The History of Ships: Ancient Maritime World

The ships we come across nowadays are large, sturdy and self-propelled vessels which are used to transport cargo across seas and oceans. This was not the case centuries ago, and the current ship has undergone countless centuries of development to become what it is today.

In ancient marine times, people used rafts, logs of bamboo, bundles of reeds, air filled animal skins and asphalt covered baskets to traverse small water bodies. To be precise, the first boat was a simple frame of sticks lashed together and covered expertly with sewn hides. These boats could carry large and heavy loads easily. You get to know about examples of such ancient boats among the bull boats of North American plains, the kayaks of the Inuit’s and the coracks of British islanders. Yet another ancient boat was the dugout which is a log that is hollowed out and pointed at the ends. Some of these were even as long as sixty feet.  Here is a brief attempt to traverse lightly over the history of ships and how they evolved to what they are now.

The Usage of Poles and Invention of Oar

Ancient marine history makes for quite an interesting study of the strength and survival instincts of humanity at large. For instance, in ancient times, the simple oar was not in use. Instead people used their hands to paddle along in their tiny boats. They moved rafts by pushing poles against the bottom of the rivers. Slowly, using creative instincts and ingenuity, man learnt to redesign the poles by flattening them and widening it at one end, and thus the paddle was designed to be used in deeper waters. Later on, it was again ingeniously transformed to become the oar-a-paddle that is fixed on the sides of boats.

History of Ship

Invention of Sails

The invention of the sail was the greatest turning point in maritime history. The sails replaced the action of human muscles and sail boats could embark on longer trips with heavier loads. Earlier vessels used square sails that were best suited for sailing down wind. Fore and aft sails were devised later.

Egyptians take the credit for developing advanced sailing cargo ships. These were made by lashing together and sewing small pieces of wood. These cargo ships were used to transport great columns of stone for monument building.

Phoenicians and their Contribution

History of ships is never complete without mentioning the Phoenicians. They deserve special mention since it is highly probable that they were the pioneers of the wooden sailing vessels that were to sail the high seas centuries later. The Phoenicians fashioned out galleys from the earlier dugouts with sails and oars providing power. As the galleys grew larger, according to specifications and requirements, rowers were arranged at two levels.

These were called the biremes by the Greeks and Romans. They also built triremes that are galleys with three banks of oars.