Obituaries : Kamal el-Mallakh; Probed Egypt Ruins

From Times Wire Services

An Egyptologist who discovered Pharaoh Cheops’ 4,600-year-old funeral boat next to his Great Pyramid at Giza, has died of a heart attack. He was 69.

News of the death of Kamal el-Mallakh, at his Cairo apartment Thursday night was given front-page prominence in state-owned newspapers, including Al-Ahram, of which he was associate editor.

In addition to being an archeologist and a journalist, El-Mallakh also was an architect, movie critic and author. He wrote several novels and four booklets about Cairo, its museums and landmarks and in 1978 published “The Gold of Tutankhamun,” a lavishly illustrated text on the opening of King Tut’s tomb.


In 1954, El-Mallakh discovered two pits just south of the Great Pyramid at Giza on Cairo’s western outskirts. He opened one, and inside he found Cheops’ first boat, the oldest wooden relic of ancient Egypt’s Old Kingdom.

Cheops, also known as Khufu, founded the Fourth Dynasty in 2680 BC and ruled for 23 years.

The boat, found in several layers of mainly cedar boards, was reassembled over an 11-year period. For five years it has been on display, suspended over its pit in a glass museum.

El-Mallakh maintained that a nearby pit contained another boat. His theory was that the two boats were to ferry Cheops’ soul on a perpetual circle through the heavens, one for daytime and the other for the night.

Other archeologists doubted the second pit contained a boat. But an American team from the National Geographic Society discovered just weeks ago that the pit indeed contained a boat, its parts disassembled and stacked up.

Although he criticized the National Geographic project, saying “the pit is too important to be experimented with only because of a magazine article,” El-Mallakh said he had “been vindicated.”

He also was credited with discovering in 1972 a papyrus document about 4,000 years old written in Aramaic--the language of Christ--which told of a Syrian invasion of Egypt.