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Ancient Egyptian Hull Construction

Cheryl Haldane
Dissertation: May 1993
Chair: Bass
Nautical Archaeology Program


Nautical archaeological resources from ancient Egypt provide the most complete picture of boatbuilding traditions in the ancient world before the Classical period. Models, representations, economic and religious texts, and more than 20 wooden hulls allow us to trace the development of nautical technology in Egypt between 5,000 and 2,500 years ago. Although contact with Nubia, Palestine, and Syria is attested from the beginnings of the Early Dynastic Period, the idiosyncrasies of Egyptian hull construction, when viewed in light of later Mediterranean traditions, imply independent development and persistent use of native techniques to fasten planks and create stable, sturdy hulls.

By studying how Egyptian hulls were built, and where they fit into the fabric of society, we can gain some sense of the complex solutions to practical problems faced by Egyptian shipwrights. Whether swift warships, giant cargo carriers, elaborate wooden imitations of papyrus rafts, or heavily laden seagoing vessels, Egyptian watercraft incorporated design and technological features as complex, and durable, as those of the more visible stone monuments of ancient Egypt.

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