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The Byblos Ship 3: No Nails, No Glue

Construction of an Egyptian ship
Image 1

The most characteristic element of Ancient Egyptian shipbuilding would probably be the fact that they did not use any nails. Planks were tied to each other with rope, laced through channels dug into the wood. A relief from the mastaba of Ti at the necropolis of Saqqara, built during the 5th Dynasty (contemporary to the Byblos ship) depicts the entire process of constructing the hull (image 1).

During the preparation of the planks mortises were dug into the joints and square tenons were inserted (image 2).

Preparing the planks
Image 2

The planks were installed in position and aligned with the help of hammers and levers (images 3 and 4).

Inserting a plank
Image 3

Attaching a plank
Image 4

The planks were then tied together (image 5). To begin with, V shaped channels were dug into the wood (image 6 A), so that the ropes could pass through the planks without protruding to the external surface of the ship and compromising the watertightness of the hull. Rabbets were installed on the seams of the planks (image 6 B) and rope was laced through the channel laterally across the hull, binding the planks together (image 6 C). The ropes were laced through the interior hull from side to side and were tied up at the deck beams (image 6 D). A thick, longitudinal beam went across the hull (image 6 E) and supported the deck beams, held in place by a series of stanchions (image 6 F).

lacing the planks
Image 5

Structure of the hull
Image 6

This building process allowed the Egyptian to disassemble their ships and carry them over land to distant ports at the shores of the Red Sea, where they could be reassembled for the journey.

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