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A wreck from almost 2500 years ago described by Herodotus has been found!

For centuries scholars have argued about the boats described by Herodotus because there was no evidence of their existence. Until now. Thanks to the work of underwater archaeologists, all doubts have been dispelled and the words of the legendary Greek historian, in which he describes the baris he saw during his voyage to Egypt, have
Published: March 18, 2019 - 16:53
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 17:58
A wreck from almost 2500 years ago described by Herodotus has been found!

For centuries scholars have argued about the boats described by Herodotus because there was no evidence of their existence. Until now. Thanks to the work of underwater archaeologists, all doubts have been dispelled and the words of the legendary Greek historian, in which he describes the baris he saw during his voyage to Egypt, have been confirmed by scientific evidence.

Herodotus travelled to Egypt in the 5th century BC and there, in the now sunken port of Heracleion, he saw unusual boats sailing down the Nile. He immortalised them by including their detailed description in 23 lines of his account of this journey. Herodotus ‘ account has been the basis of polemics for centuries, as until now, there has been no physical evidence of the existence of the vessels described.

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The magnificently preserved wreck, which was found in the sunken port of Herakleion, not only confirms the words of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who is called the ‘father of history’, but also shows how extremely detailed and precise he was in his descriptions.

[blockquote style=”2″]”Until we discovered the wreck, we weren’t sure if Herodotus was right. But what he included in his description was exactly what we were looking at,” said Dr Damian Robinson, director of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology (OCAM), responsible for publishing the excavation results.”[/blockquote]

fswier00013234566

In 450 BC. Herodotus witnessed the construction of Baris, which he described in the following words:

[blockquote style=”2″] “The builders cut planks two cubits long (about 100 cm) and lay them like bricks (…) On strong and long tenons (pieces of wood) they put planks with a dimension of two cubits (the metric unit of the Egyptians, consisting of the combined numbers Pi and Fi). When they have built their ship in this way, they stretch beams over them… They cover the seams on the inside with papyrus. There is one rudder, passing through a hole in the keel. A mast of acacia and sails of papyrus…”[/blockquote]

Robinson also added that scholars had “made some mistakes” in attempting to interpret the legendary Greek scholar’s text without having archaeological evidence. The excavations, dubbed “Ship 17”, revealed a huge crescent-shaped hull and a previously undocumented type of construction, with thick planks connected to tenons – exactly as described by Herodotus.

fswier000132323

Measuring up to 28 metres long, the vessel is one of the first large trading boats used by the ancient Egyptians to have been discovered to date. It is amazing, but around 70% of the hull survives, buried and well preserved in the silt of the Nile.

[blockquote style=”2″]”Herodotus describes boats as having long internal ribs. No one really knew what this meant… This structure had never before been seen in any archaeological excavations. Only the present discovery shows an example of what Herodotus wrote about. What we have here is a completely unique structure, not found anywhere else.” – added Dr Robinson[/blockquote].

Alexander Belov, whose book Ship 17: a Baris from Thonis-Heracleion, was published this month, suggests that the construction of the wreck is so close to Herodotus description that he may have drawn it up in the shipyard he visited. A word-by-word analysis of the text shows that almost every detail of the description matches the evidence found.

Source: theguardian.com
Photo: Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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