Monday, December 8, 2014

News, Cairo: Saving Khufu’s Second boat

A 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
The 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 eternity.

Restorers 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.

The 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
The 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.

The 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
The 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.

The 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.

Propulsion 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.

On 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 

Related posts 
  • About King Khufu First Solar Boat Museum … CLICK HERE
  • About King Khufu Second Solar boat … CLICK HERE

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