Mediterranean ships

Mediterranean ship types

The Cycladic model was probably invented there. But like all cultures in the Mediterranean they sailed on Egypt. Some of them deep into Egypt on the Nile as for instance to Hierakonpolis. Who were first big traders the Phoenicians or the Minoans

Cycladic ships, Phaistos desk, Phoenecian ships, Herodotus, Hyperboreans, Ekenberg, trier, trireme, rock-carvings, duck-head ships, ritual boat, Medinet Habu, Phoenician coins, Sidon, Tyre, Byblos, figure-head, Aegean ship, Kalnes, reed-boat, Naqada, Gerzeh, year ritual, votive ship, Syrian ship, round Greek shields,

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Cycladic ships

 ... Somewhere between the half-moon shape and the right angle is this shape with one end high and in an angle. It was first noted on "frying pans" made of terracotta and as they were found at the Cyclades they believed the origin to the area. They date them to around 2500 BC. They have counted 20 - 30 oars, but do not know for what use the pans were made. We see the shape on the Phaistos desk from Crete too. It is the little picture in the corner. However it is difficult to see what is on the crossbar. The Cycladic ships have a fish as forehead and to that something like a cloth.

They compare this with painting from the Naqada/ Gerzeh Age 4th millennium whatever it is. Archaeologists do not know about time as a reference and write for each other not for others to understand. I think they mean excavating in Gerzeh Egypt and the results dated to fifth and fourth millennium BC. See Flinders Petrie's reports. The cloth was a symbol for marriage and perhaps they meant that a ship was a marriage between the man and a dolphin.

It is then natural to see this painted ship as an "intruder" at Hierakonpolis far down the Nile. We see the normal Egyptian Nile boat above

In many rock-carvings in Egypt and in Scandinavia we see a cabin on the boat. It is hard to tell if it is for the crew, for the captain, for the idol, for the high priest/ yearman or idol of votive.

 This one is from rock Simris 27 in Skåne that could be of Megalith Age. It is the best of a few similar in southern Sweden that maybe have the shape after the Cycladic ships.

Phoenician Seahorses

Seahorses from relief in Babylon when the Phoenicians deliver cedar from Lebanon

Normally we get this description, "The Phoenicians were merchants and traders, and even if they colonised certain strategic spots in today's Syria, Cyprus, Libya, Tunisia, Italy, Malta, Algeria, Morocco and Spain, they were never warlords".

Firstly this is about last millennium most of it. For some reason they always forget Boeotia as colony in Greece and the joint venture with Sparta. They forget also that according to Herodotus 4:42, the furthest voyage the Phoenician sailors ever undertook was the circumnavigation of the African continent, accomplished on the orders of the Pharaoh Necho c. 600 BC. The journey is supposed to have taken three years and the navigators sailed westwards from the Red Sea. King Salomo hired Phoenician for a journey to India/ South Arabia from the Aqabah Gulf.

Two subsequent voyages were undertaken from Cartage: ca 450 by Himilco, who sailed round Spain to the British Isles, an area known to the Phoenicians as "Tin-Land." and ca 425 by Hanno, who seems to have sailed through the Pillars of Hercules to the Gulf of Guinea.

It is maybe natural that most eurocentric people are interested only in known ancient people and that mean Mediterranean and Middle East … even if the British are interested in the tin trade. Few are interested in the Indian trade eastward how far we do not yet know However the Phoenicians sailed much farther and Herodotus would not know about for these reasons. The Phoenician traders kept it secret when they told like a shield to their amber’s trade.

‘Now that the Phoenician’s had seen the amber gathered from the sea, they determined to keep the secret for themselves and thus guard the lucrative trade. When the fleets returned to Syria, many were the tales told of perils to the north, of lodestones which would draw the ships to destruction on hidden reefs, of whirlpools which would suck them down to the bottom of the ocean, of witches who enchanted men by turning them into beasts, of terrible sea serpents, and awesome monsters. So well did these ancient sailors spin their yarns that for many centuries afterwards mariners feared these mythical perils’.

Herodotus did know only a little about the Hyberboreans = northmost Northerners as he wrote 440 BC in Book IV 323 - 36 about Nordic girls and gifts coming to Artemis' temple at Delos

"But the persons who have by far the most to say on this subject are the Delians. They declare that certain offerings, packed in wheaten straw, were brought from the country of the Hyperboreans into Scythia, and that the Scythians received them and passed them on to their neighbours upon the west, who continued to pass them on until at last they reached the Adriatic. From hence they were sent southward, and when they came to Greece, were received first of all by the Dodonaeans". See also Girls at Delos

It seems he is not quite sure but surely the "tourism" went by the Adriatic path over Austria to river Oder. Another path was via the Russian rivers to Black Sea. At that time the sea route was still kept secret. I think my examples of Nordic ships, artefacts and other remains show that there must have been contacts and maybe in both directions from early Bronze Age and maybe earlier.

I separate Greek and Phoenician model of ship however we can not date them. According to written evidence the Greek connection would be later than the Phoenician. However we do not really know who designed what. We have the characteristic detail ram designed before 1644 BC and the Greek vase painting show often a ship with 90 degree stern. However we get a little help in catching the ideas and be prepared, the types were mixed in the Mediterranean and we do not know much about small boats.

What I write about the Scandinavian culture those days could be a question for the rest of West Europe. I want to get the whole picture so that for instance I could ask if the Handman brought some cultural item from India. Fortunately they have found the today oldest boat ca 2000 BC at Ferriby England. That is proof they were able to build clinker build ship for bigger ships for the high seas. There are some younger samples from Scandinavia and more could come in future.

Lack of substantial evidence make us think that these thinks did not exist. Our rock-carvings are difficult to date exactly and they have spread the word that all carvings are from Bronze Age and that restricts the thinking. Still we have evidence for import of artefacts and ideas since 4th millennium

For more about the Phoenician heydays see Cadmus the Handman … here we should look at the ships and the trade

We see seahorses in Scandinavia too. The shield we find in Aegean symbolism

Long-neck seahorses

In the rock-carvings we see some Phoenician ships and other motifs telling about the visits. No wonder that ancient writers also wrote about ugly and odd beings with head in stomach, dog head, one-footed and one-eyed and so on.

Another type is the forehead with a long throat and it make us think about Cycladic origin. Once I bought bronze figurines of horses said to be copies of original Greek figurines. They have exceptional long necks.

We can date the long-neck seahorses by this section of the Ekenberg rock-carvings. But are they real ships?

The sword knob dates the carving to about 1200 BC. If we look at other details, the man under the sword is looking for something? Is it from the Adonis/ Attis myth from Ugarit? Under the ship there is a "balance". Maybe they told the principle of bartering so that balance between seller and buyers price is achieved. In this big rock-carvings there is also a quadruple spiral of the same type we see in the ceiling in Knossos and on some other site there is a rosette from the same rock. Next picture is also from the same rock however we do not know if it is contemporary.

Did they get the idea to a sledge from the ships or vice versa? In Egypt they use this method when transporting votive ships.

The trier or trireme

This is the stern of a half-moon-shaped ship from the island Thera in the Aegean Sea.

Then it is dateable before the "big bang" about 1644 BC according to some dating. It looks as if they mounted the ram on the ship afterwards and created the first trier. Others want to see it as gang-plank. Anyway there is no other ram on the 11 ships at the fresco.

In this case it seems that the painter did not really know the idea of the ram since it is place in the stern. So we can deduce that it came in use then. Here it is just some planks that are mounted afterwards in the stem and not a natural part of the ship. The ram looks at first in profile like a fin but is in the opposite end in front and was used as a spear against an enemy. We have to look at how people stand and how oars or paddles are oriented. Observe that paddlers look forward and roars backward.

At least the Phoenicians were peaceful traders. In the colonies they were innovators and were specialised in finding new things to trade. However since they transported valuable goods they must have guards.

This is the normal sketching of the late time warrior trireme

The name it got from three rows of crew and soon they placed rows in galleries and in more floors. The ship got also a big square sail. We see the oar in "tail". The Egyptians often mounted two steering oars on their big ships. In Sidon and Byblos the trireme was naturally a symbol of power besides the other details

We can call it Raurby type since it is on the cutlass from my place in childhood this is dated to early Bronze Age.

From this we can see that they drew out a narrowing end. This is more art than picturing reality and sop it is in many images on the rocks. People with no knowledge copied others and wanted maybe to draw a beautiful ship. On that path the beautiful ships are created. Maybe some misunderstood the ram to be a fin as here and we see it as special feature on Norwegian rock-carvings. The rounded ends we see on the Sumerian reed boats for the river. They have dated this to ca 1700 BC.

From rock-carvings Simris 19 we see that they knew the same type. There ids also a horse in the same carvings so they knew that fellow then and maybeearlier

On this section from Möckleryd Blekinge we see different types of time-boat since it is time symbolising

Just as we believe some ships are real, we see the cargo is a little boat and the little "ban-i-ban" symbol besides. Then we can expect it to be the Ramadan adding the five days to the sun year.

More of type ritual boat or time-boat and now from Vaestlandet Norway. The upper one would sink very rapidly.

Below it a shape we can see on the Egyptian paintings telling about the Sea People we can call them Achaean type with steering oars.

Both types would not have been seaworthy on the high sea, I suppose. We see other Sumerian and Egyptian boats in Traundelag Norway and we may wonder how they could picture them exactly? We know that Egyptians made models, so perhaps some Norwegian "on tour" got some souvenir?

What did they want to say?

Goose or duck head ships

We find the shape also at A Västerlandet Norway, B in Bohuslän, C at Högsbyn.

Unique shapes always catch our eye and could be like a fingerprint. The duck/ goose- head we find in ships during the period of the Sea People around 1200 BC

Philistines maybe? Known by the headgear.

In Medinet Habu Ramesses III tells about the battle. The Hittites, Egypt were attacked and Ugarit was destroyed. At that time the Achaeans had a colony on Cyprus and they maybe got help from the motherland in Greece and they think some sailors from south-west Anatolia joined the fleet.

Here there are maybe Achaeans from Cyprus and Greece. The horns associate to Cyprus and Apollo Keraeates.

The Egyptians have tight hair or headgear and the shield is oblong with rounded top. Science is still debating and knows not for sure from where they come. Not much of the Mediterranean is left since we know that they also plundered the Levant in the sweep. The Philistines wore a "showing brush" but so did people in the Aegean archipelago.

Some say Achaeans were in the battle and on the Phaistos desk from Crete we find this head.

We do not know, whether the image is native or from somewhere else. If we look carefully, we see that a part of the Sea People wore helmets with horns. Another detail is the round shields from Greece. That we know later than this picture. The conclusion may be that the Sea People were a "league" of several Mediterranean people.

An interesting part is the shape of the goose-headed battleships of the Sea People. However some Egyptian ships has goose-head too. Observe the horn altars that were fashion even in Anatolia and the Levant.

Late trireme as seen on Phoenician coins

The Persian king in chair with driver and servant Egyptian style

The different rulers did not affect "business as usual" before the Romans in 64 AD. The Persian king often rides in chariot or on the reverse there in Byblos is a picture of him fighting a lion alternatively a Lion biting the neck of a bull, i.e. the Mesopotamian Lion biting the Hittite/ Phoenician Bull. That kind of symbolism was used as late as in the early medieval Church. Under the trireme they have mostly the "Seahorse"

There are many shekels from the 100 years before Alexander and 400 - 323 BC. Sidon, Tyre and Byblos have all different style. The trier model we can perhaps draw more than 1000 years from that. Sidon's shekels has often a text or a relief of "Sidon's Mother" Astarte and under the Greeks Tyche = Roman Fortuna. Often there is an Egyptian touch in the style

On this coin we seethe eye in stem. Some would get scared and in the unconsciousness it affects the mind.

Ancient warfare was much about scaring. The Minoans told that they have a copper giant wandering and guarding the island. The megalith buildings surely made people think that there is a giant around. Even in battle the tactics were about scaring. That is why the stem was furnished with an eye and sometimes a lion-head as figurehead.

This coin is from Sidon around 400 BC and we do not see the crew

In the symbolism of this type of coins there are two or three Hoplites. Hoplites with crest in helmet were warriors from Sparta and Lakonia Greece were the Phoenicians started industries and maybe got guards instead. In stem there is the eye and above the Lion-head. The Seahorse seems to be a merge of Pegasus and Whale/ Kaitos that was fix-stars of spring equinox at the time … see also Hand The lattice board could be model for Nordic images and the stern is commonly used.

This little detail from Backa Bohuslen could be a humorous image taken from a coin

The spiral and hand in one and same picture on rock-carvings from the Hand Age. On some ship image from south we see a staff in stern

This stem is from a stela in Cartage founded ca 814 BC. The Phoenician style came together with the Hand.

Maybe they called the Phoenician the Handman. The gestures with hands seem to be a greeting of the sailors. "Hello I am unarmed, Peace". Cadmus seems to be the first "Dragon Killer" and there is a long cycle of tales about his deeds

Aegean ships

Minoan goddess at a seal ring " at tour" with two horn/ bull altars. The Water-snake was symbol of fertility and we have also the Snake Goddess with a skirt of Akkadian type with frill.

On the Danish isle Bornholm we find a lot of influence from Greece. This is a mix of the Cycladic and Greek ships. The island become skilled in working with thin gold plate and that they must have learnt in Greece.

Then we can have a look at ships from Mycenae painted on vases and compare them with a ship at Vitlycke, Bohuslän. It is the upper one.

Naturally we should mention Baltic amber as possible trading objects. However as whole we find many more cultural objects of trade. Still they have found amber in Greece. They have analysed that it has been imported on mainly two occasion 1725 - 1675 and the other time around 1200 BC.

They speculate in peace gifts to the king. But much of the amber is found in warriors' graves and they were probably as guards on the ships. There was not much "money exchange" and much of the trade was like bartering with gifts between the two parts. Still we have the late example of Nordic gifts to the temple at Delos. The gifts were sent through a known route of people Herodotus tells.

As we can expect the visits of traders were occasional in early times. The traders at first wanted to recognise what they could get and what they could bring instead. For the various trade see Ezekiel

Another picture on the theme Greek ships from Kalnes Norway. Observe the headless animal that is seen also in Egyptian astronomy

There are a lot of "Aegean" rock-carvings at both sides of the Oslo fjord. The area was called Viken before the kingdoms and Bohuslen belonged to the area. There is the find of a short text in Minoan at Kongsberg then "silver mountain". Originally they could collect "silver hair" direct from the rock and that is why the Minoans wrote "purest pure" since it can be manufactured as such.

They think the Minoans collected silver and went to Egypt and bartered with gold. Anyway we see the Aegean influence just in that area. We should also mention Ekenberg in East Gautland where we find an Egyptian bronze sickle on a rock and ships of the Mediterranean type.

The Minoans were maybe the first to trade "ox hides". That is the trade shape of copper they spread in the entire Mediterranean. Like later Achaeans, Myceneans and Phoenicians they had at least some colony at Cyprus for mining and trading copper. There is no need for talking about nations and warlike tribes when it comes to traders


In left lower corner do two oxen draw the two-wheel chariot. At right a find from the Lassithi cave near Knossos at Crete

On our rocks we have also four-wheel wagons drawn by two oxen and sometimes the wagon seem to be ritual symbol. Naturally we have also the normal battle or luxurious chariot drawn by two horses. This is just an example of import that seems to begin with Minoan traders.

We do not know much about their ships but in the early glyph script there is a symbol of a ship with mast and of the half-moon type that seems to be the early model in the Aegean besides the Cycladic type. The fleet at the fresco of Thera is all ships of that type.

This is the normal Greek ship with a ram we are presented.

Here we see also round Greek shields. We do not know much about the normal life in the land of heroes and Olympic gods. They invented almost everything if we believe it, but not the normal rural life. However the ship perhaps remained the old Cycladic type with a high stern and sometimes symbols for the hero there too. We Barbarians should be on our knees when speaking about the Greeks, of course?

They had ships without ram too