to be one of the earliest examples of how engravings were used to document and signify information for distribution amongst a wider social circle – a concept that remains the fundamental basis of engraved signs right up to the present day.

The Rise of the Machines

Hand engraving, also known as push engraving, due to the act of pushing a sharp tool against the object that was being engraved, remained popular up until around the 19th century. At this point the advent of technology and machinery enabled engravers to produce engraved objects that were much more detailed and accurate that their earlier counterparts.

Contemporary Engraving

Modern day engraving encompasses several professional means with which to engrave objects with computerised engraving, diamond engraving (cutting with a diamond edge), laser engraving and mechanical engraving being some of the most popular and preferred techniques.

Whilst laser engraving is highly accurate and fast it is considered an expensive option, as is the case with diamond engraving, whereby the strength of the diamond cutter makes engraving easier as a result of less resistance. Mechanical engraving is often the most preferred modern engraving technique as a result of it producing a quality engraved product at an economical price.

The Spirit of Egypt

Similar to the manner in which the Ancient Egyptians engraved objects so as to convey information, the act of contemporary engraving still embodies the spirit of the Ancient Egyptians.

Engraving is an essential facet in the conveying of information to the general public and numerous business organisations throughout the world utilise the skill of engravers to produce all manner of objects within their offices and premises. These include shop signs, boards, window graphics and even elevator keypads.

One of the staple products that the engraving industry has produced over the past fifty years has been engraved signs. Engraved signs can be considered to include a broad definition of a plethora of products that inhabit our commercial world and include everything from lobby signs, door signs and business signs. 

 Aimee Coppock is a freelance writer who is amazed by the interesting history of engraving. When sourcing engraved signs, she recommends consulting with a reputable online provider to obtain a more competitive price and professional service.