"Each part of the world recapitulates, shares in and experiences the history of the world as a whole"
Fernand Braudel

Model of Boat

datation
Middle Kingdom about 2055-1650 BC
provenance
Thebes
area
period
size
8.7 cm x 18 cm
materials
themes

This type of object, called “model”, was deposited in the grave and destined to accompany the dead into the afterlife according to custom which lasted from the end of the Old Kingdom until the Middle Kingdom. The model presented here shows the massive shell of the boat, cut from a single piece of wood, with five sculpted figurines in the same material fixed on. The largest figurine may be representing the deceased, while the four others are responsible for the manoeuvring of the boat. The presence of boats in Egyptian iconography, both in the terrestrial world and in the heavenly world, is undoubtedly due to the omnipresence of the Nile in the landscape. In the imaginations of ancient Egyptians, does not the god Ra pass through the diurnal and nocturnal skies on a boat? This vital axis of the Nile, without which the Pharaonic civilization could not have developed, also allowed the transportation, exchange and trade; thus favouring the intermingling of cultures. The river which is the source of life and flows through the country from the North to the South is also the link between the African and the Mediterranean worlds. Civilizations which developed in Nubia illustrate these borrowings and influences between the different cultures. From the simple boat in papyrus, which can still be found in Peru, to the ships trading with the outside world, ancient Egyptians built all kinds of sailing vessels: not only boats for transporting people and goods, but also boats for divine statues. Moreover, the art of navigation went well beyond the simple transportation across a river, since to obtain cedar wood from Lebanon and incense from Arabia, they had to cross the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. If these trips contributed to the great influence of Egypt in the ancient world, they equally enriched the country culturally by not only bringing commodities from distant lands, but also by inspiring new ways of thinking and belief. The best known representation is the expedition to the Land of Punt depicted on the walls of the Hatshepsut Mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahari (18th Dynasty). Recent excavations of remains of boats and ropes in Ain Sukhna and Mersa Gawasis have attested to the navigation of the Red Sea towards Sinai and Punt from the Middle Kingdom onwards.

see also