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Egyptian Artifacts

Egypt unveils pharaoh boat attraction

Hazel Heyer, Special to eTN  Jul 18, 2008

Live and in real time, visitors to the Giza Plateau in Egypt get to see for the first time an archaeological discovery at a depth of 10 meters. The exploration shows the contents of the second boat of King Khufu, located west of the Khufu boat museum, viewed through a camera, said Culture Minister Farouk Hosni.

Dr. Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said tourists can watch the discovery on a screen located in the Khufu boat museum. This screen will show scenes of the second boat pit live for the very first time since its discovery in 1957. Hawass explained that the SCA has agreed with Japan’s Waseda University mission headed by Professor Sakuji Yoshimura, to place a camera inside the pit to show its contents without having to open it.

Yoshimura’s mission launched a project digging into the pit, in addition to restoring the boat’s wood after 20 years of doing further studies on it; the total cost of the project is EGP 10 million (approx. US$1.7 million) and is supervised by a scientific committee from the SCA including Egyptian geologist Dr. Farouk El Baz and Dr. Omar El Arini.

In 1987, the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC made a joint decision with the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (EAO) to put a camera inside the second boat pit and photograph its contents. At the time, deteriorating condition of the boat’s wood and the existence of insects were found. During the 1990s, it was agreed with Waseda University to form a collaborative scientific team to deal with these insects and their removal, in addition to making a cover over the boat pit to protect it from the sun’s rays.

The SCA will charge a fee for watching this discovery onscreen in the Khufu boat museum, said Hawass.

In Giza, the Great Pyramid built as a tomb for King Khufu, was built 4,500 years ago by Khufu himself, the ancient ruler also known later as Cheops. His is the most magnificent of all Egypt's pyramids, formed by 2.3 million stone blocks, and has lost little of its original height of 481 feet (146 meters) and width of 756 feet (230) meters. Completed in 2566 BC. it weighs more than 6.5 million tons.

Khufu’s Great Pyramid has now lost most of its height, which has been slightly eroded by millennia of wind-blown sand, yet the pyramid continues to dominate the Giza plateau.

For more than a century, archaeologists have been wondering why four shafts were built and what secrets they hold. The shafts may have played symbolic roles in Khufu's religious philosophy. Khufu proclaimed himself as Sun God during his life -- pharaohs before him believed they became sun gods only after death - - and he may have tried to reflect his ideas in the design of his pyramid. On September 17, 2002, an irobot manufactured in Germany was made to pass through an 8-inch (20-centimeters) square shaft (not designed for human passage) to see what lies beyond the chamber door. Scientists found nothing more exciting than another door, wooden, with copper handles. They believe it leads to another hidden passage.

So far, Khufu's pyramid has not produced treasures usually associated with pharaohs, perhaps because tomb robbers plundered it thousands of years ago.

In 2005, an Australian mission led by Naguib Kanawati unearthed the 4,200-year-old statue of a man believed to have been Meri, the tutor of Pepi II. Meri was believed to oversee four sacred boats found in the pyramids, buried with Egypt's kings to help them in the afterlife.

The discovery of the sacred boats pertained to two important periods in history, the Old Kingdom, which dates back to 4,200 years, and the 26th Dynasty, that was 2,500 years ago - Khufu’s era.

Tourists will be given a rare chance to view first-hand the Pharaonic solar boat, never olobefore done in Egypt's history of excavations.

Egypt unveils pharaoh boat attraction
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