Nowadays, the ships we encounter are large, sturdy, and self-propelled vessels primarily used for transporting cargo across seas and oceans. However, this was not always the case. In ancient times, people used various materials to construct boats, such as rafts, bamboo logs, reed bundles, air-filled animal skins, and asphalt-covered baskets, to navigate small water bodies.
The first boat, in fact, was a simple frame made of sticks lashed together and covered with sewn hides. These boats could easily carry heavy loads. Examples of such ancient boats include the bull boats of North American plains, the kayaks of the Inuit people, and the coracks of British islanders. Another ancient boat was the dugout, which is essentially a log hollowed out and pointed at both ends. Some of these dugouts were as long as sixty feet.
Over time, shipbuilding and navigation techniques improved, leading to the development of more advanced vessels. The use of sails and oars, for example, made it possible to travel longer distances and against the wind. In the Middle Ages, ships began to be constructed with bulkheads, allowing them to carry more cargo and withstand rough seas.
During the Age of Exploration, in the 15th and 16th centuries, ships were built with greater size and durability to withstand long voyages across the open ocean. The introduction of the steam engine in the 19th century allowed ships to travel at greater speeds, and the advent of steel hulls and diesel engines in the 20th century further improved their strength and efficiency.
Today, ships are incredibly sophisticated machines equipped with advanced technology such as GPS navigation and communication systems. They are capable of transporting vast quantities of goods across the world’s oceans in a matter of days or weeks, making them an indispensable component of the global economy.
The Usage of Poles and Invention of Oar
The study of ancient marine history is a fascinating glimpse into the strength and survival instincts of humanity. In the past, people did not use the simple oar to propel their boats. Instead, they used their hands to paddle or pushed poles against the bottom of rivers to move their rafts.
Invention of Sails
The invention of the sail was undoubtedly the most significant turning point in the history of maritime technology. With the introduction of sails, boats could embark on longer journeys and carry heavier loads without relying solely on human muscle power. Early vessels used square sails that were best suited for sailing downwind. Later on, fore and aft sails were developed, which made it possible to sail in different directions, including against the wind.
Phoenicians and their Contribution
The Phoenicians were known for their ingenuity in shipbuilding, and they were among the first to fashion galleys from the earlier dugout boats, outfitting them with sails and oars for propulsion. As the Phoenicians continued to develop their shipbuilding techniques, their galleys grew larger, requiring rowers to be arranged on two or more levels to power the vessel. These larger ships were used for both commercial and military purposes, allowing the Phoenicians to establish trade networks and dominate the seas.
Types of Ships in Ancient Maritime History
As the history of maritime technology unfolds, it reveals a world of intrigue and wonder, filled with stories of expert craftsmanship and diligent seamanship. One notable period in this history is the medieval era, during which ships were primarily built using the clinker technique. The clinker technique involves overlapping planks and securing them with nails, resulting in a sturdy and durable vessel. This design was adapted from earlier skin boats, which had to be overlapped to make them watertight.
Improvements in Marine Vessels
As overseas trade became increasingly important, ships continued to evolve and improve in order to meet the growing demands of commerce. One key innovation during this time was the addition of a straight stern post to ships, which made it possible to hang a rudder and greatly improved the vessel’s handling characteristics. With the introduction of the rudder, larger ships could be designed, with higher free boards that made them better suited for long-distance voyages. This allowed for the transport of greater amounts of cargo and expanded the possibilities of maritime trade.