Francesco Raffaele ------------------------------------------Back HOME
Early Dynastic Funerary boats at Abydos North
Click the 4 images
A complete fleet of 14 boats has been found by the American
Archaeologists under the direction of N.Y. Univ. Dr. David O'Connor at Abydos
North (nearly 2 Km North of the Early Dynastic Royal cemetery of Umm el-a'ab).
I ve added a brief account of a New York lecture (January 2001) by David O'Connor and Matthew Adams (thanks to Christine Van Heertum).
The first 12 boats were cleared in recent years, but the prows of the northernmost ones had been already reached in mid/late 1980s when they had been erroneously interpreted as the bastioned corner of a small mudbrick enclosure (Hor Aha?) which would lie between the Shunet ez-Zabib and the Western Mastaba (see plan).
The boats vary from 18/19 to 24/27 meters long and they seem
to have been sealed by mudbrick casing. Traces of some pygments have been
found on the wood planks, indicating that the boats could have been painted
white. They have prows towards the Nile.
A part of the mudbrick casing suggests that there could have been a support for poles/pennants on top of the boats, as in the boats depicted on pottery or atop the archaic shrines onto some maceheads/palettes and in the HK loc. 29A cultual center.
The interior of the boats was filled with mudbricks too. Boulders aside some boats have been interpreted as model anchors.
The wood planks, painted in yellow on the outside, seem not to be of cedar. They were lashed by holes and rendered impermeable to water by reeds between them.
Pottery and small seal impressions have been recovered by one of the 14 boats; no king's name appears, but the general impression points more towards the early First Dynasty (Aha) than the late Second Dynasty (Khasekhemwy).
Naval archaeologist Cheryl Ward revealed to have been amazed by the high degree of technical skill shown by these artifacts.
Their age should be more than 400 years older than Khwfw's (Cheops) and, although found nearby the vast enclosure (Shunet ez Zebib) of Khasekhemwy, it appears possible that they belong to the second king of the first dynasty, Horus AHA, owner of Umm el Qa'ab tombs B19.
Much remains to be known from these boats that Dr. D. O'Connor
began to excavate in 1991 (articles in 'Expedition' and 'Egyptian Archaeology')
after an important campaign at the northern site of the Funerary Palaces (Talbezirke)
of some kings of the first dynasty and the last two of the second (J.A.R.C.E.
26, 1989); C14 analysis and the study of jars and seal impressions found in
the boats will tell more about the attribution of these boats to Hor Aha.
The wood has been treated with acrylic and wax to strenghten it before removal; much of it has become frass (wood-beetle excrement) which in turn can give us an idea of the wood shape and specie; the boats have been covered with sand at the end of each digging campaign.
It can be already said that archaic boats had been found at
Helwan by Z. Saad and a 'model estate' and funerary boat was found at Saqqara
by W. Emery (in 1957-8; tomb S 3357); both these examples were very early
in the first dynasty, thus the date to the reign of Aha can't be excluded.
In total 4 or 5 boat burials were found at Helwan, 2 at Abu Roash Hill M,
and finally others at the northerly Abydos site of the Royal enclosures, near
those just found. The most famous boat was found in 1954 beside Khwfw's pyramid
south side - 4 more boat pits exist - and later reconstructed by Ahmed Yussef
Six boats of Middle Kingdom date were found at Dahshur. They're about 10 m long each.
Old Kingdom boats are depicted in the royal complexes of the Fifth Dynasty (Sahure, Unas), in the Mastaba of Mereruka and, later, there are the famous scenes at Deir el Bahari; but these are all for transportation purposes, as those reproduced in the M.K. models of Meketra (Deir el Bahari). It has been extimated that a boat for the transportation of the Hatshepsut obelisk in Karnak had to be at least 63 meters long.(cfr. A. Gottlicher in K.Bard ed. Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt p. 728 ff).
As for the wood long distance trade, we know that Aha's immediate predecessor Narmer had a great deal of relations with the Near East (Canaan) as attested in various sites expecially by Serekhs with his name onto wave handled jars (fragments). The hard cedar wood of Lebanon has been found in poles and beams of the Umm el Qaab tombs but it was already imported earlier as we can see from D.A.I.K. findings in Abydos cemetery B(Iry Hor, Ka, Narmer) and U (expec. Naqada IIIa2, c.3250).