Herodotus: the first historian
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian. He got the title of ‘Father of History’. Because he was the first person to collect material, test their accuracy and arrange them in a systematic way what in present days, historians do. He wrote the book ‘Historia’. Today historians believe that this was probably the first ever systematic narrative history of the ancient world.
The present discovery
Archaeologists have found a shipwreck in the waters around the sunken port city of Thonis-Heracleion. Dr. Damian Robinson, the director of the Centre for Maritime Archaeology of Oxford University has published the excavation report.
The link between Herodotus and the present discovery
It was during the time of fifth century BCE. Herodotus visited Egypt. That time he witnessed ‘baris’ vessel on waters along with is construction process. So he described the way of construction of ‘baris’ trough twenty-three lines of his book ‘Historia’.
When the discussion about water vessels in Egypt during this time comes, many scholars argued that the description of Herodotus was not right. Because archaeological evidence of any shipwreck is not there.
But the present discovery has changed the argument. As archaeologists dated this presently discovered shipwreck to the time which Herodotus mentioned in his book. Thus, Dr. Damian Robinson, the director of the Centre for Maritime Archaeology of Oxford University, said “What Herodotus described was what we were looking at.”
What the underwater excavation revealed
The underwater excavations revealed a vast hull. It was crescent-shaped. It also indicated a distinctive type of construction. No one witnessed this type of construction earlier in the context of a shipwreck. This construction involved thick planks assembled with tenons. Herodotus exactly mentioned about this.
The condition of the water vessel
The condition of the water vessel is almost intact. Nearly 70% of the hull has survived. Acacia planks were held together with long tenon-ribs and fastened with pegs. Some are almost 2 meters long in length. These create the lines of ‘internal ribs’ within the hull. Herodus, in his description, talked about these ‘internal ribs’.
The importance of the discovery
One great importance of the discovery is obviously to fill the gap between Herodotus’s description and its archaeological evidence. This month, Alexander Belov, an archaeologist at the Center for Egyptological Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has published a book on this shipwreck. According to this book, the nautical architecture of the wreck is very close to the description of Herodotus.
Besides this, the ship was originally 28 meters long, According to researchers, Till date, it is the first large-scale discovery of an ancient Egyptian trading water vessel. Thus, it is a discovery of utter significance.