THE GLOBAL AFRICAN COMMUNITY
H I S T O R Y N O T E S
THE ROYAL SHIPS OF THE EGYPTIAN PHARAOHS
By RUNOKO RASHIDI
DEDICATED TO DR. IVAN VAN SERTIMA
Ships have occupied an important place in the society and art of Nile Valley civilizations from a remote period. From the Old Kingdom, ancient Egypt's first Golden Age, survives a red granite statue of Bedjmes--a noted African ship-builder of early Dynasty III--holding an adze over his shoulder. Around 2600 B.C.E., King Nae-maet Sneferu sent a fleet of forty ships to the city of Byblos to obtain cedar and other valuable woods.
In the 1950s two enormous pits dug deep into the rock and covered with eighty-two massive limestone blocks, each weighing eighteen tons, measuring five to six feet and joined with thick mortar, were discovered along the southern side of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. In one of the pits was a partially disassembled cedar ship, complete with oars, rudders and cabin. Its detection was called the most significant event in Egyptian archaeology since the revelation of the intact tomb of King Tut. A second ship has been located in the other boat-pit besides Khufu's pyramid but has not yet been excavated. The first of Khufu's ships, in the eastern pit, was restored during a process that spanned ten years. The restored ship, which consisted of 1,224 pieces of wood in 651 major groups which had been partly dismantled and stacked in thirteen successive layers in the pit, measured 142 feet in length, more than sixteen feet in width, with a capacity of about forty tons. The ship was built without any nails; the pieces of wood held together solely by the use of tenon and mortise joint. It was 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.
The Boat Beneath the Pyramid, by Nancy Jenkins
Egypt: Child of Africa, edited by Ivan Van Sertima
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Copyright © 1998 Runoko Rashidi. All rights reserved.
Revised: November 04, 2000.
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