November 2, 2012

Sea Voyages in Ancient Egypt

Sea Voyages
Ancient Egyptian ships sailed across the Mediterranean Sea (the ‘Great Green’) from earliest times, and also down the Red Sea to the remote waters of Punt, and the southern side of the Gulf of Aden. They were sea worthy vessels with long hull, high curved stern with two rudders situated on each side of it, a single mast held by four ropes and a wide sail not much different from river craft but modified for added stresses. The Egyptian fleet was a familiar sight at Byblos, on the Phoenician coast. Cedar grew abundantly on the wooded slopes of Lebanon and there was an active exchange of ancient Egyptian products for timber, particularly, and other items of the east.

So strong was Egyptian influence on the Phoenician coast that an Egyptian temple was erected in Byblos in the 4th dynasty and many objects inscribed with the names of pharaohs have been found in both town and harbour areas. In Sahure’s Sun Temple a relief depicts the timber fleet returning to Egypt with Semitic-Syrians aboard, their arms uplifted in homage to the pharaoh. Sahure also sent ancient Egyptian ships to Punt and, indeed, navigation down the Red Sea was more frequent than is usually supposed.

As no waterway linked the Egyptian Nile and the Red Sea, ships were constructed in the Delta, usually on the easterly branch of the river near Bubastis, where vessels of shallow draught could be towed during the inundation through the Wadi Tumilat towards the Eastern Marshes. It was whilst engaged in building a ship in the Delta that a caravan-leader and the troop with him were murdered by Bedouin tribes. Pepi-Nakht, a competent nobleman, was sent for all the way from Elephantine to resolve the problem and recover the body.

Some vessels may have sailed on a direct route between By bios and Punt, a journey that would have required them to navigate southwards through the most easterly branch of the Nile towards Bubastis, through the Wadi Tumilat to the Eastern Marshes and thence southwards through the Gulf of Suez to the Red Sea. A ‘Byblos ship’ meant a seaworthy vessel. On the western shore of the Red Sea they would pick up foot convoys which had made their way from Elephantine to Coptos (the point where the Egyptian Nile most closely approaches the Red Sea), and thence through the dried-out river bed of the Wadi Hammamat (where mineral mines were located) to the coast to join the southward-bound vessels. The frequency of expeditions to Punt is apparent from the tomb text of a subordinate official from Elephantine, who recorded that he accompanied his lord on a dozen occasions. The imports from one journey alone were 81,000 measures of myrrh, some 6,100 weight of electrum and 2,700 staves of ebony.

Related Web Search :
  • Sea Voyages
  • Voyages of The Sea


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