Project Introduction

What is the "Solar Boat"?

In ancient Egypt, the boat was the most important form of transport. For that reason, “travel” for ancient Egyptian always referred to traveling by boat. To go down the Nile, people rowed oars;, on the other hand, to go up the Nile, people unfurled the sails and used the wind. This is clear in the hieroglyphs, where the sign for “travel to the south” is represented by a boat with a sail and the one for “travel to the north” is represented by a boat without a one.

Ancient Egyptian thought that universal movement of the sun was the eternal order and worshipped the sun as the sun-god “Re.” This sun-god navigated during the day with m’ndt (day-boat), and during night with msktt (night-boat). Ancient Egyptian thought that the pharaohs who were identified with the sun-god navigated riding these boats eternally. This scene was often depicted on the walls of King’s tombs.

Ancient Egyptian visualized the next world and they imagined that they could navigate over the sky and underworld everyday accompanying the sun-god. Joining the eternal navigation was one of the ways people thought they would be able to get eternal existence and life, so they depicted these boats on the walls of their tombs in hope of becoming a member of the crew of a solar boat.

Relief on the wall of KV17 (Seti I)

Relief on the wall of KV17 (Seti I)

Sun-god Re depicted with ram head navigates underworld.

Relief on the wall of KV9 (Rameses VI)

Relief on the wall of KV9 (Rameses VI)

Many solar boats were depicted on the ceiling.

Wall painting of the tomb of Snenedjem

Wall painting of the tomb of Snenedjem

Center: Sun-god Re Right: Benu-bird that has close relation to Sun-god

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