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Royal Egyptian Ceremonial Boats

Abydos - Capital Cities

At Shunet es-Zebib, Abydos, an ancient Necropolis, there are the remains of 14 Royal Egyptian Ceremonial boats which are known to be the oldest ‘planked’ boat that have been discovered in Egypt to date. The Boats seem to have held a ritual significance for the Pharaoh and the Pharaoh’s use in the afterlife, as all the Sterns are pointed towards the River Nile which is 8 miles away. These Ceremonial Boats used “unpegged joints” allowing Egyptian boats to be easily disassembled, transported long distances through the desert and then re-assembled.

Originally attributed to 2nd Dynasty Pharaoh Khasekhemwy, the Boats were discovered between 1991 to 2000 next to an extremely large Mortuary complex for the same Pharaoh. But the Boats have now been dated to probably the reign of First Dynasty Pharaoh Hor-Aha, to learn more about this period, click here. Each boat is approximately 75 ft long; 7–10 ft wide; 2 ft deep and has its own brick boundary wall which echoes the shape of the boat, with small irregularly shaped boulders at the stern which probably only represent the boat’s anchor. Bundles of Reeds were used as seams between the planks and covered the floor whose Hull was made from local Tamarix wood, whilst the poles and beams were hewn from the more expensive and rarer Lebanese Cedar. The remains of Paint Flecks show that the Poles and Beams were decorated white and yellow. 

Ritually, these Ceremonial Funerary Boats are believed to have had 2 uses: as a Funerary Barge to carry Pharaoh after death to their Mortuary Complex; and for Pharaoh’s use in the Afterlife as a Ceremonial Boat which would carry the revitalised Pharaoh with Sun God Ra across the sky, hence the name which was later given to these Ceremonial Boats, “Solar Boat”. To learn more about Boats during the Ancient Egypt period, click here.


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