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Ancient Ships: The Ships of Antiquity

The Boats and Ships of Egypt


Guebel el-Arak dagger
Probably from Guebel el-Arak, south of Abydos
c. 3300-3200 BC (Nagada II)
Silex blade and ivory handle (hippopotamus tooth)
H 25.5 cm; H of handle 4.5 cm

Similar daggers to this with finely carved handles can be found elsewhere, but the scenes depicted here are unique. On one side there is a battle scene on land and water; the other side depicts animals such as lions, ibexes and dogs. At the top, above the knob, a man in the robes of a Sumerian priest-king is restraining two rampant lions. The piece raises questions about artistic contacts with Mesopotamia. It could depict a battle between communities whose differences can be seen in the design of their boats. What is certain is that it is an early example of Egyptian bas-relief and it is carved with great mastery. The silex is worked with a polished blade cut on one side by thin parallel incisions; this is carving at its most refined, and characteristic of this period of Egyptian civilization.

Ceremonial Boats and Egyptian ships , First Intermediate period, circa 2280 BCE



The Egyptians had little use for roads the Nile river was their highway.     

Models from the second millennium BCE of fishing boats that show a sickle shaped hull. The paddlers appear to be sitting upon and not in the craft that would be the case if the boats were of reed raft construction. The ancient Egyptians faithfully recorded the daily life of their culture in their art leaving a historic legacy that leaves little to guess work.  Similar mbost models were found by Howard carter in the Tutankamen tomb.

Commuter traffic on the Nile 1500BCE 


Egyptian Boat images
are from the web site
Virtual Egypt



Funerary Barge, Polychrome wood boat models and Solar Boat Pectorals from the Tutankhamun Tomb, symbolically and in allegory the Egyptians embraced the cycle of the sun a natural reflection of the cycle of life. The sun is as manís spirit; the sun is the spirit of the day as a manís spirit is the light of his life.

These models of the ancient boats and ships of Egypt were created by Egyptian artisans at the historic time the boats were being used. The Egyptian culture documented activities at all levels within their culture and these represent excellent illustrations of the actual boats and ships used in daily life of the Egyptians. 




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