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Nile shipwreck vindicates Herodotus after 2,500 years

Archaeologists have recently discovered an ancient shipwreck which proves the Greek Historian Herodotus was accurate in his description, almost 25 centuries ago, regarding the construction of a Nile river boat called a 'baris' .

Nile shipwreck vindicates Herodotus after 2,500 years
An archaeologist inspects the keel of a shipwreck discovered in the waters around the sunken port-city
of Thonis-Heracleion [Credit: Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation]
The shipwreck, discovered recently off the Mediterranean coast of Egypt near the ancient, and now sunken, city of Thonis-Heracleion was of a vessel called a ”baris.

This exact type of ship was described in great detail by Herodotus in his book Historia following a visit he made to the port city of Thonis-Heracleion in Egypt.

Herodotus was impressed by the way people were constructing the ship, which was used to sail across the Nile River.

For centuries, scholars and archaeologists believed that the type of ship Herodotus described never actually existed, because such ships had never once been found by anyone on the planet.

Nile shipwreck vindicates Herodotus after 2,500 years
The wooden hull of ship 17 [Credit: Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation]
This theory was recently blown up when a group of archaeologists discovered a well-preserved shipwreck off the coast of Egypt in the Canopic Mouth of the Nile, in the Mediterranean Sea. What the archaeologists saw witnessed when they dove into the waters was exactly the kind of vessel Herodotus had perfectly described in his book exactly 2,469 years ago.

The 28-metre long vessel was one of the first ships used by the Egyptians to trade during ancient times. The vessels Herodotus described in his book must have been the exact same type of ship, but were only slightly smaller.

Dr. Damian Robinson, the director of Oxford University’s center for maritime archaeology, points out that ”where planks are joined together to form the hull, they are usually joined by mortise and tenon joints which fasten one plank to the next.

Nile shipwreck vindicates Herodotus after 2,500 years
An artistic rendition of the discovered shipwreck. The upper half of the model illustrates the wreck
as excavated. Below this, unexcavated areas are mirrored to pro­duce a complete vessel outline
[Credit: Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation]
“Here we have a completely unique form of construction, which is not seen anywhere else”, Robinson remarked in an interview with Britain’s The Guardian newspaper.

Most likely, this unique construction was the reason why Herodotus was so amazed when he saw this type of ship. The eminent historian was also astonished by the peculiar types of wood they were using to construct the ships, which to him was completely unknown.

Archaeologists believe that what Herodotus saw could have even been constructed in the very same shipyard as the vessel they discovered, as a word-by-word analysis of Herodotus’ text exactly matches the appearance of the ship.

Nile shipwreck vindicates Herodotus after 2,500 years
Bust of Herodotus of Halicarnassus (c484-425 BC)
[Credit: G Nimatallah/De Agostini/Getty Images]
Herodotus was a Greek historian who was the first writer to have treated historical subjects using a method of systematic investigation, leading him to be universally regarded as ”the Father of History.”

Belov's exploration of the ship's construction has been published in a monograph by the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, Ship 17: a baris from Thonis-Heracleion.

Source: Tornos News [March 18, 2019]


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