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girths, but without any ribs; and the whole is bound within by bands 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.
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
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