In the lovely white building (not!) next to Cheops’ pyramid is the reconstructed funeral barque of Cheops, found in a pit near the pyramid. THe boat, made entirely of cedarwood, is over 120 feet long and is about 40 tons displacement. It is a big ship and looks remarkably like a Viking ship — broad in the beam, shallow, and with high prow and stern.
Over 1200 pieces make up the boat — and they are laced together. No nails, pegs, or other connectors exist.
The boat was discovered in 1954, when the ground was cleared for a tourist road and a series of 40 slabs of limestone were found set into the groiund. Excavation began in May and once the pit was opened, it smelled of cedarwood and the pieces of a complete boat, arranged in thirteen layers was discovered. Even the ropes and mats were intact.
The boat was laboriously removed from its pit, piece by piece, following preliminary consolidation of the cloth and matting which covered it and in 1958 reconstruction of the boat, by Hag Ahmed Youssef Moustafa the Antiquities Service’s principal restorer, was able to begin. This consisted of re-assembling the 1224 individual pieces of cedar, acacia and other elements in a painstaking
The ancient builders had helpfully indicated on some of the pieces which parts of the craft they had come from, but the work still took over ten years to complete and was finally fully re-assembled in 1968. No nails were used in the construction and the planking was assembled through an ingenious system of stitching through holes with ropes of vegetable fibres. When the wood was swollen by water the ropes would tighten and make the boat watertight.
THere is some indication that the boat was actually ysed as part of the funeral processions from Abydos to Thebes — althoygh most believe that it was built onsite and never used, more of a ritual or symbolic boat than a real one. However, it contianed all the necessary pieces for a working ship, and was of the same style as boats depicted in the inscriptions.