Early Ships and Seafaring, Water Transport Beyond Europe

The author has followed his popular and important “European Water Transport” with a book to complete the picture by reviewing water transport beyond Europe. The level of detail and research is first rate with many illustrations. The work is most interesting in charting ancient craft that navigated the open seas successfully and those that provided secure transport on inland waters – Highly Recommended.


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NAME: Early Ships and Seafaring, Water Transport Beyond Europe
FILE: R2487
AUTHOR: Sean McGrail
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES:  220
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Ship building, ship design, naval architecture, technology, 
materials, techniques, seamanship, maritime transport, ancient 
civilizations

ISBN: 1-47382-559-8

IMAGE: B2487.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/mq6cc5c
LINKS:  
DESCRIPTION: The author has followed his popular and important 
“European Water Transport” with a book to complete the picture by 
reviewing water transport beyond Europe. The level of detail and 
research is first rate with many illustrations. The work is most 
interesting in charting ancient craft that navigated the open seas 
successfully and those that provided secure transport on inland 
waters – Highly Recommended.

Having written the “European Water Transport”, it was logical for 
the author to produce this companion book to complete his review of 
early ships and seafaring around the world. The result is an 
extremely informative volume that will surprise some readers by 
demonstrating the many innovative ways in which early ships were 
constructed using local materials.

The mass of documentation produced on ships concentrate on Medieval 
craft and ships built from the 15th Century. That means that the 
concentration is on European ships and ships predominantly from 
English-speaking countries. Seafaring is similarly narrowly focused 
on the European Age of Discovery. Earlier ships and those from beyond 
Europe have received very little attention in English language 
publications. This new book is therefore particularly welcome.

It is now clear that seafaring beyond the navigation of inland waters 
and coastal waters was not something that sprang fully formed from 
the 15th Century. Within Europe, the recognition has been growing that 
the Vikings sailed oceans and set up colonies in the Americas. That 
has been reinforced by discoveries of American archaeologists in 
recent years. However, the Vikings were just another group of people 
who rediscovered what older civilizations had discovered before them.

The Egyptians may well have produced ships capable of sailing the 
oceans more than 3,000 years ago. This is a growing belief that is 
based on archaeological discovery, restoration and reconstruction of 
ancient boats and paintings. That will surprise many, but the 
probability is that earlier civilizations, now long lost, achieved 
similar or greater maritime success. One of the difficulties is that 
early ships had to use commonly available local materials and these 
were materials that decayed easily over the years from the vessels 
being discarded. Ancients texts provide some fragments of information 
that suggest very large vessels were constructed and were capable of 
lengthy voyages.

Wood was a very popular shipbuilding material, but reed bundles, animal 
hides and many other materials were also used where they were the most 
readily available materials. Unlike metals, all of these materials 
imposed constraints on the practical size of vessels. Metals also 
impose some constraints on maximum size, but have been proven to allow 
the construction of vessels of several hundred thousands tons. Until 
someone tries, it is not known how much larger a vessel design can be, 
although computer models give some indications of practical 
constraints. The major constraint has generally been the limits of 
power systems.

The first vessels were almost certainly roughly crafted tree trunks 
and rafts of wood or reed. These could be propelled and controlled 
to some degree by simple paddles. As designs became more ambitious 
the oar started to become a common form of propulsion and 
Mediterranean seafarers  learned how to add tiers of rowers above 
lower tiers, dramatically increasing the available power of warships 
that were capable of ramming other warships. However, the sail was 
to prove the most effective means of propelling vessels over long 
distances, reducing the number of crew required and the food and water 
required to sustain them.

Ship builders in different parts of the world developed some similar 
practices and some unique practices, usually from their own direct 
experience and experimentation. The author has provided examples of 
this rich diversity.