The Gurob Ship-Cart Model and Its Mediterranean Context

The Gurob Ship-Cart Model and Its Mediterranean Context

The Gurob Ship-Cart Model and Its Mediterranean Context

The Gurob Ship-Cart Model and Its Mediterranean Context

Excerpt

This book is about the one that got away.

I “discovered” it one clear dry afternoon in spring 1998. I was sitting in the small, specialized library of Texas A&M University’s Nautical Archaeology Program, where I teach. I had been thumbing through various titles that I had noticed but had previously not found time to peruse. It was one of those days when I allowed myself to do something I wanted to do rather than what I should have been doing. I was feeling good. My latest book, Seagoing Ships and Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant, was about to be published by Texas A&M University Press. In that book I covered the waterfront for the Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean. A major portion of the book dealt with ships of the Aegean.

Among the pile of books that I had pulled off the shelves sat a bound copy of Chris Monroe’s expanded 1990 master’s thesis, titled “The Boatbuilding Industry of New Kingdom Egypt.” As I flipped through Chris’s illustrations one figure stopped me cold in my tracks.

This was the first time I remember seeing a representation of the Gurob ship-cart model (or at least the first time that it registered for me). Somehow, surprisingly, the model simply had never made it into the list of “usual suspects” so familiar to those of us dealing with ancient Mediterranean ship iconography. Looking at the photograph of the model, I immediately realized that, despite the fact that it had been found buried in the sands of Egypt, the model actually represented a Helladic galley of a type used by the Mycenaeans and adopted by the Sea Peoples. To date no one has ever found even a splinter of one of these vessels. Trust me. I have been one of those searching.

Looking at the photo, I got the impression that one of the Pyrgos Livanaton (Kynos) galley depictions—among the most detailed known representations of this ship type—had sailed off its sherds into a three-dimensional reality. The Gurob model’s details were unequivocal: the shape of the hull, the stempost ending in the head of a waterbird with a strange vertical beak, the ramlike bow extension, and particularly the stanchions.

All the other images of this ship type that I had studied were either two dimensional or crudely made models. Here, for the first time, was what appeared to be a relatively well-made model, which appeared to be painted and showed clearly details in three dimensions, unavailable on any other representation of which I was aware. Admittedly, some aspects of the model’s reconstruction seemed strange to me: Why was the quarter . . .

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