Archaeologists to Re-Assemble Solar Boat

Scientists are to Re-build a solar boat of the pharaoh Khufu (Cheops). The boat in the picture was excavated in 1954 and re-assembled. An adjacent boat pit was left unexcavated in 1954, to await future generations and perhaps, better techniques. I happen to have written a paper on the initial boat discovery which went into some detail on the construction techniques and materials used, which we will discuss below...

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Archaeologists and scholars will excavate hundreds of fragments of an ancient Egyptian wooden boat entombed in an underground chamber next to Giza's Great pyramid. They will then try to reassemble the craft.

The 4,500-year-old vessel is the sister ship of a similar boat removed in pieces in 1954 from another pit and painstakingly reconstructed. Experts believe the boats were meant to ferry the pharaoh who built the Great Pyramid in the afterlife.

Starting Saturday, tourists were allowed to view images from inside the second boat pit from a camera inserted through the a hole in the chamber's limestone ceiling.

Professor Sakuji Yoshimura of Japan's Waseda University says the excavation of around 600 pieces of timber will begin in November.

The first solar boat is 43.6 meters in length (or 145 feet), displacing 94 tons and dates to 2500 B.C. It is built of planks of hewn cedar, which does not grow in Egypt. Cedar does grow in the coastal mountains of Lebanon and that is where these timbers were cut. The boatwright drilled through the wooden planks at regular intervals, leaving room for carefully inserted hemp ropes which lashed together the sides of the ship.

Crossbeams were of acacia and sycamore, and there existed a total of 467 tenon joints held together by cedar pegs. As water soaked the rope, it tightened, forcing the planks together, tensioned by the tenons - producing a water tight structure through the balance of two opposing forces and no nails, rivets, or glues.

The original hieratic cursive of the shipbuilders was visible on the wood pieces and was of great assistance in piecing together the vessel, which was completely disassembled and buried in a deep limestone pit sealed with 14 ton stone blocks.

In terms of scale, Columbus' flagship the Santa Maria was about 70 feet in length, and full-size Viking longships, capable of North Sea voyages, average about 100 feet in length - all smaller than this ship.

The ship shares some similarities with boats used off the Arabian Peninsula and Indian Ocean for thousands of years. Similar Egyptian vessels presumably made the voyage to the land of Punt (probably Yemen) and could have journeyed up the coast to Lebanon in order to retrieve the timber (cedar was also used in building temples).

The wood was so well-preserved that the archaeologists who found it could smell the wood resins immediately upon moving the stone blocks. They noted that the wood appeared as if it had been buried the day before.

Purpose: It's speculated that the pharaoh's duties in the afterlife required a fine vessel such as this, both for practical and spiritual reasons

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