June 9

Masterpiece of Ancient Egypt: How was the mysterious ship Khufu built?


More than 60 years ago, two ancient wooden boats considered an ancient masterpiece were found in separate carved boat pits adjacent to the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

To this day, it is still controversial whether the boats were used to move the pharaoh’s sacrifices to the pyramids or were only built for the purpose of burying the pharaohs. Anyway, this is a really rare find.

Over the years, the pharaoh’s boat was called by different names such as “Boat Khufu”, “Solar Barque”, or simply “Pharaoh’s Boat”.

Others suggest it was a pilgrim boat that Khufu, the second Pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, used during his lifetime. The fact that archaeologists have investigated found clear evidence of traces of ropes indicating that the boat was used in the water.

Until now, the exact function and full story behind these ships, like many other things about ancient Egypt, we will never fully understand. That is why ancient Egypt is often called the greatest puzzle.

Khufu appears to be a sun ship, a mythical symbol of the sun riding on a boat. These boats are also known as “barks solar” or “sun boats”.

Masterpieces of the woodworking industry

“Atet” is the most famous of them all, it belongs to Ra, the Egyptian sun god. The Khufu ship may also be a symbol of a sun boat, which transports the king to the afterlife.

What makes the Khufu ship so special, as well as dedicated to a pharaoh, is that it is one of the oldest, largest and best preserved ships from antiquity. Described as a “masterpiece of woodworking”

The boat was found 60 years ago:

Photo of the ship when found.

Experts say it is the largest royal ship ever found in Egypt and one of the largest boardwalk ships in the world. It was erected for Khufu, the second Pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of the Ancient Kingdom of Egypt, who ruled Upper and Lower Egypt in the mid-third millennium BC.

Khufu Boat – a full-sized boat from ancient Egypt
The boat does not fit the entire boat pit, it must be dismantled, which means that the boat hole is not created specifically for the boat.

The first Egyptian Nile boats introduced were very simple images dating back to 4500 BC.

An important and interesting discovery was made in 1991.

Researchers under the direction of David O’Connor, then assistant custodian at the University of Pennsylvania’s Egyptology museum, discovered 12 parallel-buried boats 50 to 60 miles apart. set foot in the ancient city of Abydos, of the 1st and 2nd dynasties, about 1000 years before the Khufu boat.

The team unearthed one of those boats, showing evidence of the construction of an ancient Egyptian boat.

Interestingly, “the Abydos ship was likely used not only for funerals… They were also put together like the construction of the Khufu boat thousands of years later…” (Excerpt from Gordon SA A History of 16 Shipwrecks of the World gender).

Excavation of several ships, Abydos, Egypt.

Returning to the Khufu, we learned a lot more when we rebuilt the boat thoroughly after 13 years, putting together 1224 pieces of the boat. The boat was built from the trunk of a cedar tree in the mountains of Labenon, 45 meters long from body to tail, 5.9 meters wide.

In the Norse Viking shipwrecks, there were many cases of high-ranking Vikings being buried on board ships and having their bodies burned or buried with their ships. With the Khufu boat, no sacrifices or bodies were found.

Viking boat for burial rites

The ancient Egyptians had a long tradition of building ships, they used a different shipbuilding technique than the Vikings, the Vikings built ships with iron nails. The Khufu and other Egyptian boats did not use nails.

Along the hull is a puzzle piece, it is built by connecting the boards with a mortise joint, a type of punching technique. They tied the hull with ropes made of halfa grass.

The small Khufu boat model is on display at the Giza Sun Boat museum.

They don’t wrap the wire around the hull, that could cause a leak. Instead, they worked very hard to create thousands of V-shaped grooves carved into the surface of the board.

That is their very unique shipbuilding technique, a technology that is at least 4500 years old.



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