What was the Khufu ship? Google Doodle pays homage to a great Egyptian discovery

It's been 65 years since the ship was found buried near Egypt's biggest pyramid

Egyptian art. Old Kingdom. IV Dynasty. The Khufu ship. Detail. It was sealed into a pit in the Giza pyramid complex at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza around 2500 BC. Built of cedar wood in order to transport the pharaoh to the afterlife. The Khufu Boat Museum. Giza. (Photo by: Prisma/UIG via Getty Images)
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Today's Google Doodle marks the 65th anniversary of the Khufu ship's discovery.

On this day in 1954, one of the world's oldest and largest boats was found buried near Egypt's biggest pyramid, in Giza.

It is said to have survived for more than 4,600 years and is believed to have been built for Khufu, the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. He is also entombed within the pyramid.

The ship is now preserved in the Giza Solar boat museum, which is just a few metres away from where it was found 65 years ago.

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1999:  Egypt - Cairo - Giza - The solar boat of Khufu (Cheops) made from Lebanon cedar wood (43.4 m. length, 5.9 m. breadth), assembled with ropes made of alpha plant.  (Photo By DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini/Getty Images)
The solar boat of Khufu (also known as King Cheops) is made from Lebanon cedar wood and assembled with ropes made of alpha plant. Getty Images

The discovery happened when archaeologist Kamal el Mallakh unearthed a row of limestone blocks that were covering a rectangular pit.

Inside an airtight enclosure, piles of cedar planks were found, alongside ropes and matting that were needed to rebuild the vessel. More than 1,200 pieces were painstakingly reassembled, a process that was overseen by Haj Ahmed Youssef, a restorer from the Egyptian Department of Antiquities, who studied Ancient Egyptian boat-making before he embarked on the project. He also visited Nile shipyards before reconstruction began.

It took more than 10 years to fully restore the vessel, which is 44.6 metres long and six metres wide, without using any nails.

Its original use remains a mystery and a debate among scholars. Some believe it was used to ferry the pharoah's body to his final resting place, while others think it was a "solar barge" placed there in order to transport Khufu's soul to heaven, similar to the Atet, the barge of the Egyptian sun god Ra.

Whatever it was used for, its discovery remains as significant now as it did the day it was discovered, and is one of the best-preserved vessels from antiquity.

Today's Google Doodle of the Khufu Ship is being shown across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in Russia, Slovakia the UK, and Australia and New Zealand.

The Google Doodle for May 26, 2019 - honouring the Khufu ship.
The Google Doodle for May 26, 2019 - honouring the Khufu ship.

Look through the gallery below to see more recent Google Doodles that have been inspired by the Arab world: