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Monday, December 8, 2014
News, Cairo: Saving Khufu’s Second boat
Japanese-Egyptian team is reconstructing Khufu’s second solar boat, 4,500 years
after it was buried to ferry the pharaoh to eternity, writes Nevine El-Aref.
Khufu’s first boat
southern side of Khufu’s Great Pyramid on the Giza Plateau is a hive of
activity these days. Dozens of workers, Egyptologists and restorers are
removing piece by piece the wooden beams of the pharaoh’s second solar boat,
which has remained in situ for 4,500 years after it was buried to ferry him to
are cleaning the timber, oars and beams, while Egyptologists are busy
documenting them in the laboratory recently established at the site to rescue
the different parts of the boat.
boat was discovered along with the first one inside two pits neighbouring each
other in 1954, when Egyptian archaeologists Kamal Al-Mallakh and Zaki Nour were
carrying out routine cleaning on the southern side of the Great Pyramid.
Yoshimura, Zidan and Rohayem examining a wooden beam
first pit was found under a roof of 41 limestone slabs, each weighing almost 20
tons, with the three westernmost slabs being much smaller than the others
leading them to be interpreted as keystones. On removing one of the slabs,
Al-Mallakh and Nour saw a cedar boat, completely dismantled but arranged in the
semblance of its finished form, inside the pit. Also inside were layers of
mats, ropes, instruments made of flint, and some small pieces of white plaster,
along with 12 oars, 58 poles, three cylindrical columns and five doors.
boat was removed piece by piece under the supervision of restorer Ahmed
Youssef, who spent more than 20 years restoring and reassembling the boat. The
task resembled the fitting together of a giant jigsaw puzzle, and the completed
boat is now on display at Khufu’s Solar Boat Museum on the Giza Plateau.
A Complete Oar
cedar timbers of its curved hull are lashed together with hemp rope in a
technique used until recent times by traditional shipbuilders on the shores of
the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
boat’s prow and stern are in the form of papyrus stalks, with the one on the
stern bent over. It is essentially a replica of a type of papyrus reed boat,
perhaps dating back to the pre-dynastic period in Egypt. It is not difficult to
find many objects of a similar style made in the Old Kingdom in more durable
material. The boat has a cabin, or inner shrine, which is enclosed within a
reed-mat structure with poles of the same papyrus type. It also has a small
forward cabin that was probably for the captain.
was by means of 10 oars, and it was steered using two large oar rudders located
in the stern. There was no mast and therefore no sail, and the general design
of the boat would have not allowed it to be used other than for river travel.
the walls of the pit were several builders’ marks and inscriptions, including
some 18 cartouches containing the name of Khufu’s son, Djedefre. This suggested
to many Egyptologists that some parts of his tomb complex were not completed
until after Khufu’s death. One scholar has theorised that the two boat pits
were built by Djedefre as a gesture of piety connected with the establishment
of the local divine cult of his father and founder of the royal necropolis in
Giza. However, if the boats were...... Read More