Phoenicians

Egypt, Pyramids & Cedar

 Great Pyramids boats

 

 

 

 

 

Great Pyramids boat

Great Pyramids boat

 Egypt's Great Pyramids contain many mysteries, but also a surprising sign of cooperation and friendship between Egyptians and Phoenicians which lasted 3000 years. Buried beside the Great Pyramid of Khufu, who was also known as Cheops, were two cedar boats for the king's use in the afterlife. Oddly enough, the two boats were stored as large piles of boards, each plank carefully marked with images showing how they were to be assembled. When archaeologists put the boards together according to those rustic instructions... voila!...they had a boat.

This desire by Egyptians to have and use Phoenician cedar was driven by a simple fact: Egypt was almost entirely devoid of wood suitable for construction. The palm trees which lined the Nile had soft, pithy interiors which were of no use in constructing boats or raising large buildings. The best they could do was to harvest small acacia trees, which produced boards only three feet (one meter) in length. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus described how the Egyptians were forced to deal with this difficult situation.

Their cargo boats are made out of the wood of the acacia, which is very similar in appearance to Cyrenean lotus and weeps gum. The way they make these boats is to cut planks of this acacia wood, each about two cubits (a cubit being roughly a half-meter) long, and put them together like bricks. They use long, thick pins to fix these two-cubit planks together....

Herodotus 2:96       

The favored alternative by the Egyptians was to acquire long boads and logs of cedar from the Phoenicians for use in large projects like the Pyramid boats. How large could these pieces of cedar be?  When the Egyptian temple at Hierakonpolis was unearthed by archaeologist Michael Hoffman, it was reliably dated to 3200 BC....and was shown to have used four massive Cedar of Lebanon pillars which were about three feet (one meter) in diameter and forty feet (thirteen meters) in length. From that time forward, cedar was used to line the burial chambers of kings and queens, and its oil was used in embalming their bodies. Cedar was also used -- when it could be obtained in large enough quantities -- for massive buildings and the making of boats, such as these pyramid boats built for Khufu's burial in 2566 BC.

Great Pyramids

Great Pyramids

Great Pyramids

To give you some idea of how well-established this relationship was between Egyptians and Phoenicians, in 1075 BC a priest from Egypt came to Byblos to obtain another cedar boat for his temple. This man, Wenamun, cited all those who had come before him with the same request, and eventually paid a sufficient price to get his ceremonial boat. Just like the boat for Khufu which had been built 1500 years earlier, the Phoenicians cut and shaped the cedar wood for this boat, then shipped it in pieces to Egypt, to be assembled at Wenamun's temple. 

These are only a few of the stories in this long and eventful relationship between Egypt and Phoenicia, which are fully explored in Phoenician Secrets: Exploring the Ancient Mediterranean. Even years later -- in 360 BC -- when King Tachos of Egypt rose in an ill-fated  revolt against Persian domination, he was given shelter by the Phoenician King of Sidon. We discover a whole new dimension to Egyptian history from the vantage point of their trade and relationship with the Phoenician people.

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