A Czech team of archaeologists uncovered the remains of an ancient Egyptian wooden boat in an Abusir necropolis, about 25 kilometers from the Giza plateau.
The boat is an important discovery, being the first boat found at the Saqqara necropolis. The 4,500 year old boat (Old Kingdom) is believed to be from the end of the third dynasty or beginning of the fourth dynasty, and was approximately 18 meters long (59 feet).
“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,” the Czech team said in a statement.
The size of the surrounding tomb and the burial placing of the boat, at the southern wall of the tomb, also indicates the incredibly high status of the tomb owner.
“Although the name of the mastaba owner has not yet been identified due to the bad preservation condition of the shrine, the boat wreck shows that he was a very important man in the royal palace – a top official or a close person to the king but not a royal family,” said Minister of Antiquities, Mamdouh Eldamaty.
Archaeologists also uncovered wooden pegs and ropes that held parts of the boat together, allowing researchers to learn more about how the boat was originally designed and built by the ancient Egyptians.
The habit of burying boats beside tombs 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,” said team-leader Miroslav Barta.
Archaeologists still aren’t exactly sure what a boat burial signifies. Some say they were meant to serve the deceased in the afterlife or to help them navigate the underworld.
This discovery stands out as it’s likely the first Old Kingdom boat to have been found in a non-royal context.
“It is by all means a remarkable discovery,” Barta said.
Subsequently, the team plans to study the construction and design of the boat as part of a collaboration project with the Institute of Nautical Achaeology at Texas A&M University.