Monday, September 26, 2016

Short Story: A Cruise Fit For A King

Was Khufu’s second solar boat intended for a Nile cruise rather than to transport the pharaoh through all eternity, asks Nevine El-Aref.

Conservation work of the newly uncovered beam from Khufu’s
second boat (photos: Khaled El-Fiki)
The newly revealed wooden beam with pieces of metal on it that has been taken from the pit of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu’s second solar boat on the Giza Plateau has raised controversy over the original use of the boat.

Was it intended to transport the deceased king throughout eternity as was once thought? Or was it simply a Nile cruiser?

Why did the beam with metal pieces on it not exist in the first boat, now on display in a special museum on the Giza Plateau? What was the function of the pieces? Are they oar-holders, as has been suggested? Or were they used to link ropes like those found in the Middle Kingdom port of Marsa Wadi Gawasis in Sinai?

There is no evidence available that might serve to answer these questions, but scientific consultant to the Khufu’s second solar boat project Mohamed Mustafa Abdel-Meguid told Al-Ahram Weekly that Egyptologists were actively seeking a solution. “The discovery of Khufu’s boats on the Giza Plateau in 1954 raised controversy over their original usage in antiquity, but the recently uncovered beam with the metal pieces on it in the king’s second boat pit has added even more mystery,” Abdel-Meguid said.

Over half a century after the discovery of the first boat, scholars are still debating its purpose. Some say the vessel is a solar barque that Khufu would have used in his persona as the sun god Re during his daily voyages across the sky and that it was never intended for use on water. 

Others say the ship was a funerary craft to transport Khufu’s mummy on the Nile to the Giza necropolis, or a ceremonial vessel used by the king on pilgrimages to holy sites.

“Like much else surrounding this magnificent creation, its function remains an enigma,” Abdel-Meguid said, adding that the newly found beam in Khufu’s second boat added more mystery to the enigma. The beam was unique, he said, and nothing like it had been found in Khufu’s first boat or in other ancient boats discovered elsewhere. 

“Although the remains of boats found in Marsa Wadi Gawasis in Sinai contain copper pieces, these are of different shapes and sizes,” he said, adding that the metal pieces found in Khufu’s second boat were C and U-shaped, while the ones at Marsa Gawasis were rounded and used to tie the sail ropes and fix the beams together.... READ MORE.

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