Mesopotamian Influence in Egypt - Part IV


Ancient canoes and ocean travel

Peoples of Oceania arrived in the area from Asia at several different periods. Human colonization of Australia, by hunters and gatherers, began at least 60,000 years ago and involved crossing at least 85 km of open water between the islands of eastern Indonesia and Australia. These are the oldest sea crossings known in human pre-history but the nature of the craft used is unknown.

Agricultural populations, with skilled techniques of canoe navigation, commenced colonization of Island Southeast Asia, western Melanesia and the Central Pacific, ca. 3,500–4,000 years ago. New Zealand was settled less than 1,000 years ago. This massive maritime dispersal of closely related people was made possible with the use of dug-out canoes, presumably equipped with an outrigger and sail.

Posted on Wed, May. 08, 2002

Lake full of ancient canoes is off-limits to logging

Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE - A lake near Gainesville where archaeologists found Indian canoes from as far back as 5,000 years ago will be off-limits to the harvesting of timber from its depths.

Citing the importance of the ancient site, Gov. Jeb Bush and the Cabinet unanimously decided Tuesday to keep so-called deadhead loggers from pulling old logs from Newnan's Lake, also known as Lake Pithlachocco.

Dozens of years ago, Florida loggers used to move timber by floating it along waterways. Some of it sank, and modern-day loggers can apply for permits to remove the valuable wood in a process known as deadhead logging.

A permit was issued in 1999 to L.C. Pinson to recover old timber from Newnan's Lake, and he started to in 2000, although by the time he started the recovery Florida was in a drought and the lake was nearly dry.

At the same time, some local high school students were working on an archaeological research project on the lake and discovered several wooden canoes buried in the muck. As the scope of the find became apparent, a state archaeologist tested the canoes and Pinson stopped logging pending the findings.

Carbon dating of 53 of the 93 canoes two years ago put them at 500 to 5,000 years old.


The remains of about 50 dugout canoes, some nearly 2,500 years old, have been found along a three-mile stretch of the Brivet River, a tributary of the Loire in central France.

Discovered during dredging operations, they are in various states of preservation. The canoes were carved out of logs or crafted from several pieces of timber. Both types vary greatly in shape and size, from long and slender to short and massive; all are between ten and 20 feet long.

Three of the best-preserved specimens have been carbon dated by a Grenoble laboratory. The oldest dates to the Late Bronze Age, between 1430 and 1210 B.C. Another, nearly intact, dates to between A.D. 970 and 1025, and one dates to the thirteenth century A.D. Some of the vessels include rope holes for mooring and anchoring and show traces of repair. Net weights, oars, and paddles have been found in the vessels. The river's weak current and heavy silting are responsible for the preservation of artifacts here over hundreds of years. The canoes were brought to the surface to be photographed, then reimmersed in a nearby pool to await funding for a proper study.--PAUL G. BAHN

D. Kemble for M.S. Allen


No nails, no metal fasteners; both Hawai`iloa and ancient canoes were held together with aho (cordage). In traditional Hawaiian culture, the art of making aho was an important skill. Lacking metal, aho was used for houses, canoes, adzes, nets, fishlines, and more. From selection of the right plant to raw material processing to the making of aho, a great deal of knowledge was needed.

To make good aho (cordage), fibers must be strong, flexible, and adhere to one another when twisted. The Hawaiians used fibers from many plants but two stand out: niu (coconut) and the native olona. `Aha (coconut sennit), was a favored choice for lashing canoes because it did not slip, and even tightened up, when wet. Nineteenth century historian Samuel Kamakau notes that when building a canoe "half the task was in making the coconut cordage".


Paris is named after the Parisii, a Celtic people who settled on the city's central island—the Île de la Cité—in the 3rd century BC. The city has since spread north and south of the Seine. The city lies in a depression. The highest elevation is 129 m (423 ft) at the summit of Montmartre in northern Paris.

Three ancient canoes discovered in Bercy point to human presence in the Paris area some 3,000 years ago. The earliest known settlement in the area, however, dates to the 3rd century BC, when the Parisii, a Celtic tribe, settled on the Île de la Cité after navigating down the Seine from the east.

The first recorded reference to the city is found in Roman general Julius Caesar's commentary on the Gallic Wars, De Bello Gallico, written in probably 51 or 50 BC.



A rock painting of the Sun
A rock painting of the
Sun found at the site.

Oldest find yet in East Timor
Thursday, 29 March  2001

A settlement twice as old as any previously known in East Timor has been identified following carbon dating from an archaeological dig.

Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) dated the shells from a cave near Tutuala village at the eastern end of the island at between 30,000 and 35,000 years old.




Solar Boat/Funerary Boat of Cheops (Khufu)

Old Kingdom, Dynasty IV; 2600-2550 BCE

Although three empty boat pits had been discovered, a fourth pit was found in 1954. Under limestone blocks and plaster, a dismantled boat was located, with both the wood preserved and ropes for rigging and matting. The reassembly took more than 10 years and the funerary boat is exhibited in its entirety near the pyramid of Cheops (Khufu). In 1987 drill holes in a fifth boat pit revealed, through a video camera lowered into the space, that another boat was preserved under thick limestone slabs.

This boat resembles paintings and models of boats that have survived since the Fourth Dynasty. The papyriform boat shape is linked with the "wia" or the boat of the sun-god. The voyage of the sun-god through creation was usually portrayed as a boat journey--as if air were the Nile river. In the sunrise, ancient Egyptians saw their own resurrection after death. It is not certain, however, that this boat was actually used in funerary rites to convey the dead pharaoh through various rituals in the stages of embalment and purification-- or if it is thus accurate to refer to it as a "solar boat." The evidence suggests that this boat was actually used in the water; and since the boat had to be dismantled to fit in the boat pit, one can assume the pit was not built for this specific boat. Christine Hobson says that "the boat had been functional, but its unwieldiness suggests it was not for travelling long distances. It may have been used as a state boat during the king's lifetime and perhaps it even carried Cheop's body to the plateau of Giza prior to its embalming and burial in the pyramid" (77).

View from the bow

The boat is 143 feet long and 19 1/2 feet wide with an estimated displacement of more than 45 tons. Hundreds of pieces of shaped wood comprise the hull which was held together with rope. Since wet wood swells and rope shrinks, the boat would become water tight in water, making caulking unnecessary. The boat had six pairs of long oars, one pair by the stern post serving as rudder oars.

The closed cabin is paneled and has palm-form capitals. The open canopy (supported by 12 poles) in front of the cabin might have been hung with cloth or mats. The small cabin at the front was probably for the captain and/or pilot's use. The boat is sometimes said to be constructed of imported cedar from Lebanon; other scholars say it was made of a wood, maybe pine, native to Egypt.

© 2001 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. (I would appreciate being told if you find them useful.) They are not available for commercial purposes without my explicit permission.



Steven A. Culbreath

"They have flat bottoms," wrote Caesar of the Gallic ships, "which enables them to sail in shallow coastal water. Their high bows and sterns protect them from heavy seas and violent storms, as do their strong hulls made entirely from oak. The cross-timbers -- beams a foot wide -- are secured with iron nails as thick as a man's thumb. Their anchors are secured with chains not ropes, while their sails are made of raw hide or thin leather, so as to stand up to the violent Atlantic winds."



The trireme itself:

its size and sophistication were amazing; the resources necessary to build and maintain a fleet of 200 were mind-boggling. [200 were replaced after a disaster in Egypt in 454 BC]


The Crews

The fleet spent 8 months at sea, with 90 ships on duty at any one time (200 for Egypt) Pay was 1 drachma a day (increased in 415 BC). Crew was 170 oarsmen + 30 "non-sailors" (10 marines, sail-crew, carpenter, helmsman, piper) + captain. Oarsmen sat in 3 tiers [Aristophanes mentions the olfactory disadvan tages of being on bottom tier during a long voyage] Training was necessary: Athens undertook many small military expeditions just to keep the oarsmen fit, although as far as skill was concerned "the majority can row as soon as they get aboard since they have practised all through their life" (The "Old Oligarch").


An ancient galley (originally Greek, afterwards also Roman) with three ranks of oars one above another, used chiefly as a ship of war. This is the main type of the warship of Mediterranean. Some researchers attribute the invention of trireme to Phoenicians, other name Corinthian Amenocc. The main weapon of trireme was battering ram - a prolongation of a keel beam. The displacement of a vessel reached 230 tons, length - 45 meters. The oars on triremes were of various length. Most strong oarsmen were placed on the upper deck. It was high-paid and privileged caste. Oarsmen of an average and lower ranks named differently. The commander of a trireme was trierarch. To him were obeyed helmsman and oarsmen chief - hortator (one who exhorts or encourages). The rate of movement of a trireme on oars came to 7 - 8 knots, but all three ranks of oars worked only during the fight. Even for want of small disturbance the lower rank of oars pulled into the ship and oar ports tightened by leather plasters. The rig consisted of a large rectangular and small sails on the sloping mast in a row of a vessel. The masts were made removable and were removed on time of fight.



The Trireme

The ancient Greek navy was one of the most powerful at the time. While the ancient Greek trireme would be no match for today's cruisers, frigates and destroyers, at the time they represented the best that naval technology had to offer.  The trireme was built for speed and mobility. The triremes were 120 feet long, small by today's standards, and were powered by 170 rowers arranged in three rows. They were built low to the ground, the bottom row of rowers were just 18 inches above the waterline, and very narrow which meant that the triremes were not built to handle open ocean. The rough seas would make short work of a trireme because of its very low weight. The triremes were built for short, close in, battles. They were not made to handle long, open ocean campaigns. However, the triremes were very fast and maneuverable which gave them a critical advantage in the close-in battles that were typical of ancient naval engagements. (Thubron 44)


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