Ancient Egyptian Boats
Egyptians pioneered the development of river craft and there were many different types built for various uses. Agricultural produce, troops, cattle, stone and funeral processions were all carried on the Nile and its canals. These boats were made of bundles of bound papyrus reeds. Papyrus is different from paper because papyrus is a laminated material made from thinly cut strips from the stalk of Cyprus Papyrus plant. It was believed to be first used about 4000 B.C., and became Egypt's major exports.
There were many types of boats that Egyptians used. Papyrus boats were used by Egyptians. Papyrus boats were built with bundles of papyrus. They were steered with oars. Sailboats were used a lot by Egyptians. Sailboats were steered by two oars. Sailboats usually only had one square sail. Funeral boats carried dead people down river. They were used to carry the dead across the Nile River. The funeral boats were very elaborate.
The earliest record of a ship under sail is depicted on an Egyptian pot dating back to 3200BC. These Egyptian boats were made of either native woods or conifers from Lebanon.
Papyrus boats were useful for hunting or crossing short stretches of water, using a paddle or a pole. These boats were made of bundles of bound papyrus reeds, and were lashed together into a long thin hull form in the style of a slight crescent. This lifted the ends out of the water. The bundle was made as wide as possible for stability, and an extra bundle was put on top so that the cargo and crew were kept reasonable dry. ( Reed vessels like these of Ancient Egypt are till in use in Peru today.)
Cedar was very important to the Egyptians as a boat building material. These boats were built of relatively short blocks of timber, and were braced and secured with rope lashings very much in the same style that was used in papyrus boats. This wooden model of the funery boats found at Thebes, with its two pointed ends rising out of the water, is a good example.
All the cities and towns were easily accessible by boat, and the Nile provided the perfect means of transport, since it was cheap and quick. The necessary water power was provided by the current and the wind.
Officials went up and down the Nile with stone for building projects or grain for the kings stores, and merchants carried wares for sale. Every corner of civilized Egypt could be easily could be easily reached and Egyptian traders sailed to ports in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
Funeral boats were very elegant and took the pharaoh to the grave. The funeral boats were buried with the pharaoh. The Egyptians only used chisels to cut boats from wood. It took them a very long time to make a boat. Khufu