Egyptian funeral boats, wood, 20th century BCE
Curator: Avshalom Zemer
The lands of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea were always connected with the sea and the rivers. Already in the earliest periods boats traversed the rivers and the coasts of the sea. In these lands was born and developed the art of seafaring, at least as far as the western world is concerned.
Shipping was a factor of great importance on historical developments in the ancient world, because since the dawn of history men lived along the banks of the great rivers - the Nile in Egypt and the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia - and along the coasts of the Red Sea. In the Mediterranean which is calm most of the year, the many bays and sun - filled islands served as a hot-house for the development of shipping. In each region shipping developed according to the special topographical conditions, the raw materials available for ship building and the conditions of the waterways in the area.
The first papyrus boats were built along the banks of the Nile. The forests of the North provided wood for rafts and hollowed-out canoes which crossed the waters of the Mediterraneans shores and layed the foundations for trade. From the Nile ships passed through a canal to the Red Sea, and from the Mediterranean they sailed through the Pillars of Hercules to the unknown waters of the sea beyond. (For additional information, see Shipping and Seafaring in Egypt).
The inhabitants of these lands have preserved their connection to the sea on rock drawings, funerary objects, reliefs and boat models, as well as in legends and poetry. All these are evidence of the daily attempts of man in the conquest of the sea, and his early experience in seeing the sea as a highway of communication and not as a dividing border.