P. Edronkin

Why Didn't The Egyptians Build Pyramids In Paris?



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It is interesting to think about the possible reasons that precluded such an advanced society from establishing colonies thorough the Mediterranean, and the answer might just be found in the local botanical landscape.

One of the most interesting archaeological findings of the twentieth century took place in Cape Gelidonya, in Turkey. There, in 1960 an expedition led by U.S. archaeologists and scuba divers, based on information gathered from local inhabitants, found and recovered from the bottom of the Mediterranean one of the oldest shipwrecks discovered so far. The vessel, dated back 3.300 years was classified as Phoenician or proto-Phoenician and it is so far almost the only source of information about this ancient civilisation aside from the fat that we indeed know that they were seafaring merchants because oddly enough, they left almost no records of their existence.

Very little has been left of the ship itself because after more than 30 centuries, most of the wooden planks used in its construction have degraded completely: nevertheless, what was left allows for very interesting research venues. The cargo that the ship was transporting survived somewhat better and it is what archaeologists have been using since them to build a picture about Phoenician civil life, and even the few remains of the vessel's structure suggest intriguing facts about the way in which naval technology and shipyard works were evolving at that time. The ship seems to have been built in one of the Phoenician colonies in Italy, due to some details found at the disaster area.

The techniques used suggest that these early Phoenicians copied Minoic or Aegean technologies, and from then, they developed their own which served well for almost a thousand years of seafaring. Indeed, the Gelidonya ship followed the traditional techniques used by the pre - Hellenistic Greeks in opposition to the other big tendency at the time, which was of Egyptian origin. The essential difference between both types of ships was that Aegeans used large trees to construct their vessels in a way that allowed for large scales and very resistant structures: in fact, the Aegean technology is the fundamental core of today's naval engineering because those constructors developed the stern: this element forms part of almost every ship in existence today, with the exception of some large rafts and some icebreakers in order to avoid getting trapped in ice and crushed: the lack of a stern allows these ships to literally jump unto the surface layer of polar ice and move with it without being stuck and subjected to major stresses.

The stern was probably developed as an extension of the basic carved log boat, also known as piragua. Indeed, as the naval ambitions of these ancient cultures began to evolve, they discovered that using the rigid carved logs and attaching ribs and planks to them, they could construct even larger vessels. The Egyptians at the time were mainly concerned with the efficient navigation up and down the Nile: they developed the sail and it helped its ships to go upstream using it, and downstream thanks to the movement of the water. As they didn't have large trees in Egypt, their construction evolved in a different way and their ships resemble more complex rafts than proper vessels. A raft evolves from a single floating trunk: when you place two or more logs tied together, the whole thing gains stability, and from then on, more things can be added. And in this way the Egyptian ships were built: they were not very solid or structurally sound, and could not be used efficiently for open sea navigation.

In fact, most of these ships had in the beginning masts located at the front section of the ship, which made them not quite handy to steer, and used bipedal masts: that is, two smallish masts were required to hang a single sail. This was a necessity of course, since the structural resistance of the hull did not allow for a single, heavier mast. Moreover: Egyptian ships were longitudinally weak and both extremes had to be tied together using ropes in order to counter the down arching tendency that these ships had. These are the main reasons that precluded the highly evolved Egyptian civilisation from expanding itself thorough the Mediterranean.

So it was just a botanical matter, the existence of adequate vegetation what allowed the first inhabitants of Greece, Turkey and Lebanon to expand their dominions and explore distant lands, and eventually that led to the present state of Western culture. Otherwise, me might just have ended with pyramids in Paris.




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