Adventurers In A Reed Boat Are About To Test If Ancient Egyptians Made Epic Sea Journey

The reed ship in all her glory in the Bulgarian industrial town of Beloslav. Courtesy of Mission ABORA

Historians claim that the ancient Egyptians routinely sailed as far as the Black Sea and the coast of the Balkans to get their hands on resources not found along the Nile. However, it's always been doubted whether this precarious journey across the rocky Aegean Sea would even be possible using the technology available at the time.

Now, an international team of devil-may-care adventurers, together with their ship based on ancient rock art found in upper Egypt and the Caucasus, are hoping to voyage a little closer to the truth.  

Mission ABORA IV is set to embark on a journey covering over 1,300 kilometers (~700 nautical miles) from the Black Sea, through the Bosphorus strait and the Aegean Sea, to the Greek island of Crete in a 14-meter-long (46-foot) vessel. On August 1, the ship was hoisted into the waters off the coast of Beloslav, a small Bulgarian industrial town, where it will rest and soak for a couple of weeks before setting off. The boat is made out of spruce beams and 12 tonnes (13 tons) of reeds, not too dissimilar to those believed to have been used by late Neolithic and early Bronze Age cultures.

"The main question of all is whether this boat is able to cross the difficult island shelves of the Aegean Sea," Dominique Goerlitz, the crew’s 53-year-old expedition leader, told AFP news agency.

Courtesy of Mission ABORA

As Mission ABORA explains in a Facebook post, the ship’s life started a little over a year ago when 12 tonnes of reeds were harvested at Lake Titikaka in Bolivia. By the start of 2019, the bales of reed had arrived in Bulgaria and an international team spent 10 weeks fashioning a reed boat.

While the team aimed to use materials true to ancient vessels, they are not taking any chances and are also bringing modern safety equipment, such as a safety raft, GPS, and radio communication. After all, ancient Egypt wasn’t too hot on health and safety. 

Nevertheless, they do have experience on their side. The ABORA team has three previous voyages under its belt, the latest being in 2007 when a vessel sailed from New York bound for southern Spain in a bid to prove that Stone Age humans could have made trans-Atlantic journeys. While this expedition ultimately resulted in failure due to a string of unfortunate windstorms across the Atlantic, the team is confident that ABORA IV will complete the journey in a breeze.

“I am 100 percent sure that this ship will never sink. And as long as the ship is floating we have a safety raft here," said volunteer Mark Pales, also speaking to AFP.

Courtesy of Mission ABORA



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