Solar Boat known as Khufu ship; its located at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The Ancient Egyptians used to bury a solar boat near the tomb of their pharaoh because they believed that he will be using it in his journey to the afterlife.
Khufu’s solar boat remains the most spectacular of all Egyptian boats found to date. It is now on display in its own specially-built museum just a few metres from where it was found on the southern side of the monument, an imposing legacy from the builder of the Great Pyramid.
In 1950, Kamal el-Mallakh an architect and archaeologist, was working as an Antiquities Inspector at Giza, when he first noticed a thin line of mortar which delineated the edge of a pair of long narrow pits, end to end, on the south side of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. At the time the area was being cleared for a tourist road and when the men dug further they uncovered 41 huge slabs of limestone in the eastern pit (the western one contained 40 slabs) and a mason’s mark with a cartouche of Djedefre, Khufu’s successor. The stonework was at first thought to be of little interest and it took Kamal el-Mallakh four years to persuade his superiors that the slabs should be further investigated.
On May 26 1954, the team began to dig and eventually Mr el-Mallakh was lowered into a hole in one of the blocks. His first sensation was the sweet smell of cedarwood and a great sense of fulfilment – then with the use of a torch and a mirror he caught sight of the large oar of a full-sized dismantled boat. The pit had been airtight and the boat seemed to be in a remarkable state of preservation, arranged in thirteen neatly piled layers, complete with ropes for rigging and pieces of matting.
The boat was laboriously removed from its pit, in pieces, following preliminary consolidation of the cloth and matting which covered it and in 1958 reconstruction of the boat, by Hag Ahmed Youssef Moustafa the Antiquities Service’s principal restorer, was able to begin. This consisted of re-assembling the 1224 individual pieces of cedar, acacia and other elements in a painstaking operation rather like putting together a jig-saw puzzle without a picture. The ancient builders had helpfully indicated on some of the pieces which parts of the craft they had come from, but the work still took over ten years to complete and was finally fully re-assembled in 1968. No nails were used in the construction and the planking was assembled through an ingenious system of stitching through holes with ropes of vegetable fibres. When the wood was swollen by water the ropes would tighten and make the boat watertight.
The solar boat measures 43.3m long, 5.9m wide, has a draft of 1.48m and an estimated displacement of around 45 tons. It resembles paintings and models of boats which have survived since ancient times, with a large central panelled cabin, 9m long, an open canopy supported by poles and a smaller one at the fore which was probably for the captain’s use. It was steered by five pairs of oars plus one pair at the stern to act as a rudder. It’s stem and stern were fashioned in the form of papyrus stalks, as though intended to represent the type of papyrus boat used throughout ancient Egyptian history.