Archaeologists Discover Pharaonic Boat Burial at the Ancient Site of Abydos

Josef Wegner, The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.
Josef Wegner, The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. / Josef WegnerThe International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of an ancient Pharaonic boat burial at Abydos, an ancient Egyptian religious center that sits about six miles away from the Nile River. As Sci News reports, the site dates back to the rule of Senwosret III (c. 1850 BCE), a 12th dynasty king who may have ruled Egypt for nearly 40 years. The find was recently announced in The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

An international team of archaeologists, working in collaboration with Egypt’s Ministry of State for Antiquities, excavated the site. Long ago, a boat was interred in a vaulted, underground building crafted from mud bricks. Inside the chamber, the walls are covered in 120 detailed drawings of Pharaonic vessels.

No full watercraft was discovered, but archaeologists found nine surviving cedar planks, indicating that it was once nearly 66 feet long. The vessel was buried intact, but was likely taken apart for its wood, and white ants consumed its remains. Archaeologists also found more than 145 liquid storage vessels buried inside the building.

Dr. Josef Wegner and his colleagues from the Penn Museum have conducted excavations at Senwosret III’s mortuary complex since 1994. The lavish funerary complex includes a mortuary temple, along with residences and facilities so workers could maintain the site. Long ago, the royal tomb was called the "Mountain of Anubis," and the entire mortuary complex was referred to as "Enduring-are-the-Places-of-Khakaure-justified-in-Abydos.”

The boat burial was discovered about 213 feet from the pharaoh’s underground tomb. According to Wegner, its most intriguing feature is its boat drawings. “It is also clear there once were many more boats decorating the building’s vaulted roof,” Wegner wrote in Nautical Archaeology. “The incongruous situation of watercraft in the desert presents numerous questions and mysteries begging for explanation.”

Wegner theorizes that the boat tableau’s creators “may be people involved in the initial transport and installation of the vessel in the building. Possibly these were participants in the ceremonies, presumably mortuary in nature, that may have accompanied the boat burial,” he mused.

Wegner hopes to discover more boats as his team continues to excavate the site, along with other funerary objects of Senwosret III.

[h/t Sci News]