Life in Ancient Egypt

Natural World: The Carnegie Boat

The Carnegie BoatDuring his 1894–95 field season, Jacques de Morgan, a French archaeologist, excavated at Dashur, a site located about thirty-three kilometers (20.5 mi.) south of Cairo. His work focused upon Senwosret III's pyramid complex. Outside of the southern enclosure wall, he uncovered approximately six wooden boat burials and a sledge used to drag the boats from the water across the sand to the pyramid complex. The records concerning our boat's excavation are sketchy, but its decided structural similarity to other boats known to be from this site suggests that Dashur was the original location of the Carnegie boat.

This boat's function is not fully understood; but based on analysis of the Carnegie boat's structure and its probable burial location, approximately six boats may have been involved, in some unknown manner, in the burial ritual. The Carnegie boat's weak structure indicates that it could have been used in the water for only a very short period of time. Most likely larger vessels towed these boats across the Nile as they carried burial equipment or members of the cortege. As ritual equipment, the boats could not have been easily discarded, and their reuse in another ceremony would have been unlikely because of their weak structure. Therefore, burial alongside the pyramid complex's enclosure wall would have correctly disposed of them as ritual equipment and, at the same time, made them available to the king, if needed, in the afterlife.

Royal Funerary Boat
(cedar, paint)
Dynasty XII, reign of Senwosret III
(ca. 1878-1859 B.C.)
Length 9.2 m; width 2.3 m; depth 0.9 m
ACC. 1842-1

Excerpted from Reflections of Greatness: Ancient Egypt at The Carnegie Museum of Natural History by Diana Craig Patch.
© 1990 The Board of Trustees, Carnegie Institute.

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