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Mysteries of the Nile
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Pharaoh's Boat (Solar Barque)

Solar Barque In 1954, the Egyptian archaeologist Kamal el Mallak made an astonishing discovery. In a pit at the foot of the Great Pyramid, he uncovered the world's oldest planked vessel. Buried in pieces by Khufu's son, the so-called Solar Barque may have carried the pharaoh's body across the Nile for burial, or it may have served solely a symbolic purpose, lying ready to transport the king in the afterlife.

Cabin of boat Was Khufu's body taken across the Nile in this cabin 4,600 years ago?


The boat's 1,224 separate components included cedarwood planking and oars, ropes of halfa grass, wooden dowels and battens, and copper staples. Its near-perfect preservation allowed conservators to reconstruct the 144-foot-long craft, which is now housed in a white museum built over the pit where it was found. Modern ropes were used to lash it together, but its timbers are 95 percent original.

As you move along this composite image, you'll see the boat's 12 oars, ten along the sides and two larger ones at the stern. The blades were insufficient to move a vessel of this size and were either ornamental or used for steering only. The high, curving prow and stern resemble those of papyrus boats common in ancient Egypt. Notice also the cabin and canopy amidships, which were originally covered in rush matting. Can you find the forward canopy?



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