Monday, January 8, 2018

When Did Sails Appear on Ships – Part II

Continued from the previous post, regarding the building of Nephis ship that required a strong hull design to withstand the tremendous pressures and stresses of sailing in strong offshore winds and deep ocean currents. One of these requirements was the necessary of building a keel on a boat for this additional strength.
Top row: No keels: (left) No keel and no chine (sharp change in angle of hull); (right) No keel but a chine, requiring a flat board bottom; Bottom row: Keels on both boats, both small and large

However, it should be noted that the first actual evidence of a keel on an ancient Egyptian vessel was found on Ship 17 of Thonis-Heracleion excavation that was dated between 500 and 450 B.C., and this was only a partial keel, referred to as a proto-keel (not a true keel), which is a keel on the inside of the craft that did not extend into the sea, on a crescent-shaped, flat-bottomed craft about 90-feet long; however, the Late Period Mataria boat was constructed after 450 B.C. with a keel-plank (Alexander Belov, The Evidence of Thonis-Heracleion Ship,International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, Nautical Archaeology Society, Vol.44.1, Wiley & Sons, Oxford UK, 2014, pp74-79).
A 27-foot boat found in 1986 off the coast of Israel dating to the first century A.D. It was built of cedar wood without a keel and the planks were joined together by pegged mortise and tenon joints and nails, with a shallow draft and a flat bottom, believed to be a coastal fishing boat like described in the Bible but never before seen, previously only referenced by Roman authors and mosaics. The construction conforms to other boat constructed in that part of the Mediterranean during the period between 100 B.C. and 200 A.D.

Further, according to Belov, taking into consideration the high degree of conservatism of boat building in general and of this trait in particular in Ancient Egypt, he believed that much time must have passed between the introduction of the concept of the proto-keel and it being widely put into practice. The hypothesis that the keel was adopted from the menesh ships of Levantine origin at the beginning of the New Kingdom and subsequently distributed on the Nile seems very tempting.
Egyptian vessel with a proto-keel

In fact, of the uncovered ships at Thonis-Heracleion that were dated between 234 and 40 B.C., several had keels. Another ship, about 50-feet in length, 16 feet wide, and could carry 20 ton of cargo, referred to as the Uluburun shipwreck excavation, was uncovered off the Mediterranean coast of Turkey near Kas, dated to about 1300 B.C., also had a rudimentary proto-keel rather than a true keel, the earliest documented by archaeology (Eric Cline, The Oxford Handbook of The Bronze Age Aegean, Oxford University Press, 2010, Ch. 64 Uluburun Shipwreck,Cemal Pulak, pp862-876).
    Contrary to the beliefs of many modern seamen, these ancient ships hugged the shore as they sailed and surveys of Bronze Age wrecks have gradually shown us the route from the Levantine harbor or possibly Cyprus where ships started in sailing to the Mycenaean heartland. In uncovering wrecks and tracing their remains to follow their courses, the coastal hugging routes have been borne out.
    It should also be noted regarding Phoenician boat designs, that their warships before 700 B.C. were manned by oars, which lacked the necessary speed desired. It was determined that the only way of increasing the all-important speed was by adding more oarsmen. To some extent this could have been achieved in a longer ship, but there comes a point at which extra length brings structural weakness. The Phoenicians found by 700 B.C. that the solution was to have banks of oarsmen, and changed the design of their warships to have two banks, one above the other, in the type of vessel known as the bireme.
    Within the next two centuries a third bank was added, probably by the Greeks, to provide the trireme. The main ingredients of naval warfare remained essentially the same throughout the classical and medieval centuries. Long, narrow ships, powered by banks of oarsmen, circle each other attempting either to ram the enemy or to grapple a ship so that marines can board it and slaughter the crew. Such encounters continued until 1571 A.D., when the battle of Lepanto was the last great engagement between warships propelled by oars.
    Another important factor is that not until 1100 A.D. was a straight stern post added to ships to facilitate the hanging rudder, which greatly improved the handling characteristics of a ship and permitted larger ships to be designed and increasingly higher freeboards to be built, both necessary for deep ocean sailing. From all information available to us today, it seems increasingly evident that neither the Phoenicians nor any other European of Middle East ship construction was capable of sailing across the Atlantic to the Western Hemisphere, and none did other than the Viking longships that hugged the coasts from Norway to the islands of Shetland and Faeroe, to Iceland to Greenland to Newfoundland.
    The important point of this is that while the Lord could bypass any of these construction steps in his instruction to Nephi and show him how to build a ship before its time, the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and all others were dependent upon mans knowledge of the time in their ship-building capabilities and accomplishments. And that knowledge followed a known pattern, limiting these different peoples to techniques known to them that have been recorded through iconic and written information that is fairly well known to us today. Stated differently, it is one thing for a novice historian or theorist to claim the Phoenicians could sail across the deep oceans in B.C. times, but the reality of it is simply that their knowledge of ship-building and their construction techniques would not have allowed them to do that any faster than the knowledge of the time existed. And it did not exist in Lehis time, and according to iconic information and some discovered wrecks, etc., ship building among the Phoenicians and later peoples has been carefully examined by experts in those fields and show conclusively that the Phoenicians were not building ocean-going vessels in B.C. times.

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