May 2006

Timbers From Ancient Egyptian Ships Found In Caves On Red Sea

AZBW NEWS SERVICE — The oldest remains of seafaring ships in the world have been found in manmade caves in the Egyptian desert at the edge of the Red Sea.

Florida State University professor Cheryl Ward said she has determined that wooden planks found in the caves are 4,000 years old — making them the world’s most ancient ship timbers.

Shipworms that had tunneled into the planks indicated that the ships had weathered a voyage of several months, likely to the fabled southern Red Sea trading center of Punt — a place 1,000 miles to the south — which is referenced in hieroglyphs on empty cargo boxes found in the caves, Ward said.

The site is like a mothballed military base, and the artifacts there tell a story of some of the best organized administrators the world has ever seen, Ward said. "It’s a site that has kept its secrets for 40 centuries."

Ward said she believes that the ships were built at a shipyard along the Nile, disassembled and taken some 90 miles across the desert to Wadi Gawasis, a lagoon on the Red Sea, where the parts were assembled and the ships launched.

Along with the timbers and cargo boxes, Ward said they found stone anchors, pieces of storage jars and more than 80 coils of rope in the caves at the Wadi Gawasis site, which is a few miles south of the city of Port Safaga.

Ward said that she and other researchers plan to return to Egypt next year to continue the exploration of the Wadi Gawasis site.