June 24, 2011
Uncovering the Second Solar Boat at the Great Pyramid Today
In recent years, the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, under the direction of Dr. Wafaa el-Saddik, has mounted a number of important exhibitions highlighting the discoveries of foreign excavations working in Egypt. This month, it is the Japanese who are honored. Dr. Sakuji Yoshimura has worked in Egypt for forty years, and made many valuable contributions to our knowledge of ancient Egypt. On the blog page of SCA director Dr. Zahi Hawass, you will find a statue of a lion with the cartouche of Khufu. Dr. Yoshimura’s particular interest is Giza and the Great Pyramid. And the best may be yet to come, as his team has been entrusted with raising and restoring the second boat of Khufu.
This boat is still buried on the south side of the Khufu pyramid, just west of the famous first boat, and discovered by Kamal el-Mallakh in 1954. One of the best-preserved examples of naval architecture from the ancient world, the Khufu boat is well worth the price of admission; don’t miss it if you go to Giza!
Dismantled and carefully placed into the pit in hundreds of pieces by the Egyptians of Dynasty 4, the Khufu boat was painstakingly reconstructed in the late 1900s by distinguished Egyptian conservator Hagg Ahmed Youssef. It represents one of the greatest conservation triumphs in all of Egyptian archaeology.
Mr. Youssef also worked for George Reisner’s Harvard-MFA Expedition in the 1920s, and helped to restore much of the Hetepheres furniture discovered in 1925. I was privileged to meet Mr. Youssef during my first season at Giza, in August 1977.
There is talk of moving the boat northwest to the Grand Egyptian Museum, and dismantling the current structure on the south side of the Great Pyramid, which some find to be an eyesore that distracts from the ancient site. Meanwhile, what will the second boat pit reveal? A camera placed into the pit in 1987 by National Geographic revealed much more insect damage to this vessel. Today, another camera provides a live feed into the boat. Dr. Yoshimura will have his hands full with this important project; we wish him all success!