Khufu ship

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The reconstructed "solar barge" of Khufu
Model of the solar barge, from the boat museum.
Model of the solar barge with the deck removed, showing the rope stitching that holds the planks together.

The Khufu ship is an intact full-size vessel from Ancient Egypt that was sealed into a pit in the Giza pyramid complex at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza around 2500 BC. The ship now is preserved in the Giza Solar boat museum. The ship was almost certainly built for Khufu (King Cheops), the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Like other buried Ancient Egyptian ships, it was apparently part of the extensive grave goods intended for use in the afterlife, and contained no bodies, unlike northern European ship burials.


Picture of discovery place of Solar boat pit covered by stones inside the Solar barge museum.
Solar bark of Kheops. Situation when discovered.
Solar bark of Kheops. Situation when discovered.
Original cord discovered with the Solar boat
Solar Boat pit, Giza Pyramids Plateau, Egypt
One of the boat pits on the east of the Great Pyramid

Khufu's ship is one of the oldest, largest, and best-preserved vessels from antiquity. It measures 43.6 m (143 ft) long and 5.9 m (19.5 ft) wide.

It was thus identified as the world's oldest intact ship and has been described as "a masterpiece of woodcraft" that could sail today if put into water, lake and river.[1] However, the vessel may not have been designed for sailing (no rigging) or paddling (no room).

The ship was one of two[2] rediscovered in 1954 by Kamal el-Mallakh – undisturbed since it was sealed into a pit carved out of the Giza bedrock. It was built largely of Lebanon cedar planking in the "shell-first" construction technique, using unpegged tenons of Christ's thorn. The ship was built with a flat bottom composed of several planks, but no actual keel, with the planks and frames lashed together with Halfah grass, and has been reconstructed from 1,224 pieces which had been laid in a logical, disassembled order in the pit beside the pyramid.[3]


It took years for the boat to be painstakingly reassembled, primarily by the Egyptian Department of Antiquities' chief restorer, Ahmed Youssef Moustafa (later known as Haj Ahmed Youssef).[4] Before reconstructing the boat, he had to gain enough experience on Ancient Egyptian boat-building. He studied the reliefs carved on walls and tombs, and many of the little wooden models of ships and boats found in tombs. Haj Ahmed visited the Nile boatyards of Old Cairo and Ma'adi and went to Alexandria, where wooden river boats were still being made. He hoped that modern Egyptian shipwrights might have retained ship building methods that would suggest how Ancient Egyptians built their ships. Then he investigated the work of shipwrights who built in a different tradition.[5]


The history and function of the ship are not precisely known. It is of the type known as a "solar barge", a ritual vessel to carry the resurrected king with the sun god Ra across the heavens. However, it bears some signs of having been used in water, and it is possible that the ship was either a funerary "barge" used to carry the king's embalmed body from Memphis to Giza, or even that Khufu himself used it as a "pilgrimage ship" to visit holy places and that it was then buried for him to use in the afterlife.

The Khufu ship has been on display to the public in a specially built museum at the Giza pyramid complex since 1982. Its discovery was described as one of the greatest Ancient Egyptian discoveries in Zahi Hawass's documentary Egypt's Ten Greatest Discoveries.

The ship is housed in The Khufu Boat Museum, a small modern facility resting alongside the Great Pyramid. The first floor of the museum takes the visitor through visuals, photographs and writings on the process of excavating and restoring the felucca. The ditch where the main felucca was found is incorporated into the museum ground floor design. To see the restored felucca, the visitor must climb a staircase leading to the second floor. Floor to ceiling windows allow for much sunlight and the wooden walkway takes the visitor around the felucca where the visitor can get a close view of its impressive size- 143 feet long (44m) and 19.5 feet wide (6m).[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Royal Ships of Egyptian Pharaohs
  2. ^ "Egypt Excavates Ancient King's 4,500-Year-Old Ship". Fox News. Associated Press. 23 June 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2011. Archaeologists have begun excavating a 4,500-year-old wooden boat found next to the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of Egypt's main tourist attractions, Egypt's top antiquities official said Thursday. 
  3. ^ Clark, Liesl; Tyson, Peter. "Explore Ancient Egypt". Nova. PBS. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  4. ^ Stratos, Anita. "Barques, Barges, and Byblos Boats". Tour Egypt. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  5. ^ Jenkins, Nancy (May 26, 1954). "The Smell of Time". Saudi Aramco World. Aramco Services Company. Retrieved 2012-12-27. 
  6. ^ Sarman, Danee (March 1, 2010). "Did Pharaohs Get Seasick?: Khufu Boat Museum: Giza, Egypt". Retrieved 2012-12-27. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Nancy Jenkins – The boat beneath the pyramid: King Cheops' royal ship (1980) ISBN 0-03-057061-1
  • Paul Lipke – The royal ship of Cheops: a retrospective account of the discovery, restoration and reconstruction. Based on interviews with Hag Ahmed Youssef Moustafa (Oxford: B.A.R., 1984) ISBN 0-86054-293-9
  • Björn Landström – Ships of the Pharaohs: 4000 Years of Egyptian Shipbuilding (Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970) Library of Congress Catalog Card number 73-133207

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 29°58′41″N 31°08′04″E / 29.97806°N 31.13444°E / 29.97806; 31.13444