The Controversial Saqqara Bird
The Saqqara Bird is an artefact that was found in Egypt near the Saqqara Pyramid in 1898, during the excavation of the Padiimen tomb. The artefact, which resembles a bird, has been the topic of many debates and many explanations.
This interesting artefact is made of wood and estimated to be about 2200 years old. Though its shape resembles a bird, it more closely resembles a modern airplane with the head of a bird. Furthermore, the hieroglyphs on the model airplane read ‘The Gift of Amon’, and three papyrus found near the artefact mentioned the phrase ‘I want to fly’. All these characteristics sparked Dr Khalil Messiha, the physician who discovered the artefact in 1898, to speculate that the ancient Egyptians first made it as a model of an aircraft they either built or witnessed. He claimed that the Saqqara Bird had aerodynamic qualities and that the only thing missing from the bird was the tail wing stabilizer with which, he speculated, it would have been capable of flying. To support his claims, Messiha built a balsa wood model and added the tail, surprised to see that the model indeed could fly. In 2006, Simon Sanderson, an Aviation and Aerodynamics expert, also constructed a replica of the Saqqara Bird and tested its aerodynamic in a wind tunnel, but without the tail. The result was that it could produce four times its weight in lift.
However, another attempt to test the flying capabilities of the Saqqara bird performed in 2002 by glider designer Martin Gregorie produced different results. He created a balsa wood model and his conclusions were that without a tail wing stabilizer it was unable to fly, and even with the tail the performance was disappointing, suggesting that it was probably meant to be a toy. Mainstream archaeologists support that the artefact is nothing but an actual bird that—by ‘coincidence’—resembles a glider. And although its function is unknown, most of them agree that it was a part of a mast-head that was used on sacred boats.
We know that the Egyptians built an advanced civilization and were experts in architecture, engineering and art. Is it possible that this was a model constructed in an effort to create a flying machine? The papyrus found next to the object, as well as the special characteristics of the Saqqara Bird, would probably reject the naïve opinion that it was designed to be a mere toy. Taking into account that the bird depicted cannot be found anywhere in nature, it is possible to imagine that the ancient Egyptians could have seen something in the air, perhaps some kind of flying machine that they couldn’t comprehend, thus transferring the bird-face to the object.
By John Black
Khalil Messiha did not find the item in 1898