- On 15/04/2020
- In Underwater Archeology
From Michelle Starr - Science Alert
A sunken ship found in the Nile river may have lain undisturbed for over 2,500 years, but it is finally ponying up its secrets. Scientists think that this ship has revealed a structure whose existence has been debated for centuries.
In fragment 2.96 of Herodotus' Histories, published around 450 BCE, the Ancient Greek historian - who was writing about his trip to Egypt - describes a type of Nile cargo boat called a baris.
According to his portrayal, it was constructed like brickwork, lined with papyrus, and with a rudder that passed through a hole in the keel. This steering system had been seen in representations and models through the Pharaonic period - but we had no firm archaeological evidence of its existence until now.
Enter Ship 17, of the now-sunken port city Thonis-Heracleion near the Canopic Mouth of the Nile, dated to the Late Period, 664-332 BCE.
Here, researchers have been exploring over 70 shipwrecks, discovering countless artefacts that reveal stunning details about the ancient trade hub and its culture. Although it's been in the water for at least 2,000 years, the preservation of Ship 17 has been exceptional. Archaeologists were able to uncover 70 percent of the hull.
"It wasn't until we discovered this wreck that we realised Herodotus was right," archaeologist Damian Robinson of The Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology told The Guardian back in March 2019.