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This Miniature Boat Was Meant for King Tut's Fishing Trips in the Afterlife

The newly rediscovered mast and boat pieces belonged to the boat in the foreground, meant for King Tut’s afterlife.
The newly rediscovered mast and boat pieces belonged to the boat in the foreground, meant for King Tut’s afterlife. (Image credit: Luxor Museum)

Missing pieces of a miniature model boat buried with ancient Egyptian king Tutankhamun have been found in museum storage.

The box of artifacts packed by Howard Carter — the British archaeologist who first opened Tut's tomb in 1922 — was recently rediscovered in a storeroom at the Luxor Museum.

"It's the most exciting discovery in my career," Mohamed Atwa, the museum's director of archaeology and information, who found the box, said in a statement. "It's amazing that after all these years we still have new discoveries and new secrets for this golden king, Tutankhamun."

King Tut lived between 1341 B.C. and 1323 B.C., during Egypt's New Kingdom. He is famous today because of his tomb in the Valley of the Kings, which was discovered nearly intact and stuffed with treasures, including a golden death mask, a gilded fan, alabaster perfume vessels, a statue of the jackal-headed god Anubis, a royal chariot. [In Photos: The Life and Death of King Tut]

Atwa found the model boat pieces while gathering artifacts from Tut's tomb at the Luxor Museum in preparation for an exhibit at the Grand Egyptian Museum, a new museum near the pyramids of Giza that is scheduled to open next year.

Eissa Zidane and Mohammed Atwa looking at one of Tutankhamun's boats. (Image credit: Luxor Museum)

The box contained a wooden mast, a rigging set and a miniature wooden head covered in gold leaf that matched with a model boat boat from Tut's tomb. The objects were wrapped in a newspaper dated Sunday, Nov. 5, 1933. Museum records indicated that the box had been presumed lost since 1973.

In ancient Egypt, the tombs of the elite were often filled with wooden miniature models of the the things the dead might need in the afterlife. Model boats and their miniature crew were meant to serve the king's fishing and transportation needs.

Two months ago, conservators finished a decade-long restoration of the tomb, in which they assessed damage to the wall paintings and installed new systems like ventilators to prevent future degradation to this heavily visited archaeological site.

The model boat finding will be included in an episode of "Lost Treasures of Egypt" which aired March 5 on the National Geographic Channel.

Originally published on Live Science.

Megan Gannon
Megan Gannon
Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.