Baris (ship)

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A baris is a type of ancient Egyptian ship, whose unique method of construction[1] was described by Herodotus, writing in about 450BC. Archeologists and historians could find no corroboration of his description until the discovery of the remains of such a ship in the waters around Thonis-Heracleion in Aboukir Bay in 2003.

The ship found, known as "Ship 17", the first of 63 ships found in Thonis-Heraclion,[1] measures up to 28 metres in length. It was constructed using an unusual technique to join thick wooden planks together, and had a distinctive steering mechanism with an axial rudder passing through the hull.[2][3] The underwater archaeological work was carried out by Franck Goddio and the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology, and the findings are being published in a book by Alexander Belov for the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology.[2][3]

Herodotus' Description: The vessels used in Egypt for the transport of merchandise are made of the Acantha (Thorn), a tree which in its growth is very like the Cyrenaic lotus, and from which there exudes a gum. They cut a quantity of planks about two cubits in length from this tree, and then proceed to their ship-building, arranging the planks like bricks, and attaching them by ties to a number of long stakes or poles till the hull is complete, when they lay the cross-planks on the top from side to side. They give the boats no ribs, but caulk the seams with papyrus on the inside. Each has a single rudder, which is driven straight through the keel. The mast is a piece of acantha-wood, and the sails are made of papyrus. These boats cannot make way against the current unless there is a brisk breeze; they are, therefore, towed up-stream from the shore: down-stream they are managed as follows. There is a raft belonging to each, made of the wood of the tamarisk, fastened together with a wattling of reeds; and also a stone bored through the middle about two talents in weight. The raft is fastened to the vessel by a rope, and allowed to float down the stream in front, while the stone is attached by another rope astern. The result is that the raft, hurried forward by the current, goes rapidly down the river, and drags the "baris" (for so they call this sort of boat) after it; while the stone, which is pulled along in the wake of the vessel, and lies deep in the water, keeps the boat straight. There are a vast number of these vessels in Egypt, and some of them are of many thousand talents' burthen.'

The Histories[4]


  1. ^ a b Alexander Belov (2014). "A New Type of Construction Evidenced by Ship 17 of Thonis-Heracleion" (PDF). The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. Moscow: Center for Egyptological Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. doi:10.1111/1095-9270.12060.
  2. ^ a b Alberge, Dalya (17 March 2019). "Nile shipwreck discovery proves Herodotus right – after 2,469 years". The Observer. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b Ouellette, Jennifer (24 March 2019). "Shipwreck on Nile vindicates Greek historian's account after 2500 years". Ars Technica. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  4. ^ "The Histories".

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