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Friday, February 25, 2011

Evidence for Pharaonic Seagoing Ships in Egypt

I recently stumbled upon an article by The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology entitled Evidence for Pharaonic Seagoing Ships at Mersa/Wadi Gawasis, Egypt, written by Sheryl Ward and Chiara Zazzaro.

Sheryl Ward is from the Department of Anthropology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida and Chiara Zazzaro is from the Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, UK.

If you weren't aware of the archaeological data collected at the site, this article is a great resource.

In a nutshell............

During the late 1970’s, excavation at Gawasis turned up “cut-off ends of thick cedar planks with paired, unlocked mortise-and-tenon joints, abundant food-storage ceramics and painted ostraka, and unfinished anchors” (Ward and Zaaaro 2010:2). Further survey and excavations by Kathryn Bard and Rodolfo Fattovich led to the discovery of a complex of rooms as well as areas to bake bread and fire pottery. This area of Gawasi was believed to be the staging area for long boating trips on the Red Sea. Evidence collected sought to explain the past naval prestige of the Egyptians.

Wooden planks were discovered, specifically Nile acacia and sycomore fig, along with mortise and tenon joints in Cave 1. Caves 2, 3, 4 and 6 produced over a “1000 wood-debris fragments in general lots from stratigraphic units”. There were 54 different ship components discovered at the site including transverse timbers, hull and deck planks, fastenings and debitage, and auxiliary equipment.

The caves at Gawasi yielded only wooden fragments and planks used for flooring. Few artifacts were found within caves other than wood remains and the extensive cordage deposit.

Reconstructions of the ships harvest fascinating construction processes. Beam fastenings were used and planks were fitted flush together like a jigsaw puzzle, allowing no water to seep into the ship. Consequently, “the nature of the site, with intensive discard and recycling processes, made it difficult to determine whether finds came from ships, ship equipment and fittings, boxes, or furniture remains, as all were represented” (Ward and Zaaaro 2010:8).

Ward, Sheryl and Chiara Zazzaro
2010 Evidence for Pharaonic Seagoing Ships at Mersa/Wadi Gawasis, Egypt. The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 39.1: 27–43


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