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Unearthed by archaeologists a long room decorated with engravings of boats whose purpose was probably to accommodate the funeral boat of a pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty.
Under the golden sands to the west of the Nile, in the ancient sacred site of Abydos, archaeologists made an extraordinary discovery: a whole fleet of ships engraved on the interior of a long room underground walls, built of mud brick, dating back around to 1,840 BC.
The structure is part of the funerary complex of Pharaoh Sesostris III, the Twelfth Dynasty. This unique discovery reveals new details about how they held the funeral rites of the ancient rulers.
It also suggests that in this place were still followed an ancient tradition of burial that soon would be gone, replaced by more fashionable funeral practices. The underground structure was noted for the first time between 1901 and 1902, when the British archaeologist Arthur Weigall found a cover with a barrel vault, the upper part of the interior walls and a first glimpse of the decorations.
But when his team tried to dig, a collapse in the central part of the cover put an end to the project. Now archaeologists of the University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the Ministry of Antiquities, have unearthed the ruins of what was once a long building about 21 meters wide and 4.
The excavation was funded in part by the National Geographic Society and the results were published in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. The walls are plastered and whitewashed carefully decorated with more than 120 boats incisions, each slightly different from the other. Some are simple contours of the hull, similar curves crescent moons.
Others are more elaborate, and show the tree, the banners and the rowers. For the most part they are close together, and many will touch or overlap. At the beginning, I and my group we had no idea what purpose would this room. “We were quite bewildered,” “expected a grave.” The clues found by my staff, however, suggest that the room had been built to bury a large wooden boat used for a royal funeral, in line with a tradition dating back to the first Egyptian dynasties.