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Archaeologists Find 4,000-Year-Old Egyptian Shipwrecks

An American-Italian team of archaeologists has found the remains of 4,000-year-old ships that used to carry cargo between Pharaonic Egypt and the mysterious, exotic land of Punt, the Supreme Council of Antiquities has announced.

The ships' remains were found during a five-year excavation of five caves south of the Red Sea port of Safaga, about 300 miles southeast of Cairo, the chairman of the supreme council, Zahi Hawass, said in a statement late Thursday.

The archaeologists, who came from Boston and East Naples universities, found Pharaonic seals from the era of Sankhkare Mentuhotep III, one of seven rulers of the 11th dynasty, which lasted from about 2133 B.C. to 1991 B.C..

They also found wooden boxes, covered with gypsum, bearing the inscription "Wonders of the land of Punt."

For the ancient Egyptians, Punt was a source of prized goods such as incense, ivory, ebony, gum and the hides of giraffes and panthers that were worn by temple priests.

But the precise location of Punt remains a mystery. Historians have variously placed it in Sudan, Eritrea or Somalia.

Hawass said the remains showed the ancient Egyptians were "excellent ship builders" and that they had a fleet capable of sailing to remote lands.

"All the pieces found are in good shape and they will be moved for restoration and display," Hawass added in the statement.

Other artifacts included 80 coils of rope and pieces of pottery that date to the reign of Mentuhotep III.