Appendix L - Steve Vinson Boat Typology

A tabulated summary of Steve Vinson’s 1994 typology for boat changes throughout Predynastic and Pharaonic periods.





Similarities to other regions


Naqada I

  • Canoe-shaped forms with flat bottoms, probably of papyrus
  • Large rafts with up-curving bow and stem posts, possibly made of papyrus.  The earliest datable example is a crude sketch of a Naqada I mud box from a Late Naqada I grave
  • Images
  • Models


Naqada II

  • For the first time it is reasonable to believe that wooden boats were made
  • New types of sickle shaped boat
  • Sterns do not narrow to a point
  • On NII pottery they are shown with paddles, two cabins, palm fronds at the bow and standards
  • Some sickle shaped boats appear to have teams dragging them
  • Depictins on ceramic vessels (e.g. UC10769)
  • Models
  • Paintings on Tomb T100 at Hierakonpolis

Some similarities can be found between rock art paintings and boat images at Tomb 100.  Vinson refers to the black boat with the tall bow end and a low steering end, with a sickle shaped form and palm fronts adorning it.

Naqada III

  • New features:
  • Sails were introduced
  • High brow posts
  • High stern posts
  • No indication of rigging

“This new square boat could carry a single square sail, set rather far forward” (1994, p.16).

  • The earliest known representation known is on a stone censer found at Qustul in Nubia, which is very different from Naqada II types

Vinson says that “the resemblance between the high-ended Egyptian boats and their supposed Mesopotamian prototypes is superficial at best” (1994, p.17).  The Egyptian bow post is almost always higher than stern post and a different shape.  Sumerian boats are symmetrical fore and aft. “In any event, since there are far more representations of sailing boats in Egypt than there are from Mesopotamia, one might better argue that the boats were invented in the Nile and sailed from there to the east!” (1994, p.17).

Early Dynastic

First Dynasty

  • Boats hulls built from planks
  • The earliest good direct evidence is from burials accompanied by boats at this time, particularly from Saqqara and Abydos (largest) but also from Helwan.  The Abydos examples are the earliest known plank-built boats in the world



Old Kingdom

  • 4th Dynasty
  • Straight vertical bow post similar to NIII and 1st Dynasty boats
  • New sickle-shpaed stern
  • No keel
  • 4th Dynasty funerary boat of Khufu made of imported cedar



  • 5th Dynasty Sun Temple of Sahure a new type of boat appears
  • heavy cable from bow to stern to prevent hogging (vehicle sagging under is own weight)
  • short-lived experiment using a bipod mast
  • sails hung from yards that could by hoisted or lowered by ropes (halyards
  • Sail kept square with a lower yard who weight was supported by ropes called lifts
  • Haylyards tied at starn along with ropes whose purpose is unknown
  • Cargo boats also known, which are scow-sahped with blunt hows and sterns.

Images in the Sun Temple of Sahure



Middle Kingdom

  • Four funerary boats from Dashur, of which two have been lost
  • Bowl-shaped profile
  • Rear paddle
  • Hulls and rigging changed, with the loss of the bipod mast, and the addition of booms held aloft by lifts which were secured on the mast belwo the upper yard.
  • There were a variety of different forms used, for which the tomb of Metet-Re (official in the court of the Eleventh Dynasty Mentuhotep II) has provided 12 model boats of 4 types
  • Kitchen and traveling boats have a howl-profile with sterns slightly higher than bows, a steering oar at the stern, masts with mast partners at deck level to support them.  There is rigging with a number of lifts holding up boom and yardarm. The mast is supported by backstay, forestay and lateral stays.  The upper yard was manipulated by eight halyards. A linen sail was used
  • Sporting boats were a smaller version of the kitchen/tarvelling types with truncated sterns.  they have mast partners and slotted central spines but no masts
  • Yachts have a “papyriform shape highly reminsence ot the Khufu boat’s profile” (1994, p.32).  they have straight bow posts, curved stern posts and one had a mast but no sail or full riggging.  others wre being paddled.  They had two steering oars each, one on each side of the boat’s quarters.


  • Reliefs
  • paintings
  • models
  • Four funerary boats
  • Fragments from Nile and Red Sea
  • An image from the tomb of Khnum-Hotep at Beni Hasan shows a rigged with with a mast towing a barge.
  • The tomb of Intef at Thebes shows waterborne fights taking place, with crews shown seated with oars.  Each of the boats is “unusually long and low” (1994, p.36).

New hull shapes “seem to have either influenced or been influenced by developments in the Aegean” (1994, p.27)


New Kingdom

  • Deir el Bahri
  • Hogging tresses are shown on Hatshepsut’s seagoing expedition vessels destined for punt, and her obelisk barges
  • Rekhmire (official of Ththmosis III and Amenhotep II)
  • Broad sail
  • rigging with two lifts holding up broadyard, a boom made up of two pieces, numerous lifts holing up the lower ward which is lashed to the mast
  • Equipped for rowing with crew standing to oars, lashed by two coxwains
  • Amarna Period
  • New kind of rigging was “the advanced brailed sail” typical of Greek and Roman ships in the Classical world” (1994, p.41).  Brails are ropes working like a Venetian blind with brails secured to the bottom of the sail “then run up through metal rings sewn directly into the sailcloth itself.  the lines were then looped over the yardarm and finally led down to deck level, where they could be controlled by sailors.  This arrangement made sails easier to handle.  Perhaps more importantly, brails permitted sailors to shape their sails in such a way that their ships coudl tack against the wind” (1994, p.41). 

Numerous sources of information, but no archaeological remains of actual boats and few models.  Lots of representations come from 18th Dynasty tombs, some are on papyrus. 

Kenamun’s tomb shows seagoing vessels which “were rigged much like the Egyptian vessels of the day;  indeed, ships depicted in Crete, the Cyclades and mainland Greece all seem to have used the typical ‘Egyptian’ rig of the early New Kingdom” (1994, p.41)

The Amarna brail system may have been an innovation taken from Canaanite examples (Vinson 1994, p.41).

Under the reign of Ramesses III scenes against invading Sea People show similarly rigged shops with brailed sales like those seen for the first time under Akhenaten (Vinson 1994, p.44)

Late Period and Graeco-Roman periods

Twenty First Dynasty

River boas seem to resemble New Kingdom versions of types unlike those innovated in Amarna

Images in tombs



Copyright Andie Byrnes 2007