CAIRO, 11 August (BelTA - Xinhua) - Egyptian officials highlighted on Tuesday the recent successful transportation of a huge fragile 4,600-year-old pharaonic boat from an old museum to the new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) nearly 10 km away.
The 42-meter-long and 20-tonne solar boat was discovered in 1954 beside the Great Pyramid of Giza that belonged to King Khufu.
"It is considered one of the most important events in Egypt's history, especially in archeology, because the artifact is considered one of the biggest and oldest organic artifacts ever discovered," El-Tayeb Abbas, assistant minister of Tourism and Antiquities for Archaeological Affairs at the GEM, told Xinhua following a press conference held at the massive museum.
"We have taken all necessary procedures to secure the artifact, including radar scanning of the whole area and the path of the boat, in addition to securing the body of the boat with a wooden cage inside a steel cage," Abbas explained.
The boat was brought to a special building in the GEM before it is completed, because the staff had to place it inside the building first then construct the roof of the building later.
"We plan to finish the building by the end of this year and then we will start removing the steel cage gradually when the environmental control system inside the building is prepared," the official pointed out.
The idea of relocating the boat was raised by the Egyptian culture ministry in 2002 and later by the antiquities ministry, but after studies they concluded that it was too risky to relocate the fragile artifact.
In his remarks, Atef Moftah, supervisor general of the GEM project, clarified that the purpose of relocating the boat was to get rid of the visual disturbance caused by the old museum at Giza Plateau and provide a better view of the southern side of Khufu's pyramid.
Moftah explained how hard it was to move the ancient vessel that was placed inside the steel cage and carefully position it by a crane on top of two self-propelled modular trailers (SPMTs). "It was like a 16-story building lying down on a trailer."
"The two SPMTs and the steel cage weighed together about 300 tonnes and had to cover a distance of 8.5 or 9 km in very steep slopes," said the GEM project chief, noting that they conducted two complete trials before moving the boat.
The GEM's conservation center was in charge of dismantling the removable parts of the boat, such as its 12 paddles, ahead of relocation.
"Our conservation center is one of the largest worldwide. Its team leads the archeological works inside Khufu's boat, in terms of restoration, sterilization, dismantling and packing the paddles," Eissa Zidan, head of antiquities conservation and transportation affairs at the GEM, told Xinhua.
There is another boat of King Khufu discovered near the first one back then, yet its pieces remained in their hole for decades and the conservation center is currently working on restoring them in cooperation with foreign experts.
"As for the second boat, extracting all the wooden parts from the hole was completed. They are 1,700 wooden pieces so far, of which 1,600 have been restored and 1,300 have been moved to the conservation center," Zidan said.
He added that the second boat will be assembled soon after the building is completed, so that both boats will be displayed side by side.