World's Oldest Harbor Discovered in Egypt

The world's oldest harbor complex was built during the reign of Pharaoh Khufu, whose burial chamber is the Great Pyramid of Giza. (Image credit: Agnieszka Guzowska |

The Egyptian pharaoh Khufu ruled over one of the greatest kingdoms of the ancient world.

His tomb, the Great Pyramid of Giza, is a testament to Khufu's power.

Archaeologists have now discovered a vast harbor complex — the oldest harbor ever found — that helped extend Khufu's domain, shipping copper and other minerals from Egypt to the rest of the Mediterranean world.

At some 4,500 years old, the harbor "predates by more than 1,000 years any other port structure known in the world," Pierre Tallet, Egyptologist at the University of Paris-Sorbonne and director of the archaeological mission, told Discovery News.

The harbor was constructed on the shores of the Red Sea in the Wadi al-Jarf region, about 112 miles (180 kilometers) south of Suez. The discovery was made by a French-Egyptian group from the French Institute for Archaeological Studies, reports.

In addition to dock structures, the archaeologists found several anchors carved of stone, as well as storage jars, fragments of rope and pieces of pottery.

But what has archaeologists really excited was the discovery of some beautifully preserved papyrus documents — "the oldest papyri ever found in Egypt," Mohamed Ibrahim, Minister of State for Antiquities, said in a statement. The 40 papyri detailed the daily lives of ancient Egyptians during King Khufu's 27th year of reign.

One of the most intriguing revelations is the diary of a port official named Merrer, who helped to lead the construction of the Great Pyramid.

"He mainly reported about his many trips to the Tura limestone quarry to fetch block for the building of the pyramid," Tallet told Discovery News.

"This diary provides for the first time an insight on this matter," Tallet said. Other papyri describe the bureaucracy created by Pharaoh Khufu (sometimes called Cheops) and its control over the food — mostly bread and beer — distributed to port workers.

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Marc Lallanilla
Live Science Contributor
Marc Lallanilla has been a science writer and health editor at and a producer with His freelance writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Marc has a Master's degree in environmental planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.