Important Discovery of a Old Kingdom Boat with an Important Owner!

The Ministry of Antiquities Press Office have released another exciting find - a unique boat from the Old Kingdom which has been discovered at Abusir.

The boat, uncovered by an expedition led by the Czech Institute of Egyptology, appears to have had an important owner who was connected to the royal family.  Here is the press statement:

"The mission of the Czech Institute of Egyptology, Faculty
of Arts, Charles University in Prague has recently made an
unexpected discovery at Abusir South that once again highlights
the importance of this cemetery of the Old Kingdom officials.
Work commenced in 2009 on a large mastaba termed AS 54, followed
by several seasons of excavations. Its exceptional size (52.60 x
23.80 m), orientation, architectural details, as well as the
name of king Huni (Third Dynasty,) discovered on one of the
stone bowls buried in the northern underground chamber, indicate
the high social standing of the person buried in the main (so
far unlocated) shaft. Unfortunately, his name remains unknown
due to the bad state of preservation of the cruciform chapel.

Clearing the area south of Mastaba AS 54 revealed an 18 m-long
wooden boat during the 2015 excavation season. It was lying on
tafla, covered with the wind-blown sand. Although the boat is
situated almost 12 m south of Mastaba AS 54, its orientation,
length, and the pottery collected from its interior, make a
clear connection between the structure and the vessel, both
dating to the very end of the Third or beginning of the Fourth
Dynasty, ca 2550 BC.

While extremely fragile, the roughly 4,500 year old planks
will shed new light on ship building in ancient Egypt. The
wooden planks were joined by wooden pegs that are still visible
in their original position.
Extraordinarily, the desert sand has preserved the plant fiber
battens which covered the planking seams. Some of the ropes that
bound the boat together are also still in their original position
with all their details intact, which is a unique discovery in the
study of ancient Egyptian boats.
All these minute details are of the highest importance, since
most of the ancient Egyptian boats and ships have survived either
in poor state of preservation, or were dismantled in pieces. During
the 2016 season, the Czech Institute of Egyptology will launch a
project, together with experts from the Institute of Nautical
Archaeology (INA) at Texas A&M University, to study the techniques
used in the hull’s construction.
The construction details are not the only features that make the
boat unique. The habit of burying boats beside mastabas began in
the Early Dynastic Period. This phenomenon has been well documented
for royal structures, as well as for some tombs belonging to members
of the royal family, the elite of society. Dr. Miroslav Bárta,
director of the mission notes: “In fact, this is a highly unusual
discovery since boats of such a size and construction were, during
this period, reserved solely for top members of the society, who
usually belonged to the royal family. This suggests the potential
for additional discoveries during the next spring season.”

Scholars debate the purpose of Egyptian boat burials. Did they
serve the deceased in the afterlife, or might they have functioned
as symbolical solar barques, used during the journey of the owner
through the underworld.
The Old Kingdom kings adopted the earlier tradition, and often had
several boats buried within their pyramid complexes. Unfortunately,
most of the pits have been found already empty of any timber,
others contained little more than brown dust in the shape of the
original boat. The only exception were the two boats of Khufu that
have survived, and were reconstructed or are in the process of
reconstruction.

However, there was no boat of such dimensions from the Old Kingdom
found in a non-royal context, until the new discovery at Abusir.
“It is by all means a remarkable discovery. The careful excavation
and recording of the Abusir boat will make a considerable
contribution to our understanding of ancient Egyptian watercraft
and their place in funerary cult. And where there is one boat,
there very well may be more.” adds director of the excavations,
Miroslav Bárta.

The boat by the southern wall of Mastaba AS 54 indicates the
extraordinary social position of the owner of the tomb. Since it
is not located adjacent to a royal pyramid, the owner of the
mastaba was probably not a member of the royal family: both the
size of the tomb, as well as the presence of the boat itself,
however, clearly places the deceased within the elite of his
time with strong connections to the reigning pharaoh. "

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