Ancient Egyptians pioneered the development of river craft and various types of Egyptian Boats and ships were built. The Nile provided an excellent means of transport and every corner of the city could be reached by boats. Need for an efficient navy was recognized by Pharaohs like Senefru who had a fleet of 40 ships.

Ships and Egyptian Boats were built for fishing, trade, transportation, processions and travel.

Agricultural produce, troops, cattle, stone and funeral processions were all carried on the Nile and its canals. Animals and goods were transported. For Egyptians, both building and rowing a boat were not easy jobs. The wood was cut with a chisel.

Types of Egyptian Boats

Mainly three types of Egyptian boats for different purposes were made in ancient Egypt. Simple reed rafts were used mostly for hunting in marshes. Eventually, stronger wooden boats were used for lengthy ocean excursions as well as to transport boulder blocks weighing many tons.

The third type of boat was the papyri from the boat. Papyrus boats were used for daily activities like hunting or religious ceremonies. These boats were made of bundles of bound papyrus reeds, and were lashed together into a long thin hull form in the style of a slight crescent.


Sailboats were also in use which had one square sail. The elegant Funeral boats were used to carry the dead across Nile river. They were buried along with the dead. When this became expensive, models of boats were buried. Military ships gradually evolved. Model boats for the symbolic journey of the sun god were also found.

The earliest record of a ship under sail is depicted on an Egyptian pot dating back to 3200BC. These Egyptian boats were made of either native woods or conifers from Lebanon. Cedar was important as a boat building material. Boats were often named.

The world’s oldest boat is found in the pyramid of King Khufu. It is a good example of papyri from a boat. The pieces were found unassembled. Some believe it was for the king to use in his afterlife.

The Abydos boats were discovered in 2000. They are a great white, ‘ghostly’ fleet of 14 boats. They were about 25 metres long, two to three metres wide and about sixty centimetres deep, seating 30 rowers. The pharaohs prided themselves on their pleasure boats with multiple decks containing cabins, kitchens, dining rooms and lounges.