History Files


Ancient Egypt

Egypt's Oldest Boat

by John Duce, BBC News, 1 November 2000



Archaeologists in Egypt believe they have found the earliest surviving example of a purpose-built boat.

It is thought date to circa 3,000 BC and was found at a royal burial site.

Older, hollowed-out logs, which are thought to have been used as canoes, have been found in Africa and Europe, but the researchers in Egypt believe their find is the first surviving example of complex boat construction.

Archaeologists know that at least a dozen ancient boats were buried at the royal burial site at Abydos, about 450km (280 miles) south of Cairo.

Boat for afterlife

Part of one craft has now been fully excavated by an American team which says it is hundreds of years older than any previous similar craft found in Egypt.

The Abydos boat is thought to be about 25 metres long and less than a metre deep and is made of thick wooden planks lashed together with rope.

The archaeologists say the find dates to the beginnings of the rise of Ancient Egyptian civilisation and that the boat may have been intended for the use of a pharaoh in the afterlife.

The Ancient Egyptians believed that when a pharaoh died he would sail down the Nile, along with the sun god Ra. Traces of yellow pigment were found on the craft suggesting the boat was brightly painted.

Further excavations are planned at the site this winter.



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