Kheops ship - photo by Henri Kniffke
A veritable archeological time capsule, this large vessel has been preserved for more than 4500 years (...), thanks to the dryness of the desert and rarefied oxygen in this fully hemertic chamber thanks to massive stone slabs, perfectly adjusted. In other words, the container is as fascinating as the content. Until now, the only evidence of these funerary ships, among the best known of the ancient Egyptian ships (pre-Ptolemaic), were finely carved and decorated sculptures found in the Royal tombs.
The Funeral Boat of Kheops was a very light ship, built as expected in planks of fine wood (cedar of Lebanon and not Acacia or Sycamore, too light for its size) linked by planks. The Khufu Funeral Bark is also remarkable for its state of conservation. The funeral bark of Cheops was part of a complex of five boats at the foot of the Pyramid, three stone on the surface east of the pyramid and two genuine, enclosed in sealed basins. Only the boat described was exhumed, discovered in 1954 and then released and recomposed (1224 or 1244 pieces). It measures 43 meters long by 6 wide, and weighs about 45 tons.
Its hull has a covered bridge, and measures at the highest point 1.75 meters. She is currently visiting the site, in a room dedicated to rigorously controlled hygrometry, the barque itself having been treated. She is brown, without colors, but she was very probably painted. The dyes, however, too fragile, have not been found.
The funeral boat is the solar boat, a very important myth in Egypt of the ancient dynasties, because they are linked to the course of the boat of Osiris in the sky (The race of the Sun). It also symbolizes the passage of the deceased into the beyond, the boat being reserved only to Pharaoh, the equal of the Gods ...
On the technical side again, this boat has nautical qualities surprising enough for a boat intended for the Nile. Obviously, its highly studied shapes and its more solid construction than usual (that of the master-cordage which joins the bow and the stern and rigidifies the whole?), Demonstrate to the envy that the Egyptians were also Great navigators, although the testimonies left us suppose the contrary. Unless the builders of this boat have benefited from the enlightened advice of peoples in contact with other civilizations practicing deep sea navigation. In this case there arises the problem of functionality, for the funeral boat was not destined to leave the Nile.
What is certain is that the embalmed body of kheops was on board when the bark ended its crossing in front of the immense ramp on which the procession would advance, facing the impressive white pyramid ... A show Worthy of the Gods ...
Other boats of very high quality, still older (5000 years) were found, like the boats of Abydos (Upper Egypt). These 14 ships discovered in 1999-2000 were lined up in the desert. According to preliminary studies, these were 20-by-3 meters cedar boats, driven by 30 rowers. Their construction also seemed very solid and suitable for offshore navigation.