AHRTP Image Archive
Ancient and Early East Asian Ships 5b.03

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EGYPTIAN FUNERAL BARQUE

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Egyptian Funeral Boat


This romanticized 19th century print shows an ancient Egyptian funeral barge facing another boat upon which priestesses are raising their hands (and ?voices) in lamentation. The boats of ancient Sumer, Babylon and Egypt were not made of wood, but bundles of tightly packed reeds. In the Mesopotamian region, a tall fresh water reed called berdi was used while in Egypt papyrus was the building material. Reeds were tied tightly together in bundles, narrowing towards the ends. The tightness of the lashings is critical in keeping water impregnation to a minimum. The bundles are lashed together with the ends then curling up in the traditional fashion for the papyrus ship. Bamboo or cane seems to have been the traditional material used for constructing the square cabins seen in many pictures and reliefs.
The hidden river/road of Ament is the burial way in Underworld. The body of the deceased Pharaoh travels down the river of Ament (which has no water) in his funeral barque. The Pharaoh makes his way by the words of Isis and Shemsu. The utterances of this great god act as magical protection and perform the slaughter of Apep, who is the serpent/womb in the Duat Underworld in his circle of windings in the sky. "I purify myself. I assume my pure throne, which is in the sky. I will endure. I assume my pure seat in the bow of the Barque of Ra. It is the sailors who row Ra and it is they who will convey me round the horizon." ("What Is In The Duat /Underworld" - Utterance 407). Many important Egyptian gods are seen in boats during ritual processions. Such boats symbolize important sacred time periods.

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