Sea Transport, Part 1: Ships and Navigation

Seán McGrail

in The Oxford Handbook of Engineering and Technology in the Classical World

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780199734856
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Sea Transport, Part 1: Ships and Navigation

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  • Classical Studies
  • Ancient Greek History
  • Historical Archaeology


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This article starts by presenting the textual, iconographical, ethnographical, archaeological, experimental archaeology, and environmental evidences of shipbuilding or navigation. The earliest evidence for sail appears on a vase from Naqada of about 3100 bc. Vessels it appears were steered by paddle, steering oar, side rudder, or centerline rudder, and there are Old Kingdom depictions of each method. Moreover, the article discusses the shipbuilding from 800 bc to ad 500. The early use of locked mortise and tenon fastenings, sewn-plank fastenings, and the warships with rams are specifically considered. There have also been technological changes in ships or navigation. Mediterranean shipbuilders and seamen of 800 bc to ad 500 consolidated and developed their inheritance from Egypt and the Levant coast. Mediterranean shipwrights abandoned plank fastenings and shifted to a framing-first sequence of shipbuilding. The article finally reviews the status of navigation before ad 500.

Keywords: shipbuilding; navigation; Egypt; Levant; sail; mortise; tenon fastenings; sewn-plank fastenings; warships

Article.  13512 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Ancient Greek History ; Historical Archaeology

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