The first modern mention we have of Wadi Hammamat was by Scot, James Bruce who traveled through the Wadi in 1769. However, the first extensive research on the site was done by the Russian Egyptologist Vladimir Golenischeff in the late 19th century.
Wadi Hammamat is located about half way between Qusier and Gift (ancient Coptos), and is famous today mostly for its pharaonic graffiti. More than 200 hieroglyphic tablets adorn the quarries of the renowned "bekhen" stone, which is actually made up of three distinct materials. However, the graffiti transverses time and extends into the 20th century and the reign of King Farouk.
The Romans constructed watch towers and wells at regular intervals along the routes of the Eastern Desert where caravans stopped. Old wells and the remains of the Romans can still be seen.
Many of the inscriptions are dedicated to the divinities of the East, with Min-Amon at their head, and belong to both travelers and the Sementyou, or the pioneers who quarried the stone. These were professionals who traveled the land looking for the best stone to use in sculptures and monuments, and were highly skilled engineers and artisans. The hieroglyphic inscriptions engraved in the ravine walls, are set in the south side of the wadi. There is a small Egyptian Antiquities building opposite the inscriptions.
The real reason for the areas importance is the natural road that leads through the Wadi and the Bekhen stone which was heavily quarried here.
This is the road used in antiquity by the merchants of Arabia to trade with the Egyptians. So popular was the trade route that by the time of the Roman occupation of Egypt the residence of Coptos were more Arab then Egyptian. It was also part of the famous silk trade route with the Han Dynasty in China, and continued to be an important route for Islamic pilgrims traveling to Mecca.
The Bekhan stone was much sought after by the ancient Egyptians.. The three types of stone consist of a rich red sandstone, a paler stone but of finer grain, and a dark brown stone that almost resembles basalt, but which is soft. The first two types of stone were those mostly queried.