The Second Solar Boat On Video Display to the Public

In 1954, Egyptian archaeologist Kamal El-Mallakh was clearing debris from the area just south of the Great Pyramid when he discovered two rectangular pits covered by huge limestone slabs just outside the pyramid's great enclosure wall. When the roofing slabs were raised from the eastern pit, the remains of a dismantled wooden boat were revealed.

Led by Hag Ahmed Youssef, the great restorer and conservator, an Egyptian team removed more than 650 major artifacts (1,224 individual pieces), most of them wood in an excellent state of preservation, from the pit. Hag Ahmed and his team reassembled the pieces into a 43-meter-long boat made of cedar (90%) and Egyptian acacia (10%) stitched together with rope. A special museum was constructed to house the beautifully restored vessel.

The First Solar Boat
(Photo: Andrew Bayuk)

The western boat pit, however, has never been excavated and is still covered by 40 massive limestone slabs. In 1987, a team from Waseda University in Japan used an electromagnetic wave scanner to create an image of the pit's contents, which appear to be the pieces of a second wooden boat. It is thought that these two vessels were buried to serve the deified king symbolically in his afterlife, transporting him across the heavens in the company of the sun god. One boat, the manjet, would have carried king and god across the daytime sky, while the other, the mesket, would have been used on their journey through the underworld at night. The mesket's heavy oars would have been used as weapons with which the god would drive off the demons and wild creatures of the dark realm, receiving the adoration and worship of the people in return.

(Photo by Andrew Bayuk)

Also in 1987, the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (now the Supreme Council of Antiquities) and the National Geographic Society inserted a small camera into the western pit and took the first photographs of the boat inside. At that time, scholars learned that a small hole had been opened into the pit when it was discovered, allowing air and insects to enter and damage the artifacts. The team was able to kill the insects then present, and built a hangar over the pit to protect it. In 1992, the Waseda University team conducted further studies to determine the extent of the damage to the wood possibilities for its conservation are currently being considered.

In July 2008, a remote-controlled real-time camera was placed in the pit to allow visitors for the first time to see the western boat with their own eyes, lying just as the ancient Egyptians left it more than four thousand years ago.

The newly installed video camera shows the second Solar Boat of Khufu in its boat pit


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