An ancient Egypt-to-Black Sea route? Adventurers to test theory

Goerlitz and his team say they drew inspiration for the design of the 14-metre boat from ancient rock drawings from upper Egypt
Goerlitz and his team say they drew inspiration for the design of the 14-metre boat from ancient rock drawings from upper Egypt and the Caucasus

Were the ancient Egyptians able to use reed boats to travel as far as the Black Sea thousands of years ago?

A group of adventurers believe so, and will try to prove their theory by embarking on a similar journey in reverse.

In mid-August the team of two dozen researchers and volunteers from eight countries will set off from the Bulgarian port of Varna, hoping their Abora IV reed boat will take them the 700 nautical miles through the Bosphorus, the Aegean and as far as the island of Crete.

The team is specifically seeking to prove a hypothesis lent credence by Herodotus, the expedition's German leader, Dominique Goerlitz, told AFP.

The ancient Greek historian wrote: "Egyptians sailed through the Black Sea to get materials that they could not have from the east Mediterranean."

Goerlitz, 53, and his team say they drew inspiration for the design of the 14-metre (46-foot) boat from ancient rock drawings from upper Egypt and the Caucasus.

Bolivian know-how

The construction was carried out with the help of volunteers and two members of the Aymara indigenous community from Bolivia's Lake Titicaca, Fermin Limachi and his son Yuri.

Sail like the Egyptians
Graphic of the reed boat and map of the route planned by a group of adventurers who will attempt to prove ancient Egyptians sailed as far as the Black Sea to trade.

It is no accident that the Abora IV bears a striking resemblance to the famous Ra II reed boat that Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl used in his 1970 attempt to cross the Atlantic—Limachi's father helped build that vessel too.

Large bundles of totora reed were lashed together with ropes to form the main body of the vessel before it was equipped with a wooden mast and two reed compartments for sleeping.

In all, 12 tonnes of totora reed and two kilometres (a mile) of rope went into making the boat, which will have two sails—measuring 62 square metres (670 square feet) and 40 square metres (430 sq ft), Fermin said.

"The main question of all is whether this boat... is able to cross the difficult island shelfs of the Aegean Sea," Goerlitz said.

Reaching the Cyclades islands and then Crete will be crucial for proving his initial hypothesis, he added, as the Minoan civilisation which flourished there from 2,700 to 1,200 BC was long proven to have traded with Egypt.

  • Large bundles of totora reed were lashed together with ropes to form the main body of the vessel before it was equipped with a w
    Large bundles of totora reed were lashed together with ropes to form the main body of the vessel before it was equipped with a wooden mast and two reed compartments for sleeping
  • "I am 100 percent sure that this ship will never sink. And as long as the ship is floating we have a safety raft here,&quot
    "I am 100 percent sure that this ship will never sink. And as long as the ship is floating we have a safety raft here," said volunteer Mark Pales, a 42-year-old electrician from the Netherlands
  • The construction was carried out with the help of volunteers and two members of the Aymara indigenous community from Bolivia's L
    The construction was carried out with the help of volunteers and two members of the Aymara indigenous community from Bolivia's Lake Titicaca, Fermin Limachi and his son Yuri

Once hoisted into the water on Thursday, the boat will need two and a half weeks to soak, taking in between five and 10 tonnes of water.

Thanks to the billions of air chambers inside its porous construction material, the boat cannot crack or sink, according to Goerlitz.

Dangers on the high seas

During his last such expedition, the Abora III in 2007, he set out from New York bound for southern Spain in a bid to prove that Stone Age man made similar trans-Atlantic journeys.

Goerlitz's team sailed for 56 days before a storm ripped apart his boat 900 kilometres (560 miles) short of Portugal's Azores Islands.

Reaching the Cyclades islands and then Crete will be crucial for proving his initial hypothesis, Goerlitz says, as the Minoan ci
Reaching the Cyclades islands and then Crete will be crucial for proving his initial hypothesis, Goerlitz says, as the Minoan civilisation which flourished there from 2,700 to 1,200 BC was long proven to have traded with Egypt

"I am 100 percent sure that this ship will never sink. And as long as the ship is floating we have a safety raft here," said volunteer Mark Pales, a 42-year-old electrician from the Netherlands.

Another volunteer, Heike Vogel, a parcel company employee from Germany, was looking forward to her first time sailing, after helping on two previous expeditions without venturing on board.

"It will be a new situation for me," said Vogel, 35.

In order to communicate with large cargo vessels on their way—a major danger on the high seas—Goerlitz's crew will have modern satellite and radio communication equipment on board.

"Of course, it would be totally arrogant and stupid (not to use modern equipment). It is an experiment of science and not of risk," he said.


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© 2019 AFP

Citation: An ancient Egypt-to-Black Sea route? Adventurers to test theory (2019, July 31) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-07-ancient-egypt-to-black-sea-route-adventurers.html
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User comments

Jul 31, 2019
Or it will prove they don't know how to build one.

Jul 31, 2019
IIRC, Thor H. belatedly realised the up-turned bow and stern needed a 'Hogging Truss' per pharaonic illustrations. I can't see one on the pic above...

Jul 31, 2019
From the article above:

"Thanks to the billions of air chambers inside its porous construction material, the boat cannot crack or sink, according to Goerlitz."

-but then theres this:

"But the reed fiber absorbed much water, and Heyerdahl feared that the Ra would sink with its entire crew on board. He therefore aborted the expedition, just a week shy of reaching their destination, Barbados."
https://www.kon-t...ditions/

"Study: People may use overconfidence to persuade or deceive others"
https://phys.org/...nce.html

...

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