A Bizarre Find in Egyptian Desert Caves
Ancient ships have been found in caves at the edge of the Egyptian desert. Yes, ships. In caves. In the desert! They are considered the oldest remains of seafaring ships in the world and also contain the cargo boxes they once hauled.
The cache was found in an area called Wadi Gawasis along a sand-covered bluff near the Red Sea by a team led by Florida State University anthropology professor Cheryl Ward. Wadi Gawasis is located about 13 miles south of the modern Egyptian city of Port Safaga. The find suggests that ancient Egyptians sailed nearly 1,000 miles on rough waters to get treasures from a place they called God's Land, or Punt. The wooden planks found in the manmade caves are about 4,000 years old, making them the world's most ancient ship timbers. Shipworms that had tunneled into the planks indicated the ships had weathered a long voyage of a few months, likely to the fabled southern Red Sea trading center of Punt, a place referenced in hieroglyphics on empty cargo boxes found in the caves.
"The archaeological site is like a mothballed military base, and the artifacts there tell a story of some of the best organized administrators the world has ever seen," Ward, an expert on ancient shipbuilding, explained in a news release announcing the findings. "It's a site that has kept its secrets for 40 centuries." Scholars have long known that Egyptians traveled to Punt, but they have debated its exact location and whether the Egyptians reached Punt by land or by sea. Some had thought the ancient Egyptians did not have the naval technology to travel long distances by sea, but the findings at the Wadi Gawasis confirm that Egyptians sailed a 2,000-mile round trip voyage to Punt, putting it in what is today Ethiopia or Yemen, Ward said.
The six rock-cut caves were used by the ancient Egyptians as work and storage rooms to protect their equipment from the harsh desert weather conditions. Along with timber and cargo boxes, the archaeologists found large stone anchors, shards of storage jars and more than 80 perfectly preserved coils of rope in the caves that had been sealed off until the next expedition--one that obviously never came. The team also found a stela, or limestone tablet, of Pharaoh Amenemhat III, who ruled between 1844-1797 B.C., inscribed with all five of his royal names, which provided further evidence that the items date to Egypt's Middle Kingdom period. The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.
Netscape.com - http://channels.netscape.com/whatsnew/default.jsp?story=20060430-0630