Maritime Topics on Stamps:

Pharao

The Ships of the Pharaohs !


The Pharaohs ruled Egypt for an incredibly long period, from about 3000 until 300 BC. Historians structure the time into different epoques, such as "the old kingdom, two the first and second intermediate empires, a middle and a late period and of course a new empire."
After in depth studies of all the hieroglyphic sources researchers today distinguish 30 dynasties.
This internet page presents boats and ships of Egyptian shipbuilders of the early period, which have appeared on stamps.


pharao
The Egyptians believed in an eternal life after death (in the early days only of the Pharaoh became immortal).
They put provisions, models and images into the graves, items which they thought they would need on their way through the country of the dead into the next life. These included whole boats, models of boats, paintings and reliefs of ships.
On the left, the stamp shows a model from the grave of Tut Anch Amun (1332-1323 BC). It almost looks like a catamaran, but the dark part in the background is probably a lowered sail.


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pharao
Most likely traveling on water began on the river Nile, with boats made of papyrus. Around 5000 B.C. the general climate changed to an annual rainy season, and stayed this way until about 2400 BC.
Along the banks of the Nile papyrus grew in large areas. Papyrus became the base of their boats, seen on the left hand stamp.
And around 3000 BC, first drawings of boats with sails appear.
On the right hand stamp you can see an interesting feature of a papyrus boat, ropes around the outer skin of the hull.


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It was the Nile and the traffic on the Nile, which became the main commercial highway in Egypt.
During most of the year a northerly wind blew up the Nile valley (the valley runs from south to north). Boats enjoyed a nice pushing tail wind when sailing southbound against the current.
Going north, the wind would blow head on. With the kind of rigging available on those days, tacking ways impossible. Therefore they simply took the masts down, let the current take the boat along, and rowed.

Not only in the Nile Valley the Egyptian fleet played a decisive role, but also on the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. South of the Nile valley was Nubia a country with which they run a vivid trade. Controlling the traffic into the Red Sea, they headed towards the fabled land of Punt (now Somalia) and in the Mediterranean trade of timber and cedar trees flourished with Byblos in Syria.


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Circling the Cheops pyramid five "boat graves" were found in 1952. The first included the "sun bark" of Pharaoh Cheops, which was like a giant building kit including 407 parts, dissembled into 13 intact layers. The cedar wooden hull was still well preserved. The boat was built around 2600 BC .
    Some data:
  • Length 43.40 m
  • Width 5.66 m
  • Length of the oars 5,0 m
  • Draught 1.50 m
  • Displacement 45 t
The Cheops sun boat was reassembled again and is now on display in a museum nearby.
In Egypt the term bark is used for boats without masts. A sun boat is a vessel for travel during the day. For Egyptians it was without question that the sun could make its rapid journey from east to west only with a boat.
The boats were built either from local acacia or sycamore wood, or from imported pines, cypresses and cedars. Ropes and lines were made from palm, grass or papyrus fibers.


pharao
On the left hand stamp you see a "travel boat" from about 3300 BC, which operated on the Nile river.
Striking is the bipod mast of two pieces, with struts in the top section. The mast had only one strong forestay, but many backstays, which ran aft from the top of the mast. The tow-pieces mast and the many backstays distributed the pressure over many parts of the boat's hull.
The boat also had 3 oars on each side.


pharao
On the left two stamps, we see Egyptian barges around 2500 BC. On the right is a trip boat from around 1500 BC depicted. It had a length of about 30 meters. All three ships had a large deck house made of reed mats amidships. They are slim, colorfully painted, no keel and the stern was higher than the bow. The row boat in the middle is bent like a papyrus and had only one rudder.


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pharao
These are probably two ships for travel from 1500 to 1300 BC. In addition to the decorated slim bow and the usual deck house the high-mounted rudder placed midships is surprising.
In order for the boatman to use it, a movable tiller was attached. See the blow-up in the upper right corner.
The cams (ends) of the lower spar are bent upward, such that they did not dip into the water, when the ship rolled in higher seas.
There is also a staircase shown leading up to the roof of the deckhouse.
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These three vessels have been attributed to the period from around 1500-1100 BC.
On the top left hand stamp the the hull is decorated with stylized papyrus leaves. On the right any decorations have been waived entirely. A chair displayed in a deck house always indicates the throne of a pharaoh.
On the left we see a lion's head at the stem of a seagoing vessel. Some historians have described it as a battering ram, although a ram makes sense only just below the water line.
This boat is attributed to the pharaoh Ramses III, who could fend off an attack of "Sea Peoples" from the Mediterranean while he was the pharaoh.


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pharao
At the top on the left, the sun bark carried by priests of the goddess Isis is depicted. On the Top right hand side there is a bark for the dead found in the grave of Iniherchaui from Deir el-Medina (ca. 1200 BC). First is the goddess Isis, in the bow of the boat, followed by the gods Thoth Khepri and Hu. The deceased is at the helm. On the right the stamp shows a wall painting from the grave of Pharaoh Irinefer with two suns, from around 1300 BC On the left the deceased is shown on a sun bark, in the foreground the bird Phoenix, which burns at sunrise in he glow of dawn and arises rejuvenated from its ashes again.
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On the left we see a picture of Tut Ank Amun, this time without a death mask. The stamp in the middle shows a model found in his grave, about 1320 BC.
It is a barge of papyrus-like shape, which may have been used as a burial or pilgrimage ship.
On the right are his parents, the Pharaoh Akhenaten(Echnaton) and his wife Nefertiti (Nofretete).
Akhenaten raised the god Aten(also Aton) in the shape of the sun disk to the one God above all gods of Egypt.

The right hand boat is dated to around 1600 BC.

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pharao
Here are more symbolic images from the grave of Tut Ank Amun. On the boat, to the left and to the right, two baboons sit with a sun disk over their heads.
This animal was Thoth, the god of writing and knowledge. In the middle there is the scarab beetle, which pushes not only a ball of dung in front of itself, but also puts its eggs into it.
For the Egyptians it was the creation of new life. The dung ball was a reflection of the sun as it appears on the horizon every day.


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A memory stamp sold for the protection of Nubian monuments.
I is supposed to show the apostle Peter, Pharaoh Ramses II and wall paintings with a sun boat from the temple of Wadi Es-Sebua.


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Around 1500 BC, the queen Hatshepsut (top left) built a fleet of ships called Punt ships.
Their primary mission was to get incense, myrrh, ebony, ivory, gold, eye color, etc. from Punt (the land on the coast of Somalia).This type of boat is the one found most frequently on stamps with Egyptian ships.
The left hand image is a relief from the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut.
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The Punt-ships were no ordinary cargo carriers. They have been called trade galleys, built for quick trips in dangerous waters like the Red Sea.
The Punt ships had a length of about 30m, a width of 5.5 to 9 meters and a draft up to 1.5 m.
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pharao
Punt ships had the usual form of travel boats, the stem ending in an part bending upward and the stern decorated with a stylized papyrus blossom.
The boats had a tension rope, which was attached to two tension belts, which in turn were passed around the hull at the bow and stern. The line runs over forked supports and is locked at the mast, right stamp.
On the same stamp, we see that the yards were made of two spars, which were tied together in the middle.
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pharao
Due to their construction many boats could be dismantled and carried over land,, like from the Nile to the Red Sea.


This boat fits to the period around 1500 BC.
The boat is colorfully painted in the front and aft , the stern decorated with a papyrus blossom. Unusually big is the rear rudder, which is attached to a special support and operated with a tiller.
pharao
The barges, with which the huge stone blocks for the pyramids and obelisks were transported, will likely looked very similar to these. Such barges were towed by other boats. Historians put everything together, calculated, and concluded that these boats must have been up to 84m long, 28m wide and have drawn 1.9 m. They were able to carry loads of about 1,900 tons.


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Here, a final picture from the Wikipedia encyclopedia:
A popular sport among the Egyptians was the harpooning of fish from papyrus boats.
The hunter, "who was the person in power," is shown relatively large, while his wife in front of his knee, who accompanied him, is pictured much smaller.


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Here are some stamp pictures of the creators of the Egyptian high civilization. Starting from the left we see a son of Ramses III, Prince Amenherkhepschef, then Ramses III himself, and in the center a woman carrying an offering. Next to her, the goddess Isis and Nefetari, wife of Ramses II.

In those days the Egyptian people were only of about 1.5 meters in height. They built ships, temples, pyramids, obelisks and sphinxes in astonishing proportions!
They knew already, that the earth is a sphere, and they integrated and adopted the living beings of nature surrounding them.



pharao Sources:
Wikipedia Internet Encyclopaedia
Björn Landström, die Schiffe der Pharaonen (the ships of the Pharaohs), C. Bertelsmann Verlag 1974

© Bjoern Moritz, all rights reserved.

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