The 1st Dynasty funerary boats of Abu Rawash

Yann Tristant

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The site of Abu Rawash is located at the northern edge of the great Egyptian necropolis of Memphis, about 8 km northwest of the Giza Plateau. Since 2008, the Institut français d’archéologie orientale (IFAO, Cairo, Egypt) has undertaken, in collaboration with Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia), the study of the Cemetery M at Abu Rawash and its large mud-brick mastabas assigned to the elite of the 1st Dynasty. This program aims to re-excavate the monuments partially cleared by Pierre Montet in the years 1913-1914, in order to gather new information about the funerary architecture of the period and the Early Dynastic Memphite society at the dawn of Pharaonic civilization. During the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the team uncovered the remains of wooden boats deposited at the north of four different mastabas. The boats were designed according to the technique of lacing ligatures. Similar discoveries were made before 1950 in the Early Dynastic cemeteries of Saqqara and Helwan. Unfortunately, the remains of those boats have not been preserved and documentation produced at the time is unsatisfactory by modern standards. Between 1990 and 2000, 14 large boats excavated at Abydos completed the corpus of Early Dynastic boats. However their proposed dates, between 1st and 2nd Dynasty, could not be confirmed by either stratigraphy or absolute dating. Based on material associated, stratigraphy and more importantly a set of radiocarbon dating, the boats of Abu Rawash are currently believed to be the oldest boats ever found in Egypt. After nearly 5,000 years it is not easy to identify the reason for the presence of these boats in the graves. Were the boats parts of the funerary equipment of the elite at that time? Symbols of power? Were they used for transportation of the deceased to their graves? Were they objects of prestige that the dead wanted to take with them in the afterlife? Transported to the conservation laboratory of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) at Giza, the boats will be exhibited soon in the galleries of the future museum. Their study will provide a better understanding of shipbuilding techniques in the early periods of Egyptian history and its development over the 400 years before the famous boat of Khufu (c. 2550 BC).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventInternational conference on predynastic and early dynastic studies (5th : 2014) - Cairo
Duration: 13 Apr 201418 Apr 2014


ConferenceInternational conference on predynastic and early dynastic studies (5th : 2014)


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