A Short Summary Of Ancient North African Ship Designing

By Gamal Rasheed

The great River Nile is a generous gift of nature to the land of Egypt. It serves as a suitable route for transport of goods and for travelling in Egypt. Thus, boat-building became essential for this, and boats were constructed in a variety of models each to serve a specific purpose.

Although the primary intention behind boat-making was transport, it was also used for fishing purposes and for recreational activities. The ancient scripts of Egypt consisting of hieroglyphics depict a pictorial display of these boats. Through these representations, it is obvious that they also signify mythology and religion.

Archaeologists have not been able to find out many actual remnants of boats from the old Kingdom. However a number of remains were unearthed in Abydos and Tarkhan. Perhaps the best living example of ancient Egyptian boat designs was discovered in the form of King Khufu's ship. This ship has been among the prime examples through which historians have been able to learn how the Egyptians created the ships in that period of time.

Construction styles of the boats from the earliest dynasty were found in many regions of Abydos. Studies of these remains show that the boats were constructed with a good plan. Having a width of 3 meters, a length of 25 meters and a depth as small as 60 centimeters, they had enough place for about 30 people to row. The stern of the boat, in addition to the prow had a typical tapering effect through the length of the boat. Archaeological studies clearly show that remarkable paintings were done on the surface of the boats for decoration.

The boats were made of wood which caused them to decay eventually and therefore historians were not able to conduct an intensive analysis. The opinion of the majority is that the wood used for Egyptian boats during the first dynasty was cedar.

The technical ways of construction have also been determined by archaeologists. Trees were cut and then wooden planks were made. These were lashed and smoothed by vigorous scrubbing and then a mortise was used to complete the process. After the structure was erected, the tiny seams were sealed by using many reeds. This prevented water from entering the boats. If the covering of the boat was removed, it can be seen that the shape is not perfect, because they did not use any supportive frame as in today's boats.

Plenty of Egyptian boats and ships are portrayed in their ancient script of hieroglyphics. Many of them are pictorially represented on the temple walls and tombs of Deir el Bahri and Medinet Habu. These monuments are well-known for the wide range of ancient Egyptian boats displayed on their walls.

It is through these hieroglyphics that historians have been able to assess the boat making tradition in ancient Egypt more than the actual remains which have been discovered. Nonetheless historians have not much information about how the ships were constructed in the new Kingdom.

The state gave importance to boat and ship construction. Rulers such as Pharaoh Snefru promoted this task by supporting them. This also enabled them to strengthen the Navy. Boats were also built for fishing and leisure time activities.

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