The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt

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Boat from tomb of Amenhotep Boat from the tomb of Amenhotep II
Eighteenth Dynasty reign of Amenhotep II, 1427-1400 BC
painted wood
The Egyptian Museum, Cairo

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ALAN SHESTACK: The Nile River was central to life in ancient Egypt. In the netherworld too, the Egyptians believed they would journey toward the afterlife by water.

This magnificent boat was built about 1400 BC for the tomb of the powerful ruler Amenhotep II.

BETSY BRYAN: It is a magical model for the king to use in the afterlife, and it is carved and then painted exactly like the royal ships of that time. The actual boat would probably have been about 150 to 200 feet in length.

You would easily imagine a large procession of these ships accompanying the king. At each stop there would have been standing at the dock people with huge bouquets to hand the king. Just to get a glimpse of the king's ship would have been something probably for a lifetime for most people.

AS: The king might use such a boat to wage war--or to visit temples along the Nile. In the center of the deck you can see the remains of a two-story cabin for housing horses, food or provisions.

BB: The cabin would have been a place where the king could have rested, and on top of it there were always lookouts, who were watching for shallow spots.

AS: Other men stood on the structures at either end, directing the rowers. At the stern, you'll see a pair of steering oars with eyes painted on them.

BB: The eyes are the eyes of the sun god, because this ship is going to take the king on his journey through the afterworld where he is associated with the sun god and will be reborn.

AS: In the next world, model ships would become real, ready to carry the pharaoh on his magical journey.