The Khufu ship
is an intact full-size vessel from Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...
that was sealed into a pit in the Giza pyramid complex
The Giza Necropolis is an archaeological site on the Giza Plateau, on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. This complex of ancient monuments includes the three pyramid complexes known as the Great Pyramids, the massive sculpture known as the Great Sphinx, several cemeteries, a workers' village and an...
at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis bordering what is now El Giza, Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact...
around 2500 BC. The ship was almost certainly built for Khufu
Khufu , also known as Cheops or, in Manetho, Suphis , was a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt's Old Kingdom. He reigned from around 2589 to 2566 BC. Khufu was the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty. He is generally accepted as being the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of...
(King Cheops), the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty
The fourth dynasty of ancient Egypt is characterized as a "golden age" of the Old Kingdom. Dynasty IV lasted from ca. 2613 to 2494 BC...
of the Old Kingdom
Old Kingdom is the name given to the period in the 3rd millennium BC when Egypt attained its first continuous peak of civilization in complexity and achievement – the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods, which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley .The term itself was...
of Egypt. Like other buried Ancient Egyptian ships, it was apparently part of the extensive grave goods
Grave goods, in archaeology and anthropology, are the items buried along with the body.They are usually personal possessions, supplies to smooth the deceased's journey into the afterlife or offerings to the gods. Grave goods are a type of votive deposit...
intended for use in the afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...
, and contained no bodies, unlike northern European ship burial
A ship burial or boat grave is a burial in which a ship or boat is used either as a container for the dead and the grave goods, or as a part of the grave goods itself. If the ship is very small, it is called a boat grave...
The Khufu ship is one of the oldest, largest, and best-preserved vessels from antiquity. It measures 43.6 m (143 ft) long and 5.9 m (19.5 ft) wide.
It was thus identified as the world's oldest intact ship and has been described as "a masterpiece of woodcraft" that could sail today if put into water. However, the vessel may not have been designed for sailing (no rigging) or paddling (no room).
The ship was one of two rediscovered in 1954 by Kamal el-Mallakh
Kamal el-Mallakh was a famous Egyptian archaeologist who discovered The King Khufu Solar ship in 1950.-Life:He was born to a Coptic family from Upper Egypt on 26 October 1918 and died on 29 October 1987....
– undisturbed since it was sealed into a pit carved out of the Giza bedrock. It was built largely of Lebanon cedar planking in the "shell-first" construction technique, using unpegged tenons of Christ's thorn. The ship was built with a flat bottom composed of several planks, but no actual keel
In boats and ships, keel can refer to either of two parts: a structural element, or a hydrodynamic element. These parts overlap. As the laying down of the keel is the initial step in construction of a ship, in British and American shipbuilding traditions the construction is dated from this event...
, with the planks and frames lashed together with Halfah grass, and has been reconstructed from 1,224 pieces which had been laid in a logical, disassembled order in the pit beside the pyramid.
It took years for the boat to be painstakingly reassembled, primarily by the Egyptian Department of Antiquities’ chief restorer, Ahmed Youssef Moustafa (later known as Hag Ahmed Youssef).
The history and function of the ship are not precisely known. It is of the type known as a "solar barge", a ritual vessel to carry the resurrected king with the sun god Ra
Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the Fifth Dynasty he had become a major deity in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the mid-day sun...
across the heavens. However, it bears some signs of having been used in water, and it is possible that the ship was either a funerary "barge" used to carry the king's embalmed body from Memphis to Giza, or even that Khufu himself used it as a "pilgrimage ship" to visit holy places and that it was then buried for him to use in the afterlife.
The Khufu ship has been on display to the public in a specially built museum at the Giza pyramid complex since 1982. Its discovery was described as one of the greatest Ancient Egyptian discoveries in Zahi Hawass
Zahi Hawass is an Egyptian archaeologist, an Egyptologist, and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs. He has also worked at archaeological sites in the Nile Delta, the Western Desert, and the Upper Nile Valley....
's documentary Egypt's Ten Greatest Discoveries
Egypt's Ten Greatest Discoveries is a documentary on the Discovery Channel, written and directed by Ben Mole and hosted by Zahi Hawass featuring a list of the top 10 discoveries of Ancient Egyptian sites and artifacts which are of cultural significance to the country. The list was compiled by...
The ship is housed in the The Khufu Boat Museum, a small modern facility resting alongside the Great Pyramid. The first floor of the museum takes the visitor through visuals, photographs and writings on the process of excavating and restoring the felucca. The ditch where the main felucca was found is incorporated into the museum ground floor design. To see the restored felucca, the visitor must climb a staircase leading to the second floor. Floor to ceiling windows allow for much sunlight and the wooden walkway takes the visitor around the felucca where the visitor can get a close view of its impressive size- 143 feet long (44m) and 19.5 feet wide (6m).
A few hundred meters to the north of Abusir, about six miles southwest of Cairo is the sun temple known as Abu Gorab
Abu Gurab is a sun temple built by the people of ancient Egypt. It was excavated by Egyptologists between 1898 and 1901 by Ludwig Borchardt on behalf of the Berlin Museum and is located near the city of Memphis...
. There lies the ruins of Niuserre's temple, Outside the temple proper and near its southern side, the German expedition also discovered a large building in the shape of a boat. This was a pit, lined with mud bricks which was at one time plastered, whitewashed and colored. This structure was augmented with several other elements made from different materials such as wood. This structure is believed to have been purely symbolic, representing a "solar boat" in which the sun god was supposed to have floated across the heavenly ocean. (The pit might have contained a boat)
Two boats were discovered at Abu Rawash
Abu Rawash , 8 km to the North of Giza , is the site of Egypt's most northerly pyramid, Also known as the lost pyramid — the mostly ruined Pyramid of Djedefre, the son and successor of Khufu...
hill M.(2 boats or Ships) At the complex of Djedefre, Emile Chassinat, between 1900 and 1902, discovered the remains of a funerary settlement and a boat pit The solar boat pit is situated on the east side of the pyramid. It is a ditch 35 meters long cut out of the living limestone. It is destined for the royal boat. The beautiful heads carved into the likeness of Djedefre were found there.
Neferirkare's pyramid at Abusir
Abusir is the name given to an Egyptian archaeological locality – specifically, an extensive necropolis of the Old Kingdom period, together with later additions – in the vicinity of the modern capital Cairo...
was the largest structure in the region. Large wooden boats were buried outside the pyramid in its courtyard on the north and south sides. Archaeologists discovered them by their mention in a cache of papyrus found within the mortuary temple, but unfortunately, when the they excavated the southern boat pit, only dust remained of the boat itself.
In 1991 in the desert near the temple of Khentyamentiu near Abydos
Abydos may mean:*Abydos, Egypt, an Ancient Egyptian city*Abydos , an ancient city of Mysia, in Asia Minor*Abydos , name of a fictional planet in the Stargate science fiction universeAbidos may mean:...
, archaeologists uncovered the remains of the 14 ships dating back to the early first dynasty (2950-2775 BC), possibly associated with Hor-Aha
Hor-Aha is considered the second pharaoh of the first dynasty of ancient Egypt in current Egyptology. He lived around the thirty-first century BC.- Name :...
. These 75 feet (22.9 m) ships are buried side by side and have wooden hulls, rough stone boulders which were used as anchors, and "sewn" wooden planks. Also found within their desert graves were remains of the woven straps that joined the planks, as well as reed bundles that were used to seal seams between planks. The Abydos ships have the honor of being the world’s oldest planked boats.
Abydos had at least a dozen boat graves adjacent to a massive funerary enclosure for the late Dynasty II (ca. 2675 B.C.) Pharaoh Khasekhemwy
Khasekhemwy was the fifth and final king of the Second dynasty of Egypt. Little is known of Khasekhemwy, other than that he led several significant military campaigns and built several monuments, still extant, mentioning war against the Northerners...
. Their age should be more than 400 years older than Khufu's (Cheops)
Ships were 25 meters long, 2.5 meters wide and about 0.5 meters deep, seating about 30 rowers. They had narrowing sterns and prows and they were painted.
They are in meaning and function the direct ancestors of the boat recovered at Khufu's Great Pyramid at Giza
The ships are possibly associated with King Aha, the first ruler of that dynasty. The length of the structures varied from nearly 20 to 27m.
These are the world's most ancient planked hulls. The traditions of hull construction seen in all the excavated vessels continued through the end of the sixth century BC and, with the substitution of nails for mortise-and-tenon joints, into the present. An abandoned freighter, stripped of its internal timbers and left on a small branch of the Nile near Mataria (ancient Heliopolis, north of modern Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...
) provides the first instance of pegged mortise-and-tenon joints in an Egyptian hull. Not all joints were through-fastened, and the pegs, or treenails, may also have fastened frames to the hull, but for this marks a dramatic departure from previous shipbuilding techniques.
Six boats of Middle Kingdom date were found at Dahshur
Dahshur , is a royal necropolis located in the desert on the west bank of the Nile approximately 40 kilometres south of Cairo...
. They're about 10 m long each. In 1893 Jaques de Morgan discovered six boats near the Middle Kingdom pyramid of Senwosret III at Dashur. He made drawings and measurements of only one boat (the White boat) from the cache at Dahshur.
Excavations conducted in A.D. 1894 and 1895 by French archaeologist Jean-Jacques de Morgan at the funerary complex of Senwosret III on the plain of Dahshur revealed five or six small boats. Today, only four of the "Dahshur boats" can be located with certainty; two are in the United States, one in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh and one in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. The remaining two are on display in The Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
Since their excavation these boats remained relatively inconspicuous until the mid-1980s when a study of the two hulls in the United States was conducted.
Seven boat pits have been identified around the Great Pyramid. Five of which belong to the Great Pyramid proper. The other 2 are associated with the pyramid of Hetepheres (GIa) and the pyramid of the Ka (GId). Khufu's boat pits are located on the eastern side of the pyramid (3) and the southern side (2). In one of the southern boat pits a disassembled wooden barge was discovered in 1954. It has been reconstructed and resides in the boat shaped museum. In 1987, the western boat pit at the Great Pyramid was examined by a microprobe inserted through a hole drilled into the pit, confirming the presence of a second wooden boat similar to the first. It was originally decided that the second boat should remain in its pit, in conditions which made its preservation near perfect.
The second solar boat of Khufu is being excavated (2011) and is going to be reconstructed.
Sakuji Yoshimura, a Waseda University professor who is leading the restoration project with Egypt's Antiquities Council, said (June 2011) that scientists discovered that this second ship is inscribed with Khufu's name.
Khafre’s pyramid has five pits that once contained funeral boats. One known boat pit is alongside the east face of Chephren's pyramid Another two of the covered boat pits of Chephren lie on the east side of the pyramid & covered boat pit lies on the south side of the mortuary temple of Chephren.
Unas was a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, and the last ruler of the Fifth dynasty from the Old Kingdom. His reign has been dated as falling between 2375 BC and 2345 BC...
has two boats.
Archaic boats had been found at Helwan by Z. Saad. (4 Ships) In total 4 or 5 boat burials were found at Helwan, 2 at Abu Roash Hill M, and finally others at the northerly Abydos site of the Royal enclosures, near those just found.
Remains of Old Kingdom boats were found at Tarkhan (at least one boat)
A 'model estate' and funerary boat was found at Saqqara
Saqqara is a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt, serving as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. Saqqara features numerous pyramids, including the world famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as a number of...
by W. Emery (in 1957-8; tomb S 3357). (3 Ships) At least 3 mud-brick boat graves were associated with First Dynasty rulers and high-ranking officials.
Forty timbers were found in excavations near the Pyramid of Senusert I in Lisht. They were identified as part of vessel or vessels.
A mudbrick boat pit has also been found outside Amenemhet’s pyramid perimeter wall.
Excavation of the remains of seagoing ships at Wadi/Mersa Gawasis, south of Safaga on the Egyptian Red Sea coast, in 2004–05 and 2005–06 provides extensive physical evidence for construction techniques, wood selection, and recycling and re-use practices of the ancient Egyptians. Discoveries at Gawasis prove that common Egyptian river-oriented design and construction techniques were successful both on the Nile and at sea.
- Nancy Jenkins – The boat beneath the pyramid: King Cheops' royal ship (1980) ISBN 0-03-057061-1
- Paul Lipke – The royal ship of Cheops: a retrospective account of the discovery, restoration and reconstruction. Based on interviews with Hag Ahmed Youssef Moustafa (Oxford: B.A.R., 1984) ISBN 0-86054-293-9
- Björn Landström – Ships of the Pharaohs: 4000 Years of Egyptian Shipbuilding (Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970) Library of Congress Catalog Card number 73-133207