Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany and Sakuji Yoshimura, director of the Japanese restoration team, were witness Wednesday to the lifting of a newly-discovered wooden beam of Khufu's second solar boat from its pit located to the north of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The beam is eight metres long, 40 centimetres wide and four centimetres thick, with a number of U and L shaped metal pieces scattered over its surface.
After lifting it, the beam was taken to the laboratory created on the Giza Plateau by the Egyptian-Japanese Khufu Second Boat Project. El-Enany, Yoshimura and restorers inspected the beam, which will be subject to preliminary restoration in order to reduce its humidity to 55 per cent before it is then treated to consolidate its strength.
"This may be the beam that once held the oars of Khufu's second boat," Eissa Zidan, director of restoration in the project, told Ahram Online, adding that the beam was found during excavations carried out inside the pit on the boat's eighth layer.
He explained that it is too early to decide the original function of the beam, but that experts are sure that it is unique and not found in Khufu's first solar boat, now on display in a special museum on the Giza Plateau.
"What we can expect for now is that the beam may be the oar holder and the metal pieces may be frames to hold the oars and prevent friction with the boat body," Zidan said. He added that further study and excavation inside the pit would help Egyptologists know more about the beam.
El-Enany described the discovery as “very important” in revealing secrets about Khufu's boats. He said the Japanese excavators and restorers were working hard with their Egyptians colleagues to protect one of Egypt's most distinguished treasures.
He pointed out that when all the beams are lifted and restored the team would reconstruct the boat and put it on display with the first solar boat at the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) overlooking the Giza Plateau.
Until now, Mamdouh Taha, supervisor of the Khufu second boat project, said a collection of 700 wooden beams were recovered from the pit and 681 of them were restored in situ. A collection of 404 of the restored beam wwasere transported to the GEM store waiting to be reconstructed.
El-Enany at the pit witnessing the lifting
The initial discovery of the second pit was in 1954. The first boat was removed piece by piece under the supervision of restoration expert Ahmed Youssef, who spent more than 20 years restoring and reassembling the boat.
The second boat remained in situ inside its pit until 1987 when it was examined by the American National Geographic Society in association with the Egyptian Office for Historical Monuments.
In 2009, a Japanese scientific and archaeological team from Waseda University headed by Yoshimura offered to remove the boat from the pit, restore and reassemble it and put it on show to the public.
The team cleaned the pit of insects and inserted a camera through a hole in the chamber’s limestone ceiling in order to examine the boat’s condition and determine appropriate methods of restoration.
El-Enany and Zidan inspecting the beam inside the pit
After the lifting Wednesday, El-Enany embarked on an inspection tour around the Giza Plateau to check on work in progress amid the Plateau Development Project.
Ashraf Mohi, director general of the Giza Plateau, told Ahram Online that the development work aims at transferring the entrance to the Plateau to the Fayoum Road, where a visitor centre would be constructed to host visitors and give them information about the plateau and the monuments its displays before starting their visits.
The project, he continued, would also create a route for a taftaf (small electric train) to take visitors in a tour around the plateau's distinguished monuments.
New administration and inspectorate buildings would be constructed through the project, as well as a new lighting and security systems.
El-Enany, Zidan and Taha inspecting other parts of the boat