« PrécédentContinuer »
wind generally blows from the N.W., it seldom happens that the sail can be used in going down the Nile, and in a strong wind the mast and rigging are so great an incumbrance, that the boat is unable to make much way against it with oars.
The heavy boats of burden, which from their great size cannot be propelled by oars, are suffered to retain their masts and sails, and float down the river sideways at the rate of the stream, advantage being taken of the wind whenever the bends of the river permit; and the large germs, used for carrying corn during the inundation, are only employed when the water is very deep, and are laid up the rest of the year, and covered with matting from the sun. These, therefore, form exceptions to the ordinary boats of the Nile, and may be considered similar to some represented in the sculptures of Tel el Amarna; which are fastened to the shore by several large ropes, and are shown from the size of their cabins, the large awning in front for covering the goods they carried, and the absence of oars, to have been of unusual dimensions.
In the one given in the preceding wood-cut, from a tomb at Eileithyias, the size of the cabin, the horses taken on board with the chariot, and its height out of water, show that the common travelling boat was large and commodious; and we see that the cabin, as usual, was in the centre, with room enough on each side for the rowers to sit between it and the gunwale.
Large boats had generally one, small pleasure-boats two rudders, at the stern. The former traversed upon a beam, between two projecting heads, a short pillar or mast supporting it, and acting as the centre on which it moved; the latter were nearly the same in principle, except that they turned on a bar, or in a ring, by which they were suspended to the gunwale at either side and in both instances the steersman directed them by means of a rope fastened to the upper extremity. The rudders consisted of a long broad blade and still longer handle; evidently made in imitation of the oars, by which they originally steered their boats, before they had so far improved them as to adopt a fixed rudder; and in order to facilitate its motion upon the mast or pillar, and to avoid the friction of the wood, a piece of bull's
hide was introduced, as is the custom in the modern boats, between the mast and yard.
The oar was a long round wooden shaft, to which a flat board, either oval, circular, or of diamond shape, was fastened; the same as still used on the Ganges, and in the Arabian Gulf. It turned either on a toll-pin, or in a ring, fastened to the gunwale of the boat; and the rowers sat on the deck, on benches, or on low seats, or stood or knelt to the oar, sometimes pushing it forwards, sometimes, and indeed more generally, pulling it, as is the modern custom in Egypt, and most other countries.
At the head of the boat a man usually stood, with a long pole in his hand, to sound every now and then, and prevent its running upon any of the numerous sandbanks in the river (which, from their often changing at the time of the inundation, are not always known to the most skilful pilot); a precaution adopted not always in time by the modern boatmen of the Nile.
That the ancient Egyptian boats were built with ribs, like those of the present day, is sufficiently proved by the rude models discovered in the tombs of Thebes. It is probable that they had very little keel, in order to enable them to avoid the sand-banks, and to facilitate their removal from them when they struck; and, indeed, if we may judge from the models, they appear to have been flat-bottomed. The boats now used on the Nile have a very small keel, particularly at the centre, where it is concave; so that when the head strikes, they put to the helm, and the hollow part clears the bank: except in those cases where the impetus is too great, or the first warning is neglected.
The sails of the ancient boats appear to have been always square, with one yard above; and none below in those of the oldest construction; this last having been introduced when they abandoned the double mast of early times. The square sail is still retained in Ethiopia, where it is furled by forcibly rolling up the lower yard in the sail; but in Egypt the only modern boats with square sails are a sort of lighter, employed for conveying stones from the quarries to Cairo and other places; and these have only a yard at the top. All other boats have latine or triangular-shaped sails, which, in order to catch the wind when the Nile is low, are made of immense
size: for unless they reach above its lofty banks, they are often prevented from benefiting by a side wind at that season of the year; but the number of accidents which occur are a great objection to the use of such disproportionate sails.
The cabins of the Egyptian pleasure-boats were lofty and spacious; but even in the smallest they did not extend over the whole breadth of the boat, as they do in the modern cangias, and merely occupied the centre; the rowers sitting on either side, generally on a bench or stool. They were made of wood, with a door in front, or sometimes on one side, and they were painted within and without with numerous devices, in brilliant and lively colours. The same custom continued to the latest times, long after the conquest of the country by the Romans; and when the Arabs invaded Egypt in 638, under Amer, the general of the Caliph Omer, one of the objects which struck them with surprise was the gay appearance of the painted boats of the Nile.
The lotus was one of their favourite devices, as on their furniture, the ceilings of rooms, and other places, and it was very common on the blade of the rudder, where it was frequently repeated at both ends, together with the eye of Osiris. But the place considered peculiarly suited to the latter emblem was the bow of the boat; and the custom is still retained in some countries to the present day. In India and China it is very general; and we even see the small barks that ply in the harbour of Malta bearing the eye on their bows, in the same manner as the boats of ancient Egypt. The Egyptians, however, appear to have confined it to boats used in the funeral ceremonies.
Streamers were occasionally attached to the pole of the rudder, and a standard was erected near the head of the vessel; the latter generally a sacred animal, a sphinx, or some emblem connected with religion or royalty, like those belonging to the infantry; and sometimes the top of the mast bore a shrine, or feathers, the symbol of the deity to whose protection they committed themselves during their voyage.
There is a striking resemblance, in some points, between the boats of the ancient Egyptians and those of India; and the form of the stern, the principle and construction of the rudder, the
cabins, the square sail, the copper eye on each side of the head, the line of small squares at the side, like false windows,* and the shape of the oars of boats used on the Ganges, forcibly call to mind those of the Nile, represented in the paintings of the Theban tombs.
The head and stern of the Egyptian pleasure-boats were usually ornamented with, or terminated in the shape of, a flower richly painted; in the boats of burden they were destitute of ornament, and simply rounded off; and I have met with two only in which there was any resemblance to a beak. But this was in Nile boats, and is a mode of construction common in those of the present day. Nor are the ships of war, represented at Medeenet Haboo, furnished with beaks.
At the head, a forecastle frequently projected above the deck, in which the man who held the fathoming pole sometimes stood, and which answered as a small lock-up box, like the hôn of modern Nile boats; and occasionally there was at the
stern another of similar form, where the steersman sat.t were both very generally adopted in the war galleys‡; where they were found of great service: the archers profiting by these
+ Woodcut 402, a and e. Woodcut 351, vol. i. p. 412.
commanding positions to rake the enemy's decks, as they bore down upon a hostile galley.
There are no instances of boats with a rudder at both ends, said to have been used by some ancient nations; nor have any more than one mast and a single sail. Sometimes the rudder, instead of traversing in a groove, merely rested on the taffrel, and was suspended and secured by a rope, or band; but that imperfect method was confined to boats used in religious ceremonies on the Nile. The mallet and pegs for fastening the boat to the bank were kept in a particular place in the bows, as well as the landing plank, which were always in readiness, and under the surveillance of the man at the prow.
In some boats of burden, the cabin, or raised magazine, was very large, being used for carrying cattle, horses, and numerous stores; and it was sometimes made of open framework. As they often quitted these boats, to fetch other cattle, or to put them ashore, a boy was left on board to take charge of the stores; but this was not the only precaution: a dog was also kept tied up in the magazine; and its utility was often shown when the idle boy either wandered away during the absence of his masters, or fell asleep; for either of which delinquencies he was, if found out, liberally treated to the stick.* Both the sleeping underling and the bastinado are common representations in the paintings.
Unlike the modern Egyptians, they paid great attention to the cleanliness of their boats, the cabins and decks being frequently washed and swept; and this the Theban artists thought of sufficient importance to be indicated in the sculptures.
Herodotus states that the mast was made of the acanthus (Acacia, or Mimosa, Nilotica); but the trunk and limbs of this tree are not sufficiently long or straight; and for that purpose they doubtless preferred the fir, with which they were well acquainted, great quantity of the wood being annually imported into Egypt from Syria. The planks, the ribs, and the keel were of the acacia, which, from its resisting the effect of water for a length of time, was found well adapted for this purpose, as is fully proved by