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whom the boatmen delighted in displaying their skill. These too
Papyrus boats are frequently noticed by ancient writers. Plutarch describes Isis going in search of the body of Osiris “through the fenny country, in a bark made of the papyrus, whence it is supposed that persons using boats of this description are never attacked by crocodiles, out of fear and respect to the goddess; and Moses is said to have been exposed in "an ark (or boat) of bulrushes, daubed with slime and with pitch." From this last we derive additional proof that the body of such boats was composed of rushes, which were bound together with the papyrus; and the mode of rendering them impervious to water is satisfactorily pointed out by the coating of pitch with which they were covered. Nor can there be any doubt that pitch was known in Egypt at that time, since we find it on objects which have been preserved of the same early date; and the Hebrew word zift is precisely the same as that used for "pitch" by the Arabs to the present day. It was also applied by the ancient Egyptians to "bitumen."
Pliny mentions boats "woven of the papyrus," the rind being made into sails, curtains, matting, ropes, and even into cloth; and observes elsewhere that the papyrus, the rush, and the reed, were all used for making boats in Egypt.
"Vessels of bulrushes are again mentioned in Isaiah : Lucan alludes to the mode of binding or sewing them with bands of papyrus; and Theophrastus notices boats made of the papyrus,
Making a papyrus boat.
Tomb at the Pyramids.
and sails and ropes of the rind of the same plant. That small boats were made of these materials is certain; and the sculptures of Thebes, Memphis, and other places, abundantly show that they were employed as punts, or canoes, for fishing in all parts of Egypt during the inundation of the Nile, particularly in the lakes and canals of the Delta. And the "Memphite bark bound together with the papyrus," that Lucan describes, is figured in the Memphite sculptures, as well as on the monuments of Upper Egypt.
There was another kind, in one of which Strabo crossed the Nile to the Island of Philæ, “made of thongs so as to resemble wicker-work; " but it does not appear from his account whether it was formed of reeds bound together with thongs, or was like those made in Armenia, and used for going down the river to Babylon, which Herodotus describes, of osiers covered with hides (like British coracles), and which are represented on the Nimroud marbles. Strabo also mentions another, used on the canals during the inundation, of still more simple construction, in which, if we might substitute, what is probable, earthenware bottles or gourds for shells, we should recognise a modern Egyptian custom.
The Armenian boats were merely employed for transporting goods down the current of the Euphrates, and on reaching Babylon were broken up, the hides being put upon the asses which had been taken on board for this purpose, and the traders returning home by land. "They were round, in the form of a shield, without either head or stern, the hollow part of the centre being filled with straw." "Some were large, others small, and the largest were capable of bearing 5000 talents weight." They were, therefore, very different from the boats reported by the same historian to have been made in Egypt for transporting goods up the Nile, which he describes as being built in the form of ordinary boats, with a keel and a mast and sails.
"The Egyptian boats of burthen," he says, are made of a thorn wood, very similar to the lotus of Cyrene, from which a tear exudes, called gum. Of this tree they cut planks measuring about two cubits, and having arranged them like bricks, they build the boat in the following manner :-They fasten the planks round firm long pegs, and, after this, stretch over the surface a series of
girths, but without any ribs; and the whole is bound within by pands of papyrus. A single rudder is then put through the keel, and a mast of thorn-wood, and sails of the papyrus (rind), complete the rigging. These boats can only ascend the stream with a strong wind, unless they are towed by ropes from the shore; and, when coming down the river, they are provided with a hurdle made of tamarisk, sewed together with reeds, and a stone about two talents weight, with a hole in the centre. The hurdle is fastened to the head of the boat, and allowed to float on the water: the stone is attached to the stern, so that the former, carried down the river by the rapidity of the stream, draws after it the baris (for such is the name of these vessels), and the latter, dragged behind, and sinking into the water, serves to direct its course. They have many of these boats, some of which carry several thousand talents weight."
That boats of the peculiar construction he here describes were really used in Egypt is very probable; they may have been employed to carry goods from one town to another, and navigated in the manner he mentions; but we may be allowed to doubt their carrying several thousand talents, or many tons, weight; and we have the evidence of the paintings of Upper and Lower Egypt to show that the large boats of burthen were made of wooden planks, which men are seen cutting with saws and hatchets, and afterwards fastening together with nails and pins; and they were furnished with spacious cabins like those of modern Egypt. Those with planks, put together in the form of bricks, are also represented in the time of the 12th dynasty; but the use of the mallet and chisel, and the pins hammered into the holes to fasten the planks, show that they were not dependent on papyrus bands for their security; their construction was very like that of the modern Egyptian boats; and Herodotus has confounded the papyrus punt with the boat of burthen.
Pliny even goes farther than Herodotus, and speaks of papyrus vessels crossing the sea, and visiting the Isle of Taprobane* (Ceylon), which would throw the Chinese junk of modern days very far into the shade.
*Plin. vi. 22.
But though punts and canoes of osiers, papyrus, or reeds, may have been used on some occasions, as they still are, on the Nile and the lakes of Egypt, we know that the Egyptians had strong and well built vessels for the purposes of trade by sea, and for carrying merchandise, corn, and other heavy commodities on the Nile; and that, even if they had been very bold and skilful navigators, they would not have ventured to India, nor have defeated the fleets of Phoenicia, in their “
The sails, when made of the rind of the papyrus, were similar to those of the Chinese, which fold up like our Venetian blinds; but there is only one boat represented in the paintings, which appears to have sails of this kind, though so many are introduced there. It is of very early date; and we cannot readily believe that a people, noted for their manufactures of linen and other cloths, would have preferred so imperfect a substitute as the rind of a plant, especially as they exported sail-cloth to Phoenicia for that very purpose.
The construction of the various boats used on the Nile varied, according to the purposes for which they were intended. The punts or canoes being either pushed with a pole, or propelled with a paddle, † had no mast, nor even rudder; and many of the small boats, intended merely for rowing, were unprovided with a mast or sails. They were also without the raised cabin, common in large sailing boats, and the rowers appear to have been seated on the flat deck, which covered the interior from the head to the stern, pushing instead of pulling the oars, contrary to the usual custom in boats of larger dimensions. The absence of a mast did not altogether depend on the size of the boat, since those belonging to fishermen, which were very small, were often furnished with a sail, besides three or four oars; and some large boats, intended for carrying cattle and heavy goods, were sometimes without
In going up the Nile, they used the sail, whenever the wind
* Ezekiel xxvii. 7, In the lamentation of Tyre, "Fine linen, with broidered work from Egypt, was that which thou spreadest forth to be thy sail." + See Contest of boatmen, woodcut 228, fig. 1.
See Fishing scene, woodcut 420, part 1 a, in Chapter VIII.
a b, two boats, fastened to the bank by the ropes and pegs ff; in the cabin of one a man inflicts the bastinado on a boatman. He is one of the stewards of the estate, and is accompanied by his dog. In the other boat is a cow, and a net of hay or chopped straw (e), precisely the same as the shenfeh now used in Egypt.
was favourable; occasionally rowing, in those parts where the windings of the river brought it too much upon the bows; for it is probable that, like the modern Egyptians, they did not tack; and when the wind was contrary, or during a calm, they generally employed the tow-line, which was pulled by men on shore.
401. A boat with the mast and sail taken down, having a chariot and horses on board. Eileithyias.
After they had reached the southernmost point of their journey up the stream, the sail was no longer considered necessary; and the mast and yards being taken down, were laid over the top of the cabin, or on a short temporary mast, with a forked summit; precisely in the same way as at the present day, on board the cangias, and other masted rowing boats of Egypt. For as the