Egyptian Ships



Claim to Fame:

Egyptians built some of the earliest boats ever recorded. The first ones were made from papyrus reeds and propelled by rowing.

Date: 6000 BCE - 3000 BCE

Decorative ingot of Queen Hatshepsut's Ship

Ship of Queen Hatshepsut

Decorative ingot of Queen Hatshepsut’s Ship traveling to Punt, Part of “The Great Sailing Ships of History” series, 1973, The Franklin Mint, The Mariners’ Museum.

Some of the earliest boats ever recorded belonged to the Egyptians. Paintings depicting ships appear on ancient Egyptian vases and murals around the year 6,000 BCE. Much of Egyptian civilization developed along the Nile River, making maritime transportation essential to trade. The first ships were built with papyrus reeds and were propelled by rowers using oars. As time passed, sails appeared and wood replaced papyrus. The wooden boats were modeled after the papyrus boats: they had flat bottoms, no keels, and square sterns. The wooden planks were held together with rope, and the spaces between the planks were caulked with reeds. These were sailed in addition to being rowed. Ancient Egyptian sails were square.

Most of these ships were ships of trade; they carried Egyptian goods to other Mediterranean lands, and brought back goods from those lands to Egypt. OtherEgyptian boats were part of an Egyptiannavy. The Royal Fleet fought Egypt’s enemies, and enforced shipping law on the Nile. Individual religious temples sometimes had fleets of ships. Egyptians also used their ships for exploration. During the reign of Queen Hatshepsut, explorers visited the eastern coast of Africa. Under Rameses III, Egyptians made a crossing of the Indian Ocean.