Sunday, July 20, 2008

New camera peeps at pharaoh's 'solar' boat

Egypt has revealed a unique way of viewing a wooden boat entombed 4,500 years ago next to Giza's Great Pyramid.

The boat, a sister ship to another discovered in 1954 that has since been painstakingly excavated, can now be seen by the public thanks to a remotely controlled Japanese camera inserted through thick slabs of stone.

Scientists fear that exposure to the atmosphere would destroy the boat's fragile remains.

"This is the first time that this technology... is used to look at buried antiquities," the head of Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, said.

"This will allow us to assess their condition and look at the possibility of restoring them and taking them somewhere else," he said at the site, just metres from the Great Pyramid of Cheops.

The Japanese team from Waseda University began work in 1992 after it was discovered that insects had managed to enter the vulnerable site, where two such boats were first discovered in 1954.

But while the insects have been removed, water is now leaking from the nearby museum which houses the first "solar" boat, designed to take pharaohs to the afterlife.

"I can tell you already that [the water] has affected a small part of the wood, hence the necessity to quickly finish the study and restore the wood," Waseda University's Sakuji Yoshimura said.

The Japanese government has pledged $10 million for the archaeological study and restoration, after which both boats will be taken to a new museum being built near the pyramids.


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