Skip to main content

Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

140 Mechanical and Technical Processes. Materials
show that the statement made by Herodotus regarding the
methods of construction was based on personal observation. He
states (Book II. 96) that 'they cut a quantity of planks about
2 cubits (41 inches) in length, arranging the planks like bricks,
and attaching them by ties to a number of long stakes or poles
till the hull is complete. They give the boat no ribs, but caulk
the seams with papyrus from inside.' The hull was prevented
from collapsing outwards under a load by a series of thwarts,
while longitudinal rigidity was maintained by one or more stout
cables attached at each end and passed over fixed stays at one-
third and two-thirds distance along the hull. Tension was
achieved by means of sticks used like a tourniquet, the device
known nowadays as a 'Spanish windlass'. Boats can also be
made entirely of papyrus, and such craft are in use on the Upper
Nile to-day. Their form, with upturned bows, was copied and
perpetuated in wood, especially for sacred craft. Even the giant
barge of Queen Hatshepsut, depicted at El-Deir el-Bahari (Fig.
15, facing p. 138) as loaded with two obelisks butt to butt, is
represented as being of the traditional shape, but here, and in
the other cases of barges used for carrying enormous weights, we
have to be on our guard against taking the artist's information
too literally. For instance, the obelisks are represented up on
deck, which would certainly make the ship top-heavy, since
each obelisk weighed about 300 tons. Attempts have been
made by retired naval officers and shipbuilders to show that
such a boat as the ancient artist depicts might have had an
internal construction which could have done the required work.
Such attempts, postulating a construction dependent on calcu-
lations of stress and strain far beyond the ancient Egyptians'
mathematical knowledge, only leave one as firmly convinced
that the weight-carrying craft were but rafts made of logs or
tree-trunks, such as were used for levers, built up round the
object to be floated. In the Sixth Dynasty, a boat was con-
structed under the direction of a noble named Uni for the