Washington, June 22 : Ancient rigging ropes discovered three years back by archaeologists in an Egyptian cave, are offering an unprecedented look at seafaring activities in ancient Egypt.
According to a report in Discovery News, the ropes were found in the form of a tangle of cord coils in a cave by archaeologists Rodolfo Fattovich of the Oriental Studies University of Naples and Kathryn Bard of Boston University, three years ago.
Carefully wrapped in coils by ancient Egyptian sailors almost 4,000 years ago, the ropes were found in a hand-hewn cave at the ancient Red Sea port of Marsa Gawasis, 23 kilometers (14 miles) south of Safaga.
"The cave is really spectacular. Over 30 coils of ropes lie on the ground as if they had just been left there," said archaeologist and rope analyst Andre Veldmeijer.
"Amazingly, these ropes were stored in the same way as nowadays sailors store their shipping cords -- just coiling and tighting them in the middle," he added.
"No ropes on this scale and this old have been so well preserved in their original context -- in Egypt or elsewhere," said Bard.
In their report, Veldmeijer and colleague Chiara Zazzaro of the University of Naples, estimated that more than 60 complete coils of cords are stored in the long, deep cave.
"Each cord is about 30 meters (98 feet) long and is very thick. No doubt these ropes were made for strong, heavy duties," said Veldmeijer.
"Basically, they were hauling truss components. They ran above the deck, secured at the bow and at the stern, to produce structural cohesion for the ship," he added.
The theory is supported by the fact that the estimated length of the Egyptian ships is about 10 meters (33 feet) shorter than the ropes' lengths. This shows that sailors had five meters (16 feet) at both ends to tie the ropes.
The site abounds with man-made caves cut into the rock. They all seem to be filled with seafaring remains.
"We found remains of ship timbers, anchors, expedition equipment, cargo boxes and pottery. Analysis has shown that these caves contain the world's oldest maritime artifacts," said Fattovich.
As for the ropes, the researchers believe they are the well-preserved riggings from an Egyptian seafaring expedition to the fabled Land of Punt (around present-day Somalia), in the 12th Dynasty, almost 4,000 years ago.
"We found hieroglyphic texts about these expeditions, and even some materials brought back from Punt, such as ebony, obsidian and pottery from eastern Sudan, Eritrea and Yemen," said Bard.
"We are now excavating the harbor area. Other ship remains are coming to light. This is such an important site. There is much more to discover," said Fattovich.