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Archaeologists Find Wreck of Nile Cargo Boat Described by Greek Historian in the Fifth Century BC
By Ian Bongso-Seldrup, March 25, 2019 @ 04:00 AM (EST)
Source: The Guardian

Artist’s rendering of the shipwrecked vessel

In the year 2000, scuba-diving archaeologists discovered the ancient sunken port city of Thonis-Heracleion on the coast of Egypt. The find revealed a bonanza of more than 70 shipwrecks dating from the eighth century BC to the second century BC. Now, one of those vessels—known as Ship 17—has been matched to a fifth-century BC description of a “baris” by Greek historian Herodotus, who visited Egypt and wrote about the unusual river boats he saw on the Nile.

Herodotus’s great narrative history, Histories, devoted some 23 lines to a detailed description of the construction of the cargo boat known by locals as a “baris”—an account that scholars haven’t been able to verify because of the lack of archaeological evidence. “Herodotus describes the boats as having long internal ribs. Nobody really knew what that meant… That structure’s never been seen archaeologically before. Then we discovered this form of construction on this particular boat and it absolutely is what Herodotus has been saying,” says Dr Damian Robinson, Director of Oxford University’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology (OCMA), which has published a book on the excavation’s findings, Ship 17 – A Baris from Thonis-Heracleion, by Alexander Belov from the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology.

Belov suggests that the vessel’s architecture is so close to the description given by Herodotus, it may have been constructed in the very shipyard that he visited—almost 2,500 years ago. Analyzing Herodotus’ text word by word, he says that almost every detail corresponds “exactly to the evidence.”

An archaeologist inspects the assembly of the keel

The wooden hull of ship 17



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