3,800-Year-Old ‘Tableau’ of Egyptian Boats Discovered

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3,800-Year-Old ‘Tableau’ of Egyptian Boats Discovered

3,800-Year-Old 'Tableau' of Egyptian Boats Discovered

The interior of the structure is about 68 feet by 13 feet (21 by 4 m) and is covered with a tableau containing images of more than 120 ancient Egyptian boats. The images are incised into the white plaster.

Credit: Josef Wegner

More than 120 images of ancient Egyptian boats have been discovered adorning the inside of a building in Abydos, Egypt. The building dates back more than 3,800 years and was built near the tomb of pharaoh Senwosret III, archaeologists reported.

The tableau, as the series of images is called, would have looked upon a real wooden boat said Josef Wegner, a curator at the Penn Museum at the University of Pennsylvania, who led the excavation. Only a few planks remain of the wooden boat, which would have been constructed at Abydos or dragged across the desert, Wegner said. In ancient Egypt, boats were sometimes buried near a pharaoh’s tomb.  [In Photos: Tomb Painting Discovered Near Great Pyramid of Giza]

Archaeologists found that the tableau was incised on the white plaster walls of the building.

The largest images are nearly 5 feet (1.5 meters) in length and show “large, well-rendered boats depicted with masts, sails, rigging, deckhouses/cabins, rudders, oars and in some cases rowers,” wrote Wegner in an article published in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. Some images are small and simple, the smallest reaching only about 4 inches (10 centimeters) in length, wrote Wegner.

An image showing part of the boat tableau, which includes both large and small images. Some of the larger boats are highly detailed, showing masts, sails, rigging, cabins, rudders and oars.

Credit: Josef Wegner 

Though 120 boat images survive today, there would have been more incised on the building walls in ancient times, Wegner wrote. In addition to the boats, the tableau contains incised images of gazelle, cattle and flowers, he noted.

Near the entranceway of the building — whose interior is about 68 feet by 13 feet (21 by 4 m) — archaeologists discovered more than 145 pottery vessels, many of which are buried with their necks facing toward the building’s entrance. “The vessels are necked, liquid-storage jars, usually termed ‘beer jars’ although probably used for storage and transport of a variety of liquids,” wrote Wegner in the journal article.The existence of the building was first noted in a 1904 report by an Egypt Exploration Fund (EEF) team that worked at Abydos between 1901 and 1903. However, that team didn’t have time to excavate the building and didn’t know what was in it; “they came down on the very top of the boat building. They saw the vault of it but abandoned work,” Wegner said.

The discoveries leave archaeologists with a series of mysteries that future excavations may help solve. [7 Amazing Archaeological Discoveries from Egypt]

The archaeologists don’t know who drew the tableau or why they created it. “We can’t conclusively answer that on the basis of what’s preserved,” Wegner told Live Science. However, the researchers think multiple people created the tableau within a short period of time, he added.

One of the 120 incised boat images found in the 3,800-year-old structure. The sail on this boat is unfurled.

Credit: Josef Wegner

One possibility is that the people who built the boat also created the tableau, he said. Or, perhaps, a group of people taking part in a funerary ceremony after the death of pharaoh Senwosret III etched the images onto the building walls. Yet another possibility is that a group of people gained access to the building after the pharaoh died and created the tableau. Archaeologists found that a group of individuals entered the building at some point after the pharaoh’s death and took the boat apart, reusing the planks.

Archaeologists are also puzzled over the purpose of all the pottery found near the entrance of the building. It’s possible that those attending a funerary ceremony could have spilled liquid from the pots on the ground on purpose. “Potentially a massive decanting of liquid, likely predominantly water, at the entrance of the building was a way of magically floating the boat,” Wegner wrote in the paper. The boat would not have been literally floated if this ceremony took place.

Another possibility is that the wooden boat was transported on a wooden sledge across the desert. In that case, “water and other liquids may have been used to lubricate and solidify the ground along the path of the boat as it was pulled from the floodplain to its desert resting place,” wrote Wegner, adding that “the ceramic vessels used in this journey may themselves have taken on a ritual significance, and both boat and jars were then buried together as ceremonial interment of objects associated with royal mortuary rites.”

The team plans to carry out excavations in the future that may help solve the various mysteries, he said.

Wegner’s team, in cooperation with Egypt’s Ministry of State for Antiquities, carried out the excavations of the building between 2014 and 2016.

Original article on Live Science.

3,000-Year-Old Wooden Wheel Found in Doomed Bronze-Age Town

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3,000-Year-Old Wooden Wheel Found in Doomed Bronze-Age Town

A 3,000-year-old wooden wheel has been discovered in the remains of a prehistoric town that collapsed into a river in east England. Archaeologists said the Bronze Age wheel is the largest and best-preserved of its kind, dating back to1100-800 B.C.

Measuring about 3 feet (1 meter) across, and with its hub still intact, the wheel was unearthed during a dig at the Must Farm site in Peterborough, according to an announcement from Historic England, a heritage organization that is partly funding the excavation.

“This remarkable but fragile wooden wheel is the earliest complete example ever found in Britain,” Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said in a statement. He added that the discovery expands the understanding of the technological sophistication of people living in the region 3,000 years ago. [In Photos: Amazing Ruins of the Ancient World]

Must Farm, which was first discovered in 1999, has been described as “Peterborough’s Pompeii.” Pompeii was a Roman city that was destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. Ash from that volcanic eruption left the town extraordinarily well-preserved, with elaborate murals and graffiti still intact on the walls of its buildings. Like Pompeii, the Must Farm site was frozen in time through catastrophe.

The Bronze Age wheel is the largest and best-preserved of its kind, dating back to 1100-800 B.C.
Credit: © Cambridge Archaeological Unit

The circular wooden houses of the Must Farm site were built on stilts above a river channel, the old course of the River Nene. But a devastating fire caused the dwellings to plunge into —and become preserved in —the sandy water below, archaeologists said.

In addition to finding the wooden houses, excavators uncovered some rare items that might not normally survive in the archaeological record: a wooden platter, wooden utensils, clothing made from the fiber of lime trees and even jars containing the remains of food, perhaps abandoned when the fire broke out, the researchers said.

The Must Farm was partially excavated in 2006, but the site is currently undergoing a larger, £1.1-million ($1.58 million U.S.), eight-month excavation. The archaeologists said they plan to dig trenches across nearly 12,000 square feet (1,100 square meters) of the site. They’re currently about halfway done with the project, according to Historic England.

In another clue that people of this era were quite savvy about transportation, eight Bronze Age boats were recovered from the same river in 2011. The newly discovered wheel suggests the people at the Must Farm site traveled to and had ties with the dry land beyond the river.

Technically, the new find isn’t the oldest Bronze Age wheel found in Britain. That distinction still belongs to the Flag Fen wheel, which was found at a nearby site and dates back to about 1300 B.C. However, that artifact is less complete than the newly discovered wheel and is smaller, at about 2.6 feet (0.8 m) in diameter.

Follow us @livescienceFacebookGoogle+. Original article on Live Science.

3,000-Year-Old Golden Bowl Hides a Grisly Archaeological Tale

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3,000-Year-Old Golden Bowl Hides a Grisly Archaeological Tale

3,000-Year-Old Sculpted Coffin Found in Israel

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3,000-Year-Old Sculpted Coffin Found in Israel

3,300-Year-Old Tomb with Pyramid Entrance Discovered in Egypt

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3,300-Year-Old Tomb with Pyramid Entrance Discovered in Egypt

3,300-Year-Old Egyptian Cemetery Reveals Commoners’ Plight

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3,300-Year-Old Egyptian Cemetery Reveals Commoners’ Plight

By Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer | LiveScience.com – 13 hrs ago


Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient cemetery at the Egyptian city of Amarna. The cemetery held the commoners, rather than the elites, of the city

While an Egyptian pharaoh built majestic temples filled with sparkling treasures, the lower classes performed backbreaking work on meager diets, new evidence suggests.

An analysis of more than 150 skeletons from a 3,300-year-old cemetery at the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna reveals fractures, wear and tear from heavy lifting, and rampant malnutrition amongst the city’s commoners.

The discovery, detailed in the March issue of the journal Antiquity, could shed light on how the non-elites of ancient Egyptian societylived.

Overnight city

For a brief, 17-year period, the center of Egypt was Amarna, a small city on the banks of the Nile, about 218 miles (350 kilometers) south of Cairo.

The pharaoh Akhenaten relocated his capital city to Amarna to build a pure, uncontaminated cult of worship dedicated to the sun god Aten. [Gallery: Sun Gods and Goddesses]

In a few years, temples, court buildings and housing complexes sprung up. At one time, 20,000 to 30,000 court officials, soldiers, builders and servants lived in the city.

But after Akhenaten’s death, the next pharaoh, Tutankhamun , promptly rolled up the experiment. The city, which lacked good agricultural land, was soon abandoned.

Because the Egyptians occupied Amarna for such a short time, the city provides archaeologists with an unprecedented insight into what people’s lives looked like at a specific moment in history, said study co-author Anna Stevens, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge.

Hard life

About 10 years ago, a surveyor investigating a region in the desert near Amarna discovered an ancient cemetery. The site contained hundreds of skeletons and skeletal fragments from lower-class Egyptians. [See Photos of the Ancient Egyptian Cemetery ]

To see what these everyday Egyptians’ daily lives were like, Stevens and her colleagues analyzed 159 skeletons that were found mostly intact.

Archaeologists have unearthed graves with hundreds of skeletons at the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna.

The researchers’ conclusions: Life was hard at Amarna. The children had stunted growth, and many of the bones were porous due to nutritional deficiency, probably because the commoners lived on a diet of mostly bread and beer, Stevens told LiveScience.

More than three-quarters of the adults had degenerative joint disease, likely from hauling heavy loads, and about two-thirds of these adults had at least one broken bone.

The findings suggest that the rapid construction of Amarna may have been especially hard on the commoners. Based on the size of the bricks found in nearby structures, each worker likely carried a limestone brick weighing 154 pounds (70 kilograms) in assembly-line fashion. Erecting the city’s structures so quickly would have required workers to repeatedly carry out such heavy lifting. That could have caused the joint disease the skeletons revealed.

The norm in Egypt?

“This is a fabulous study because it is a big population from a known site, and we have all these bodies from people who are relatively lower class,” said Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at American University in Cairo, who was not involved in the study.

But because, in total, archaeologists have unearthed so few ancient Egyptian cemeteries in which the non-elite were buried, it’s possible that these backbreaking conditions prevailed across Egypt at the time, Stevens said.

Other research has found that even Egypt’s wealthy suffered widespread malnutrition and disease, often living only to age 30.