A Numidian Gerzean ship (3500 BC)
Among the oldest representations of large ships, some impressive ones extrapolated from the Gerzean rock carvings in the 4th millennium BC. The vessels painted on vases show us a rather often depicted type of ship with a double central "cabin" (sometimes with a slightly different third and closer to the prow) and masts, of which it appears to be two on most Size, unless one of them is a holder. These signs are found at the top of the main mast. The other common point is the palm tree, shown unambiguously, just behind the figurehead. The majority are perfectly symmetrical, with a pronounced sheer, and extremities without any ornamentation, apart from their "palm tree", always in prow. There are also three larger paddles at the back (rudders) which remain a constant during the dynastic period, and a large number of paddles (32 per board, with an interruption in the center, at the level of the "cabins"). The illustration above is a reconstruction resulting from the overlapping of these different representations and therefore calls for some comments:
The palm in prow is a pattern found systematically on these Gerzéens ships (Upper Egypt and Nubia). What is its exact meaning? I leave this to the specialists of the archaic Egyptian period. Is it a symbol of belonging to the country? Had this palm tree a more prosaic utility, was it a lucky charm, a comforting symbol for the crew who saw in the open sea a reassuring sign of promise of return? The bird was also revered in the same way (see "bird-boats"), since in the open sea, far from the coast, the presence of a bird at sea indicated the land nearby. Always it is that the symbol will later be found in the form of Lotus leaf that will be worn by many ships of the dynastic period.
It goes without saying that 64 rowers would represent a considerable weight on a soft boat ... My personal opinion is that the engraving has, above all, a symbolic charge, representing not a fringe, but both swims simultaneously, Reduces to 32 rowers, 16 per boat, and this is much more reasonable. Another fact is that only the Minoans and then the Mycenaeans, the possible inventors of the Pentecontore (25 rowers on board) were able to build such ships only with the introduction of a radically new method of construction, with keels and pairs. It seems therefore logical to consider that exceeding 20 rowers on board was already a challenge with the technique of soft boats.
FIG-4 et FIG-5 :
It can be a merchant vessel. The second illustration (Figure 3) shows a slightly different hull design, with a central cabin, numerous rowers, and a figurehead more difficult to pin down, perhaps a symbolic evocation integrated into the hull of the "palm tree" Other military vessels.
The last illustration (Figure 4) shows a Syrian military ship, from an engraving on a knife handle cut into a hippopotamus, about 3500 BC. JC. It depicts the representation of a naval battle well before that of the delta of the Nile led against the "peoples of the sea" by Ramses II. It is a naval battle between Egyptian and Syro-Mesopotamian ships. The latter seem to carry a main mast in front of a cabin and a secondary mast at the rear (a simple sign holder?). The interpolation of the shape of the prow appears to be identical to that of the head of the mast, with the classic form of crescent which will then be found among the Phoenicians and then the Carthaginians. But the shape of the stern very tontured could very well be interpreted as crossing the rear mast, and its "rigging" of the sleepers ... (Fig.5).