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Found in the world’s largest graveyard of ancient ships

The Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology reveals details of a hitherto unexplored ship from Thonis-Heracleion

Over 70 ancient vessels have been discovered in the sunken port-city of Thonis-Heracleion, Egypt, by the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM). That makes it the largest graveyard of ancient ships worldwide. 

Oxford University’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology (OCMA) has now published a book on one of them, a Nile barge (baris) from the Late Period.  This was a particular vessel-type that was described by the Greek Historian Herodotus after he visited Egypt in 450 BC. Only now has a baris been discovered and studied. 

The volume Ship 17 – a baris from Thonis-Heracleion, by Alexander Belov, presents the results of the first excavation of a baris and investigates the construction, structure and identifi­cation of this 27-28m long ship. It also places it within the boat-building traditions of both Egypt and the wider Mediterranean.

The book describes not only the purpose of the ship in its active life on the river, but also explains its reuse afterwards: ship 17 most likely would have been incorporated into the maritime infrastructure of the port.

Ship 17 – a baris from Thonis-Heracleion, by Alexander Belov, is the tenth volume in the OCMA monograph series (Oxford 2019, international distributor: Oxbow Books, Hardback A4, approx. 150 pages, Price £45).

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Book Cover: Christoph Gerigk@Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation. The image is an artistic imagining of the complete plan of ship 17 by Christoph Gerigk. The upper half of the model, rendered as a photomosaic, illustrates ship 17 as excavat-ed. Below this, unexcavated areas are mirrored from excavated areas to pro¬duce a com-plete vessel outline using the digital elevation model of the wreck. 

The wooden hull of ship 17: Christoph Gerigk@Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation