The Truth About King Khufu's Solar Boat

In mid-August 2021, a boat went on a journey in Egypt. Normally this wouldn't be of interest to anyone, but this wasn't a typical journey. The boat traveled by car, not overwater; it was also leaving its home for the past 4,600 years. The boat, a solar barque once owned by the Pharaoh Khufu, was discovered buried near the Great Pyramids of Giza back in the 1950s (via Smithsonian Magazine). Now it has a new home after millennia of dormancy near the Pyramids: the Grand Egyptian Museum, opening on the outskirts of Cairo in late 2021.

Archeologists aren't completely sure of the vessel's purpose. It might have been a favorite member of the Pharaoh's fleet, or perhaps purpose-built to guide the god-king's soul into the afterlife. Such boats were associated with the sun god Ra, and so were called Solar Boats or Solar Barques (via World History). Although the boat's journey was short, as the museum is only five miles away from the Pyramids, the movers had to exercise utmost caution to carry the ancient vessel to its new home.

The boat is the oldest wooden artifact in the world

The Solar Boat is the oldest wooden artifact ever discovered and is fully intact despite the four-and-a-half-thousand years to pass by since its initial construction (via Reuters). The Khufu boat is 138 feet long and weighs 20 tons, and was initially in over 1,000 pieces; crucially, however, the wood was well-preserved due to a tightly sealed chamber. Over a decade after its 1954 discovery, archeologists managed to piece it together using Egyptian shipbuilding methods. 

Though the journey to its original display area to the new museum was only five miles, the boat took ten hours to reach its new home. It was transported in a specially imported remote control vehicle, that could absorb vibrations and account for changes in terrain, as to not damage the vessel in any way. The Grand Egyptian Museum will hold around 100,000 artifacts when it opens to the public, but few will be able to compare with Pharaoh Khufu's remarkable solar boat.