Thursday, April 11, 2013

Egypt's King Khufu's harbour in Suez discovered

French-Egyptian archaeological mission discover the oldest commercial harbour from fourth dynasty Egyptian King Khufu at Wadi Al-Jarf area, 180 km south of Suez

by Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 11 Apr 2013

On the Red Sea shore at Wadi Al-Jarf area along the Suez-Zaafarana road, a French-Egyptian archaeological mission from the French Institute for Archaeological Studies (IFAO) stumbled upon what it believed to be the most ancient harbour ever found in Egypt.

The harbour goes back to the reign of the fourth dynasty King Khufu, the owner of the Great Pyramid in Giza Plateau. The harbour is considered one of the most important commercial harbours where trading trips to export copper and other minerals from Sinai were launched.

A collection of vessel anchors carved in stone was also discovered as well as the harbours different docks.

Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim announced that a collection of 40 papyri, showing details of daily life of ancient Egyptians during the 27th year of King Khufu’s reign, was also unearthed during excavation work carried out.
Photocredit: MSAA

“These are the oldest papyri ever found in Egypt,” asserted Ibrahim.

He also stated that these papyri are very important because it reveals more information on the ancient Egyptians’ daily life, as it includes monthly reports of the number of labours working in the harbour and details of their lives.

The papyri have been transferred to the Suez Museum for study and documentation.

French Egyptologist Pierre Tallet, director of the archaeological mission, pointed out that it is very important to carefully study the information in these papyri because it will introduce plenty of information about this period. The papyri will also show the nature of life that the ancient Egyptians once lived, their rights and duties, which we know little about, Tallet added.

The mission has also succeeded in discovering remains of workers’ houses, which reveals the importance of this harbour and area commercially whether among the different cities of Egypt or abroad, said Adel Hussein, head of the Ancient Egyptian Sector at the Ministry of State for Antiquities.

A collection of 30 caves were also discovered along with the stone blocks used to block their entrances, inscribed with King Khufu’s cartouche written in red ink. Ship ropes and stone tools used to cut ropes and wooden remains were discovered as well.



  1. There are some things that need to be asked on the port site of Wadi Jarf.
    1) Sir Wilkinson who found this site in 1823 (Royal Geographical Society, 1832, pp 33-34) said the jars found in the 30 galleries were used for the ashes of cremated remains! And he called the galleries “catacombs”, why do they not mention of this? (Wilkinson thought the Greeks, who sometimes cremated, did this but there were no ancient Greek or Roman town within 60 miles of this site.)
    2) Sir Wilkinson was a respect British archeologist and he certainly would have known what “ashes” were which he said were inside the jars. However they said the jars were for "water and food" for the port, but did they find any water or food in these jars, why did they not gave evidence for this? And why store this "5 kilometers" away from the port?
    3) There was no explanation for why "large blocks" were used to seal the entrances to these caves when they were supposed to be for "temporary" storage?
    4) They said the date from the jars was from the 4th Dynasty, but again they gave no evidence for this, why?
    5) They gave no date for the wood and cloth found at the site, why not? They could have used Carbon 14 for these, this should have been the easiest and most accurate.
    Those who have done this work at Wadi Jarf may be right about some of their findings, but it leaves some question marks as to why they do not address the findings of Sir Wilkinson, or do what is normal (C14 testing) of such discoveries.

    1. Thank you for your comments Garry! Your are right askings these questions. I don't have enough knowledge about this site to answer them, but hopefully the MSAA will keep us updated about the findings at Wadi al-Jarf. I am looking forward to hearing more about the papyri.