Tutankhamen Model Boats

The Model Boats of Tutankhamen

This collection of boats is called model boats because of its smaller size and they were symbolic boats used by the king on his journeys beyond the grave. Model boats made their first appearance since the Pre-dynastic period (even Pre-history, as they were carved on walls of Pre-historic caves) and existed throughout all the Pharaonic history.

  The Model Boats of Tutankhamen


According to the ancient Egyptians, the Nile was considered the main road of transportation as well as the main road of commercial activities.

The prevailing wind in the Nile valley came from the North, so that sails could be used to move boats traveling South while those heading North against the wind relied on oars as well as the water current. (Note that the hieroglyphic word meaning to sail south xsf ends in a determinative of a boat with its sails open while that of the word meaning to sail north xd its sail is closed and represented with oars).

So the boats were very important and considered the fastest means of transportation as they used them to transport people, goods and cargos and these are what we call the daily-life boats.

Model boats were placed in tombs to ensure for the deceased a pleasant journey in the afterlife.

Historical Background:

¨  Boats were used in ancient Egypt since as early as the Predynastic Period (Gerzean Period) as indicated on representations of boats on early vases and funerary equipment also from surviving rock carvings (Pre-historic era).

¨  A great deal of information regarding Egyptian boats has survived principally in the form of representations on the walls of tombs or from funerary models or textual references. There have also been finds of actual boats like the Solar boats of King Khufu or fragments of boat timber.

¨  The earliest and simplest boats were probably the ones made out of papyrus (bundles of reeds tied together, occasionally with pieces of wood added inside to make it stronger and to provide a platform on which to stand or sit). These were used for fishing or hunting in the marshes also for crossing the river and traveling for short distances. Unfortunately, these were short lived as they regularly became water logged and had to be rebuilt.

¨  Wooden boats are also recorded especially with findings of tools used for building them since antiquity: adze for shaping planks, awl for drilling holes and saw for cutting. All were made of copper. Images in tombs and temples show people building boats throughout dynastic times with the same tools. Wooden boats were manufactured taking the form of traditional papyrus boats. Wood was normally brought from Syria, Palestine or Lebanon (Byblos).

¨  Papyrus boats had a symbolic meaning as they were used for royal or sacred purposes: the solar trip of Re (from day to night and vice versa across the heavens) and funerary boats carrying the mummy of the dead king to the necropolis across the river also pilgrimage boats carrying kings and nobles to cult centres like the temple of Osiris at Abydos or Isis at Philae.

¨  In the New Kingdom elaborate models of divine boats or holy barques (sometimes covered with gold sheets) were carried in processions carrying the god where he would ride a full-sized divine ship in ceremonies along the Nile.

 The Model Boats of Tutankhamen

 Functions of boats:

1-Secular function: which means that boats was used for transporting goods and as a means of transportation for example transporting the obelisks of queen Hatshepsut from Aswan quarries to the Karnak temple.

2-Religious function: they were related with 2 journeys of the deceased and the deities. The first journey is the pilgrimage or voyage to Abydos as the deceased used to make this journey being transported on a funerary bed in a boat taking the shape of papyrus and it was known as "the papyrus boat" or "the cult boat". As for the family of the deceased they used to accompany him in this voyage in ordinary funerary boats. The second journey was the solar journey of god Ra. God Ra used to ride in two boats; one during the day time which was called (manDet m3ndjet) and the second during the night which was called (msktt msktet).

The shape

A boat consists of 2 parts: the frontal part which is known as (the prow) and the rear part which is known as (the stern). The body of the boat itself is known as (the hull). Usually the king used to sit in a shelter inside the boat and the helmsman (the one who steers the boat) was often represented as a dwarf.

The Collection of Tutankhamen

We have at least four show cases showing boats or model boats from the tomb of Tutankhamen. It comprises 35 boats found in the Treasury and the Annex of the tomb (14 were found in the Treasury). Most of these boats were made out of wood such as cedar wood they vary in size from 1 to 2.5m.  The 5 smaller boats were made out of one piece wood while the 5 bigger boats were made of several pieces of wood attached together by means of pegs and tenons.

They are classified into 5 types:  

1.    Transport Boat :

 The Model Boats of Tutankhamen

Among the boats of Tutankhamen's collection were seven boats usually called barges, without sail but with double steering oars. Its principal feature is a double roofed (stepped) central cabin with representation of three windows and a door. Both roof tops have cavetto-cornices decorated with checker-board patterns. 

  The Model Boats of Tutankhamen

At the prow and the stern there are smaller cabins or kiosks, which probably served as shelters for members of the crew and were also decorated.
This type of boats was used for transportation.

2.    Solar Boat:

 The Model Boats of Tutankhamen

This boat is one of several solar boats found in the treasury of the tomb. It had a raised lotus-flower prow and a re-curved stern, one throne placed in the middle, and two steering oars. It is of wood covered with a layer of painted stucco, with some gilded parts like the prow and the stern which were also inscribed with Tutankhamen's names and titles. 

 The Model Boats of Tutankhamen

The throne is also gilded having a representation for the sema tawy sign of unification on both sides. Close to the prow is a painted representation of the eye of Horus. The two oars attached to vertical posts with a cross piece are the steering mechanism. This boat was used by the king to accompany god Re on his daytime journeys across the sky to join him in heavens.

3.    Pilgrimage Boats:
 The Model Boats of Tutankhamen
This type of boats has ropes and mast holding the sail of the boat, a central cabin, two gilded kiosks at the prow and the stern decorated with images of a bull and a sphinx and inscribed with the cartouches of Tutankhamen, and two steering oars. The hull of the boat and the central cabin are bearing some decorations. It is the only type of boats that has a sail and oars. The top part of the oars is decorated with human heads. Unlike many of the other model boats in the tomb, there are no cabins or windscreens for the passenger. This craft was not part of the funerary cortege nor was it like one of the ships which the pharaoh used in life.
As for this type, it was used in the pilgrimage to Abydos. 

  The Model Boats of Tutankhamen

When the boat was sailing to Abydos in the south, they used the sail as they were sailing with the prevailing wind. But when they were sailing from Abydos to the north, they used the oars as they were sailing with the current of the river against the wind. This type of boat was carved from a single piece of wood with mast, oars, cabin, and kiosks made separately and attached with pegs. This boat was usually painted on the walls of the tombs to show the deceased's voyage with his family to Abydos as seen on the walls of the tombs of Beni Hassan in Menya. 

4.    Lunar Boats:

Only two boats of this type were found in the collection of King Tutankhamen. It is a simple boat with in-turned gilded papyrus formed prows and sterns. It is made out of one piece of wood with its hull covered with painted stucco. This type used for night-time lunar travel.

5.     Papyrus Canoe: 

  The Model Boats of Tutankhamen

These canoes are used for hunting hippopotami and fowling in the marshes of the Hereafter. It is a simple boat sometimes called raft having an opened papyrus form prow and stern. It is made out of one piece of wood with its hull covered with painted stucco. This boat resembles the boat upon which the king was holding a harpoon (the piece studied before).


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